AddThis SmartLayers

From Munich to Gresty Road: Veteran snapper Trevor Bartlett retires

Veteran photographer Trevor Bartlett retires tomorrow after 48 years at the Nottingham Evening Post.

Last weekend, the fretting Forest faithful who travelled to the must-win Championship clash at Crewe once again saw a familiar figure down on the touchline.

Iron-grey hair, tanned face, one shoulder feeling the weight of almost half a century of camera bags.

There’s only one Trevor Bartlett, and six days before his retirement from the Evening Post, he covered his final football match.

Gresty Road is not the grandest of settings for Trevor’s last bow. After all, here is a photographer who flew around the Continent capturing memorable images of the greatest ever Forest team — Brian Clough’s side, twice champions of Europe.

There is more to press photography that football, however. Trevor’s subjects have included everyone from the late Queen Mother to fist-swinging miners, from toiling firemen in the jet wreckage at Kegworth to a grumpy Harold Wilson.

For a man who calls a spade a spade, he is good at making and keeping friends. He was one of the few newspapermen who became a buddy of Clough; his loyal patronage of Nottingham Beer Festival meant he didn’t just cover it – one year he was invited to open it.

He said: “I left school on a Friday and on the Monday started at the Evening Post.

“I was set on as a copy boy working five-and-a-half days a week at not much more than £2. Nowadays you can’t get a Forest programme for that.

“My job was to walk around Nottingham to the courts at Guildhall and Shire Hall, to the Council House — wherever a reporter was working — collect their hand-written copy and get it back to the sub-editors in time for the edition deadline.”

There were no such things then as laptops, modems and mobile phones. In the pre-electronic, hot metal era, typed or hand-written copy was edited with a blue pencil before being dropped to compositors.

“I also had to update the stocks and shares during the day as the changes came through on the teleprinter,” Trevor recalls.

“I’m not sure if I did a very good job. They didn’t do fractions at my school.

“For the Football Post I had to listen to the sports editor calling out the late results and shout them down telephone lines to the district offices.”

There, results were set locally for the Stop Press columns.

“If I didn’t hear the sports editor properly, I wouldn’t ask him to repeat the results, I was terrified of him.”

Trevor was soon transferred to the photographic department. He started life mixing chemicals for the darkroom developing operation. During the winter he’d see daylight only at lunchtime.

At 17, though, he emerged from the gloom and fumes of the developing operation as a booted, suited press photographer — the youngest in the country.

Trevor started his professional life with a VN camera.

“There was no automatic focussing, and you learned how to pace out the right distance between your subject and yourself,” he says.

“People who were used to being photographed were helpful. The Queen Mother, for instance, was a good judge of three yards, or five yards.

“But you were restricted with things like sports events. There were no zooms and long lenses, so you would see photographers gathered around the goalposts. We got used to having clinker and snowballs thrown at us.”

For cricket, the Post had a bulky, old-fashioned Long Tom, kept permanently at Trent Bridge. It was positioned on top of the pavilion and pointed at the wicket at the start of play.

Trevor never found himself overhearing the Prince of Wales’s distaste for photo shoots — “I wasn’t too impressed” was his reaction to HRH’s recorded asides at Klosters last week.

What about other members of the Royal Family?

“Prince Philip once asked how many more pictures I was going to take, because the sound of the motor drive was getting on his nerves, and I remember Princess Anne was not particularly charming.

“But the Princess of Wales was brilliant. Tall and very beautiful. I can remember her walking down the Processional Way in the Old Market Square and getting some mud on her shoes.

“When she got into the Council House she went to the toilet to clean her shoe, but she accidentally went into the gents.

“She came out smiling, having realised her mistake. I could have taken a shot of that, but I’ve never been a papparazzo.”

Other subjects included Lord Snowdon at the opening of the Playhouse in 1963; Elton John at the opening of the Royal Concert Hall in the early 1980s; and, at the turn of the millennium, Mick Hucknall at the opening of the National Ice Centre.

“I was also sent to get Tom Jones in the early 1960s, when he was booked for the Elizabethan Room at the old Co-op store in Upper Parliament Street.

“They said he was across the road in The Fox, which is now called Number 10, where he was having a quiet drink. He was fine about having his picture taken with local girls.

