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Former press man's book remembers life as a copy boy in the 1950s

Former newspaper man Peter Deeley has written a book about starting out in local journalism in the 1950s.

Copy! Boy! looks back at the start of Peter’s career when, aged 16, he joined Birmingham-based Caters News Agency in 1951.

Starting as a copy/office boy, Peter spent two years at Caters before completing National Service. He then returned there as a junior reporter and later joined the Birmingham Post as a general reporter.

Peter, (71), who is now retired, said he had two purposes in writing the book: to remember his former boss at Caters, George Barnwell, “who taught me and most like me all we knew”, and “to try to capture a bygone age before it and we are all forgotten”.

He said: “[It] took about 18 months from the moment the idea hit, to do research, write, organise printing.

“I did a self-publishing exercise because I just wasn’t interested in haggling with agents or publishers. But I am considering trying to get copies into major bookshops in Birmingham.”

  • Peter (seated) is joined by former colleagues John Cooper, Bob Lee, Roger Busby, Harry Hawkes and Keith Gascoigne, and Val Barnwell (wife of George Barnwell’s brother Jack).

    Peter said his former colleagues have been “very appreciative” of the book and it has led to him being reunited with old work mates from Birmingham, some of whom he had not seen for 40 years.

    Remembering former boss George, Peter writes: “Barnwell was a truly remarkable man, though I was much too young at 16 to understand or appreciate the many facets of his character.

    “He was a human dynamo, bursting with energy and ideas and always seemed in a hurry as if life did not offer enough time in which to pack all his goals.

    “Yet he was also the kindest, most humane of men and if he had just bawled you out would be putting a friendly arm around you within a few minutes.”

    Peter also comments on how a career in journalism was perceived when he started out.

    He said: “The trade, or craft, of journalism I entered in 1951 was not one we went into contemplating Fame or Fortune or Influence.

    “The idea of Fame (beyond the odd columnist in Fleet Street like the Daily Mail’s Cassandra) was about as tangible as a trip to the moon. As for Fortune, frankly, riches were beyond our imagination. Influence? That too was beyond our thinking. It was in direct contradiction to what we saw as our role – providers of Information.”

    The book also looks at life in Birmingham during the 1950s and contains snippets from the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail which were taken from Peter’s first 18 months in journalism before he embarked on his National Service.

    The book is currently only available by writing to Peter with £8.50 at 2, Knapton’s Croft, Market Sq., Lower Heyford, OX25 5NR. Postage is included and 50p from each of the first 500 copies sold will go to The Journalists’ Charity.