Roy was one of Fleet Street's greats. He was generous with his help to new arrivals. At 'The People,' he taught me almost everything there was to know about investigative journalism from reading company accounts to how to deal with underworld types such as the Krays.
My sympathy goes to his family but I would not be surprised if a national newsdesker someday picks up the phone to hear: 'East of Journalistic Heaven' here. Thought you might be interested in payola among the angels on Cloud No. 7 ... '
lee lester at 02 May 2006 16:27
They taught him too well, Lee. I seem to recall his expertise with company accounts backfired on the People management. Didn't he put those skills to effective use against them during his time as a big gun in the NUJ?
Richard Burton at 02 May 2006 17:44
Too well?I am not aware of Roy being an NUJ big gun or of his using his financial knowledge against People management although he was contemptuous of executive decisions which he considered ill-founded or ridiculous. If anything of the kind occured, it wss before my time with the paper. My memories of Roy are of a consumate professional and a warm friend. I also have a high regard for most of the executives and colleagues with whom I worked.
leester at 03 May 2006 06:55
Cornwall News: I met Roy when he came to Cornwall in the 70s and took over the agency started by Ken Thompson. We quickly formed a business relationship that endured for 30 years until his "retirement". He would do the words and I the pictures for many exposes of wrongdoing.
Roy's sense of humour on hearing of councillor's misbehaviour was a welcome start to any task. "You'll never guess what this clown is doing he's travelling around in the boot of her car," was one I recall. I constantly expected to be thrown out of houses when we arrived and Roy said "We're from The News of the World" but his charm always worked and we were in for a chat.
Roy's memory was legendary, he could recall tiny details of jobs and enquiries that he was involved in years ago, and he was still active passing on info or tips in his retirement, and wasn't beyond putting his expertise to use when old associates asked him for help with current stories. I shall miss his long phone calls and knowledge of Cornish trivia.
david brenchley at 03 May 2006 08:32
request for obit:|I'm editor of the NUJ magazine the Journalist - I'd spoken to Roy East a few times on the phone and dimly remember him in the union in the 1970s - I think he was on the union executive. We'd like to run a good obit on him, ideally from someone who does remember his NUJ activities. Any volunteers/suggestions? Please email me email@example.com
Tim Gopsill at 03 May 2006 10:38
A noble beast: Roy East was East of Bodmin to newsdesks but, affectionately, the Beast of Bodmin to the national newspaper reporters covering his patch.
He had his grumpy and argumentative moments, complained incessantly about contribution payments and could be terse if a reporter's wife was unlucky enough to pick up the phone. But to someone covering south western England from Bristol, as I did, he was utterly indispensable.
Nothing, it seemed, could happen in Cornwall or – crucially – around its coast without Roy knowing. From coastguards and lifeboatmen to policemen and court officials, and doubtless in a few murky corners of Cornish society, he had a superb range of contacts.
He also had great humanity. I was with him in Mousehole after the Penlee lifeboat tragedy; he behaved impeccably, of course, but it was a revelation to see people respond to his presence, despite the depths of their own sorrow or loss, with trust and respect.
Colin Randall at 03 May 2006 11:24
Thanks, Roy, for teaching me so much. Roy East has been a great friend and mentor for more than 30 years. He took me under his wing when I was a cub reporter on a broadsheet country weekly in Cornwall and quickly taught me that there was more to journalism than recording the names of people attending funeral services.
Roy, in fact, inspired me, at the age of 24, to launch a weekly newspaper of my own – a paper that would expose bureaucratic nonsense and name and shame wrongdoers. The Cornwall Courier sold like hot cakes but nobody wanted to advertise in what became known in this rural backwater as “the local News of the World.” I was in financial trouble after just 13 issues!
Thank goodness, though, for Roy East, my Guardian Angel. Roy was impressed with the paper and so was his friend, Mike Robertson, a multi-millionaire who ran a string of out-of-town shopping centres in Devon and Cornwall. Roy introduced me to Mike and overnight there was a cash injection. Roy became part-time managing director, keeping an eye on Mike's investment until former MP Paul Tyler (now Lord Tyler) joined the board.
The Courier prospered, launched new editions for St Austell and Newquay and saw sales top 22,000 in its best week. After five years the paper was sold to the Daily Express who at the time owned the Packet Series in Falmouth, where I have worked in various roles ever since.
During all the time that Roy was involved in the Courier he continued running the Cornwall News Service, feeding half-a-dozen or more top quality stories a week to Fleet Street newsdesks. The Courier passed leads to him and he ensured a regular supply of front page splashes in return.
