In the (good old?) days before the NCTJ and media degrees, landing your first job in journalism was a tricky business.
There’s many an old hack with a quirky tale to tell of how they persuaded their first editor or proprietor to take them on.
And they don’t come much quirkier than the tale told by Ray Ryall, who has died after a long successful career in political journalism and PR.
Soon after leaving school he got a job as a telephonist at the Croydon Advertiser, hoping it would lead to a job in the newsroom.
When after several weeks he found himself still manning the switchboard, frustration got the better of him.
To the astonishment of other staff, he strode into the office of the proprietor without an appointment – a sackable offence in those days – and started to explain why he should be a reporter.
This teenage sales pitch was swiftly interrupted by the proprietor – a Mr Stiby – who asked Ray how tall he was. “Six foot, two and a quarter inches,” said Ray.
“No you’re not,” replied Stiby. “You can’t be taller than me.” Stiby (a mere 6ft 2ins) measured Ray against the wall and established that the lad was telling the truth – and had pipped him by a quarter of an inch.
As a result, Ray was hired as a reporter on the spot.
During the Second World War he was conscripted into the mines as a Bevan Boy before a talent for Pitman shorthand got him back into the daylight.
He finished his military service taking and teaching shorthand for the War Office.
Next it was back to his ever so slightly shorter boss at Croydon before moving to the Swindon Evening Advertiser.
Through the Fifties and Sixties though he was a senior political correspondent with the Press Association, then The Times, covering many of Churchill’s most famous Commons speeches.
From The Times, he became head of public relations in the UK for Pfizer and went on to head up PR operations at the the White Fish Authority and Unilever.
Following his death in hospital at the age of 77 there was a secular service at Eastbourne Crematorium.
He leaves a widow, Joyce, and three children, John, Jane and Kate. John is a television news reporter and daughterin-law Melody is group editor of the Kentish Times series.