NOSTALGIA: ‘Old-fashioned sleuthing got me an exclusive with new PM’

Former Evening News reporter Tim King attempting to get a story from Ted Heath. Picture: Tim King
Former Evening News reporter Tim King attempting to get a story from Ted Heath. Picture: Tim King
0
Have your say

Returning to my lunchtime meeting with several former Evening News reporters, Tim King, a one-time defence correspondent, told me of the time he managed to get a short interview with new prime minister Ted Heath.

Tim said: 'Against the odds, the Conservatives won the June 1970 general election and Ted Heath became prime minister.’

Premier Edward Heath at the wheel of his yacht Morning Cloud. Picture: Tim King.

Premier Edward Heath at the wheel of his yacht Morning Cloud. Picture: Tim King.

He continued: ‘I covered the election locally and watched the results on television, but at some time during the night the PM disappeared from the press radar. Then I had a hunch where he was heading.

‘A few months earlier, I’d been in The Bugle pub in Hamble where, as a member of the Royal Yachting Association, I often mingled with local yachties.

'One mentioned that Ted Heath had moved his yacht, Morning Cloud, to the Royal Southern Yacht Club. Reporters in my day were trained to file away such snippets in the memory.

‘It was Friday, I knew the Round The Island Race was starting from Cowes at 7.15am and gambled he would relax after his election victory pursuing his passion for sailing.

The Royal Family boarding HMS Vanguard for the 1947 tour of South Africa. In June 1947, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth plusPrincesses Elizabeth and Margaret boarded the last battleship built for the Royal Navy in Portsmouth,HMS Vanguard. They were setting off for a tour of South Africa. The ship first called at Portland where the Home Fleet was assembled and Vanguard steamed between two rows of battleships, cruisers and destroyers with thousands of sailors cheering from the decks and superstructures.

The Royal Family boarding HMS Vanguard for the 1947 tour of South Africa. In June 1947, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth plusPrincesses Elizabeth and Margaret boarded the last battleship built for the Royal Navy in Portsmouth,HMS Vanguard. They were setting off for a tour of South Africa. The ship first called at Portland where the Home Fleet was assembled and Vanguard steamed between two rows of battleships, cruisers and destroyers with thousands of sailors cheering from the decks and superstructures.

‘At dawn, I stood on the Fairey Marine pontoon and waited. Shortly after, to my delight, the familiar figure, wearing a dark suit and clutching a bottle of Champagne, walked down the gangway followed by a detective trying to look the part in the rig of the day.

‘I approached the PM – in today’s tight security I would certainly have been arrested – and introduced myself and for the next five minutes he was exclusively mine.

‘As we strolled along the pontoon, he told me: ‘’When I’m sailing I leave politics out. My main worry is making sure my crews get up early’’.

But politics promptly caught the new prime minister on the hop because Morning Cloud was lying outboard of a yacht owned by a doctor, whose permission he asked to go across.

It's 1955 and this was West Street, Fareham, long before pedestrianisation.

It's 1955 and this was West Street, Fareham, long before pedestrianisation.

Tim added: 'Doctors had been in bitter dispute with the outgoing Labour government over pay, and Dr John Stevenson said: “I must warn you that you’re lying next to a doctor and I don’t know whether we’re friendly or not’’.

‘The PM kept an even keel and said: “We’ve been discussing doctors’ pay, but I don’t know the answer yet”.’

Tim continued: ‘Morning Cloud headed into The Solent and then came the icing on the cake.

‘The nationals finally cottoned on and a boat loaded with Fleet Street’s finest came down river.

They saw me and chorused: “Where’s Ted?”

‘Probably in Cowes by now. You’ll never catch him in that,’ I gleefully shouted back.

‘Reporters cherish those moments,’ said Tim..