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Blitz memories pile up for avid reader Reg; A SEARCH FOR THE EVENING TELEGRAPH'S MOST LOYAL READER BRINGS A HUGE RESPONSE AND PROVIDES FASCINATING GLIMPSES OF LIFE IN COVENTRY GOING BACK 80 YEARS.

Byline: ALAN HARRIS

COVENTRY war veteran Peter Jones threw down the gauntlet last week when he claimed to be the Evening Telegraph's most loyal reader. It's an amazing feat - 77-year-old Mr Jones claims to have read more than 16,500 editions since he first picked up the paper in 1949. But is his 52-year marathon a record? Many readers took up the challenge.

A 95-YEAR-OLD Coventry man has staked his claim as the oldest Evening Telegraph reader.

Reg Watkins, of St Andrew's Road, Earlsdon, has come forward following our challenge to find the most loyal reader.

He has read the paper for more than 60 years and still has a copy of its predecessor, the Midland Daily Telegraph, from November, 1940, just after the Coventry Blitz.

Mr Watkins said: "I've read it long before the Blitz when it was known as the Coventry Standard.

"I'm an avid reader of the Evening Telegraph - there's not much I've missed in there."

He came to Coventry from Nottingham with his parents at the start of the First World War in 1914, after the collapse of the lace-making trade, in which his father worked.

Mr Watkins was employed as a coach upholstery trimmer in the city for 49 years, and worked for the fire service before, during and after the war.

He has always had the Evening Telegraph delivered and has built a stockpile of old editions containing big stories of the time.

He said: "I've got a hell of a lot of stuff here, including various papers with reference to the Blitz. I've always had the Evening Telegraph delivered by the local newsagents and I would never miss it at night."

Beryl Harris, aged 83, of Tulliver Street, Radford, and Margaret Batten, aged 63, of Watson Road, Chapelfields, have also been reading the paper in their family since it was the Midland Daily Telegraph.

Mrs Batten, whose grandfather Finney Moore was a proof-reader for Evening Telegraph founder Lord Iliffe, said: "I've always loved the paper. I always ask the newsagent to save copies when I'm away because I like to catch up."

Owner's help

I HAVE been a regular reader of your newspaper for more than 70 years, apart from the time I was away in the forces.

During the 1930s I became acquainted with one of your journalists, Jim Thompson, who formed a tennis team called the 5011 Club, that being the telephone number of your offices at the time. Sadly, he was killed during the war. I also knew Jimmy Gault, who was also a member of your staff at that time.

In 1938 I volunteered for the Auxiliary Air Force, enlisting in the 917 City of Coventry Balloon Squadron.

The late proprietor of the-then Midland Daily Telegraph, Lord Iliffe, became our Honorary Air Commodore. After demobilisation the squadron held an annual reunion dinner which Lord Iliffe attended on several occasions, paying for the cost of the function.

On three occasions when he was unable to attend, it was my duty as honorary treasurer to forward the account to his home at Tattenden, Berkshire.

In 1938, my wife and I went to live on the south coast and I made arrangements for your paper to be posted to me. On returning to live in Kenilworth, I have continued to derive much pleasure reading your paper, which, over the years, thanks to excellent editors and journalists, is now regarded as one of the best in the country.

I will be celebrating my 89th birthday next month.

Noel White, Siddeley Avenue, Kenilworth.

...I THINK I can beat Mr Jones's record. I have been reading the Evening Telegraph for 65 years, as I am nearly 90 years old and writing this with a magnifying glass. I really love it and have it delivered to me.

Some time ago I had a letter published saying someone had been reading it for 52 years and I said I had been reading it for 59 years.

Sometimes I put my meal aside just to read it. I am a Coventry kid and proud of it.

Mrs Phyllis Jeffs, Parkville Highway, Holbrooks.

...I GOT married in March 1940 and the first thing we did was place our order for the Telegraph as we called it then.

We used it to let the community know when our first baby was born and again when daughter number two arrived. My husband had a morning paper, but for me my Telegraph was the one that mattered.

It still is I am nearly 85 now. I was 23 when I got married. That makes it part of my life for 62 years. God willing, it will be read for a little while longer.

Irene Moore, Erithway Road, Green Lane.

...I BOUGHT my first copy (then the Midland Evening Telegraph) on the day war broke out - Sunday, September 3, 1939.

In the afternoon the newsagent came round on his bike selling special editions and bought one every day - some 62 years.

I worked at Coventry Gauge and Tool during the Second World War. Although I was in a reserved occupation, I volunteered for RAF aircrew in 1943 (you were allowed to volunteer for the RAF or submarine crews only).

My mother sent Telegraphs to me or saved them for my keeping. When I came out in 1946, I continued to buy the Telegraph.

Mr E Peabody, Jobs Lane,Tile Hill North.

...WE placed a delivery order with the newsagents in Daventry Road (now Forbuoys) when we were married in 1941 and continued until the Evening Telegraph started its delivery service, when we changed to them.

In the 60 years since then, we have had a mention for our ruby wedding and write-ups for our golden and diamond wedding anniversaries - allowing for holiday breaks, I reckon, well over 21,000 copies.

Yes, we still love the Evening Telegraph.

