Saturday, 15 November 2014

After a month of parties, Phil makes a Swift exit

Phil, fifth from left on the bottom row, with Howden colleagues
One of Fleet Street’s most likeable characters, Phil Swift, was due to shuffle off into retirement this month. But in truth he didn’t shuffle at all - he went out with several large bangs. I guess it is hardly surprising that, despite being 67, a man who has worked for newspapers for almost half a century knows how to throw a good bash. I was working a long way from the party venues in Howden so couldn’t go (I was disappointed, but my liver was so happy). One event was fairly civilized with speeches and a meal, with Swifty true to form picking up the tab. Most of the revellers were in bed by 4am. But my spies tell me that at another one there was early-morning shirt swapping, people locked in cupboards and plenty of drinking shenanigans. The landlord gave up at 2.30am and Swifty baled out at 4.30am. Others didn’t turn-in until 7.15am. Some night, some stamina.

Charles Griffin's caricature
One of the highlights was a caricature of Phil by Daily Mirror cartoonist Charles Griffin. Charles and Phil worked together at the Mirror but had not seen each other for 20 years. One of Phil’s colleagues, Kay Harrison, sent a snatched picture of Phil to Griffin who replied saying: 'Thanks for the picture of Phil's dad. Now can I have one of Phil?'
Other gifts included an inscribed lighter from one of his former trainees Laura Wileman, a ball made of elastic bands to remind him of when they used to play late night indoor cricket matches in the Mirror newsroom, enough wine to start a business, 
books and Bose headphones.
I first met Phil when he joined PA Training a decade or so ago. I was able to use him as a senior consultant - doing production and training work, particularly in Ireland - and we became good friends.

Phil receives gifts at his desk
Phil’s career began as a Daily Mail news sub. He then spent more than 20 years at the Daily Mirror, sub-editing, chief sub-editing and night editing - before becoming features editor and deputy editor. He also worked at the People, the Sunday Mirror and Today. Up until his retirement he had been working for the Press Association team in Howden which was producing the Mirror’s pages.
Phil was a great newspaper production man - but he was also an excellent trainer. It is a testament to his popularity and mentoring skills that his many leaving parties were attended by dozens of people less than half his age - many of them his former trainees. I wish him a long and happy retirement - though I suspect he won’t be putting his feet up just yet.

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