“About that time I also covered The Beatles, who were appearing at the Odeon. After taking the picture I asked them to stand still while I took down their names, left to right, for a caption. I think they were astonished, but they laughed about it.”

Trevor, 62 last month, is married to Sandra, a course leader at New College Nottingham. They have two sons, Peter and Robert, who work in oil and insurance respectively.

When he went to work one day in 1984, however, there was a danger that he would never see his family again.

“I had just taken a picture of some visiting MPs and as I walked into the photographic department I collapsed. I later learned that my colleague John Richardson picked me up and lifted me on to a bench. It was a brain haemorrhage which caused my heart to stop.”

Trevor received emergency treatment at the City Hospital and transferred to a specialist department at Derby Royal Infirmary. There he had a 12-hour operation led by consultant neurosurgeon John Firth.

Trevor made a full recovery and, although he could not drive for a year, he was back at work within five months.

“I received the best treatment anyone could wish for — £1m worth, and then I went home and carried on paying my taxes,” he says.

“Don’t knock the National Health Service.”

Trevor’s gallery includes a large portfolio of politicians. He remembers Jim Callaghan, who died last week, as “cheery and urbane”; his predecessor in Downing Street, Harold Wilson, “grumpy”; Ted Heath as “a bit posh” and Tony Blair, photographed before he became Labour leader, as “talkative”.

His worst experiences were with George Brown (“he was plastered every time we met”) and his best with Margaret Thatcher.

“I was at No.10 photographing a presentation to the University of Nottingham, and she asked if I would prefer to take pictures in the Blue Room, as if I had been there before.

“She chatted about how as a girl she would travel from Grantham to Nottingham, and do her shopping in Griffin & Spalding, where her mother had an account.”

He covered the Trowell M1 pile-up in 1969, the Kegworth air disaster, was in the thick of the action during the 1981 Nottingham rioting, and a few years later regularly drove up the A60 to cover the most bitter industrial dispute of modern times.

“My worst experience during the miners’ strike was the day after we had printed a story about wives joining a picket line. The headline was ‘Petticoat Pickets’.

“I was at Langwith Junction and it was clear the pickets had taken umbrage at the story, feeling they were being accused of hiding behind their women’s skirts.

“It was freezing and the pickets were gathered round a brazier and one of them gave me a clip.

“I sai
d, ‘I hope you all freeze to death’.

“I drove off in my Morris 1000, but the wrong way, down to the pit yard. I had to turn round and go back past the picket. They were waiting for me. Luckily I was going too fast for them to react.”

A thick skin, then, is one of the qualities Trevor would seek in a youngster learning the trade. He adds:

“You also need an ‘eye’ for a good picture, a natural reluctance to take No for an answer … and a bit of bullshit now and then. Bullshit baffles brains, they used to say.”

Trevor’s sports subjects include Muhammad Ali, in his Cassius Clay days, but he will be remembered the longer for his brilliant work with Forest at a time when they played at Wembley, Munich, Old Trafford and the Nou Camp, not at Gresty Road.

His all-time favourite picture, taken with the Nikon he used in the pre-digital era, shows a permed Peter Shilton kissing the European Cup which Forest had just won for the second time, in 1980.

Other memorable images include a Kenny Burns header against Barcelona, and an Ian Wallace diving header against Leeds United.

And there are countless candid and formal shots of Brian Clough, who was to become a personal friend.

“When he retired I was one of 50 photographers camped outside his home. They weren’t getting in, but he saw me from a window and sent someone to invite me through.”

The result was a touching collection of family shots, including a heartwarming image of the great man with his granddaughter.

“I met Brian at the European Cup 25th anniversary celebration, and he seemed fine. The news of his death was devastating.”

In his wardrobe, Trevor has a memento — the Forest blazer given to him by Clough after one of Forest’s Wembley outings. It is a size too big for its second owner, but it will never, ever be sold.

What else would Trevor have done had he not been a press photographer?

“If I hadn’t got the copy boy job at the Evening Post I would have been apprenticed to a master plumber working on the Clifton Estate,” he says.

“But if I had my time again, I would not do anything else. It’s better than working for a living.”