Dorothy and Arthur Noakes, Baronsfield Road, Cheylesmore.

...I FIRST read the Telegraph in 1940. My dad was away in the war and I wanted to know what was going on. Mum explained the big words. He was demobbed at the end of 1946, by which time I had become a regular reader of my mother's copy.

I missed a couple of years regular reading during my national service, but it seemed the natural thing to do to carry on reading our local news afterwards.

I am sure though that there will be people with longer loyalties than me.

M T Hancock, Sewall Highway, Wyken.

...I HAVE been having the Telegraph since I was about 17 and I am now 84.

Frederick Stone, Vinecote Road, Longford.

...I HAVE been reading the paper for 61 years. I used to read it as a youngster and I am nearly 70. I used to deliver the paper when I was a young lad.

Ted Wainwright, Princethorpe Way, Ernesford Grange.

...I HAVE had the Telegraph since November, 1947, since returning from Singapore, and my mother had the Midland Daily Telegraph from the 1930s.

E T W Showsmith, Lonscale Drive, Styvechale.

...I CAN claim to have been a reader of your paper for more years than Mr Jones.

I have taken it since my marriage in 1934 without a break, having it mailed to me while on holiday in this country or saved for me if abroad. I also read it when in my teens at home with my parents.

I come from Coventry, but now live in Leamington. I am now 91.

My only grievance is that I have to have the Leamington edition of the paper, the Coventry edition not being available here.

Mrs W M Riley, Arlington Avenue, Leamington.

...MY WIFE and I have had the Evening Telegraph delivered every day since our wedding in August, 1952, and in our respective families were readers stretching back possibly to the mid-1930s, which would, of course, involve your predecessor, the Midland Telegraph.

A proud moment for my parents arrived near the end of the war when a small column on your front page announced that my brother, who was serving in motor torpedo boats, had been mentioned in despatches for distinguished service. This bought around the neighbours offering their congratulations.

A copy of the document signed on January 23, 1945, by the First Lord of the Admiralty on behalf of King George VI has a special place in my Navy room but I regret there is no trace of your front page relating to the episode.

R Walker, Berkeley Road North, Earlsdon.

...WE HAVE been reading the Evening Telegraph since 1938. We were married in 1938 and we had our wedding photograph published in the paper.

Kathleen and Wilfred Davies, Malam Close, Tile Hill.

I CAN beat Peter Jones's record as I got married at the end of 1943 and have had the Telegraph ever since - that's 58 years.

I joined the home delivery service which you brought in some years ago.

It is a great paper and is now better than ever.

C D Cowlishaw, Greendale Road, Whoberley.

Red Flag or Union Jack? was The Rag's question in 1931 election

THE Evening Telegraph (then called the Midland Daily Telegraph) was delivered daily in the 1920s to 145 Northfield Road. My parents, strong Labour supporters, bought it, but because of its avid support for the Tories called it The Rag, as did other Labour folk.

I was literate by 1923 and I read The Rag. The articles about the Bantams (long before the Sky Blues were even thought of) were written by Nemo. I read of Jimmy Best in the city goal. Articles about Coventry rugger team and their forwards, Freddie Ford and Tommy Coulson, were written by Nimrod.

The banner headline of The Rag in the 1931 general election was "Red Flag or Union Jack?"

When I married in 1939 The Rag was delivered to 57 The Chesils while I was in the Army (1941-46). Odd issues came to me in North Africa, Italy and Greece along with The New Statesman and The Listener.

After my demobbing, the daily reading of the Evening Telegraph restarted and continues today without a break.

I first made the news myself in 1934 when I was the Labour candidate in Earlsdon ward. I was 21 but had not qualified to vote. Hence I was on the ballot paper before I voted.

Later in one edition of the Evening Telegraph, my legal and political activities brought me six separate news items.

The Evening Telegraph today is very different from The Rag. I am sure my mother and dad would not only buy it but approve of it.

Bill Wilson, High Street, Barford, Warwick.

...ACCORDING to my reckoning, Peter Jones is 10 years short on my record.

I was 12 when I first started reading the Evening Telegraph, it was then called The Midland Daily Telegraph and cost 1d.

I started reading it from Monday, September 4, 1939. Being a young lad I was fascinated by the events of the war. My dad said at the time I should not be reading it.

It was delivered to our door. I remember that all the war reports were on the front page, second page was always local cinemas (what's on) and radio programmes. Very little sport was reported at the back due to the war.

A H Bateman, Speedway Lane, Brandon.

...WHEN I got married in June 1938 I had the Telegraph delivered and have been reading it ever since.

Mrs Eileen Meikle, Wykin Road, Hinckley.

...WE came to Coventry in October 1934. We started taking your paper straight away, and we have taken it ever since. I am now 92 and have been a widow for 15 years.

Mrs Winnie Mobbs, Canley.

CAPTION(S):

LOYAL: Reg Watkins with a copy of the Midlands Evening Telegraph from the Blitz era of 1940, one of many old editions that he has saved over the years. Picture: PETE ROBERTS; GREAT PAPER: Charles Cowlishaw appears in the Evening Telegraph after 58 years reading it! MAKING NEWS: Bill Wilson
COPYRIGHT 2001 Coventry Newpapers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 7, 2001
Words:1998
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