Our most memorable story filled Pages 1, 2 and 3. We discovered that a local Scoutmaster and his wife, a Girl Guide leader, were running a brothel from their family home near St Austell. Courier reporter Simon Heptinstall spotted a small ad under a box number in the personal columns offering “massage for swish boys and girls” and he penned a reply. We couldn't believe our luck when we realised what we had stumbled upon. We needed Roy's expertise to direct the operation, which led to a full and frank confession from the couple once they knew they had been rumbled.
Roy had the News of the World lined up to take the story and pictures but as soon as the Courier hit the streets the daily red tops went wild. It was on every tabloid front page the day after us, with Roy negotiating the fees.
Roy may have been 82 but he was fit and active until the end and his mind was still as sharp as a razor. He would phone me every couple of weeks for a chat and he could recall every detail of every story going back to the day when he started his own distinguished journalistic career. I'll miss those chats and I'll be forever grateful to the man who taught me so much.
Terry Lambert at 03 May 2006 17:57
Tribute to Roy East from Cornwall News: Roy East managed to combine being an unrivalled popular journalist with genuine humanity and flawless charm. He built Cornwall News Service up from being a little local operation to a respected Fleet Street name - one which was synonymous with his own, and which became a hallmark for bombproof operating.
It says something for his intellect, and his hard work during his lifetime, that Fleet Street - in 2006 - still valued a faxed or posted, typewritten brief on a Cornish story from 81 year old Roy East above any other source, and that Roy, armed only with a directory, a phone line and his wits, would dig deeper and get better results for them than anyone else in the field.
There's a snap of Roy that hung on his study wall which always summed him up to me: it must have come from a neg grifted from his photographer, because it was a news shot showing Margaret Thatcher, in earnest conversation with a colleague. Unfortunately it was unusable - because looming in the background between the PM and her pal was Roy East, a vast and mischievous grin plastered all over his face, and if not with a notebook in his hand, then a definite air of having one available. It was about the only thing I've ever seen that could make you feel sorry for Margaret Thatcher - because that grin only ever meant one thing: It meant: ‘I've discovered something hilarious - and it's going to be on the front page on Sunday'.
[?] at 03 May 2006 19:04
My Dad Thankyou all.
Can anyone help with Tim's request for info on Dad's NUJ activities?
Do send me an email address/contact number and an idea of whereabouts in the country you all are. I am receiving many requests from former colleagues of my father who would like to track each other down. firstname.lastname@example.org
A brother's reflections: My brother and I came from a working class family. Mum and dad had hard times, so you will see how pleased they were when their son Roy passed his eleven plus examinations.
He was given a choice of Isleworth County School, a short bus ride from home, Thames Valley County or Hampton Grammar School. At the most convenient, Isleworth County. places were already taken. Try Thames Valley! "Sorry no room". Same answer at Hampton! What a choice.
You see, in the Tory-dominated class-ridden society of the 1930s, money came before ability. At last a place was found, so Roy had to go by train via Hounslow and Brentford on to Chiswick. Now who was going to pay the fare? A means test for mum and dad.
Roy settled into his studies but knew that both for his schoolwork and hobby of short wave radio, he would need books, so he took a Saturday job in Kings Street Richmond riding a bike delivering oil, paint, firewood etc, with his school cap pushed into his pocket as nobody must see a County School lad working as an errand boy, it would let down the school and the snobbish society.
As well as his studies at Chiswick, Roy played a bit of football and tennis but his main sporting interest was rowing and he became stroke of the school eight, later joining Twickenham Rowing club, but this was cut short by the start of WW2, though he still maintained an interest making many trips in recent years to Henley Regatta.
Later on he returned to Kings Street Richmond but this time it was to join the Dimbleby Press, working on the Richmond and Twickenham Times, he had taken a few steps along Kings Street but a giant stride in life's path.
Roy also served his country in the R.A.F.and had some good times in Canada and the U.S.A but his happiest stint was in Scotland where he caught the eye of a young girl named Margaret who turned out to be his wife of fifty eight years.
I'm very proud of my brother who fought his way to the top of the hill and won.
Don East at 05 May 2006 19:56
A legend: I took over Cornwall News Service from Roy in 1985 and ran it until 1997. They were amazing times -- thanks to Roy.
We lived just a few hundred yards apart in Bodmin and I will never forget all the help he gave me. Often, when I was working on a story he would give me the name of someone to ring and their phone number. He would always say "Tell them I suggested you called." When I made the call and mentioned Roy's name it was like entering a different world. Often the reply would be "What do you want to know?"
His contacts were legendary. If Roy didn't know them then they were not worth knowing. And he broke so many amazing stories by simple old fashioned journalistic skills. There was no need for him to dress up in flowing robes! People trusted him because his word was his bond.
He truly was a brilliant journalist of the old school and the world of journalism is so much poorer for his passing.
He was a legend and I am proud to have known him.