I have practically no knowledge of Fleet Street writers but I believe one of the greatest columnists was ‘Cassandra’ of The Daily Mirror. He was amusing, pungent in criticism and never dull. He reported on happenings such as Winston Churchill’s funeral, the Christmas Island test of the H-bomb, the Eichmann trial in Israel, the Negro March on the White House, the visit of Pope Paul VI to Nazareth in 1964, and he interviewed a sad Marilyn Monroe. Animal lovers no doubt felt moved to tears after reading Cassandra’s criticism of the suffering of the little dog the Russians sent up in the 1957 space capsule, and reasonable humans saddened by his account of Rudolf Hess’ confinement in Spandau Gaol (where ‘Cassandra’ himself had been arrested trying to photograph the prison from his VW) and by his coverage of the hanging of Ruth Ellis in 1955.
In other moods this journalist would write of cats, gardening, cooking and of the funny aspects of his life. What may surprise is his knowledge of cars. He described the 30/98 with unforgettable enthusiasm, suggesting it would speak to no other “unless it was one of WO Bentley’s majestic green monsters”. He recalled the “gormless faithful Jowett that ticked like a sewing machine”, the Trojan, the Bugatti “from the engineering cathedral at Molsheim” and many more. He told of the Isotta-Fraschini “with the smell of duels at dawn and reckless times on the tables of Monte Carlo about it” and the Hispano-Suiza “with its curling, contemptuous lip.” A Minerva “could look a Rolls-Royce straight in the eye” and the Lorraine-Dietrich “challenged all high-steppers.” — Bentleys included perhaps? The great Yankees “were strictly for cads”: of Stutz’s Bear-Cat he said “nobody could be respectable in that”
Even if he only gleaned it from the papers, we must class him as a true enthusiast and surely a keen driver? He wrote: “The motor-car has itself becoming a disfiguring blotch that cannot even fulfil its first function — to move.” That in 1961. Perhaps he really did have a Frazer Nash, which he said “with its solid back axle, its lift of chain, and the outside gear lever was something to be reckoned with.” Cassandra’s real name was William Neil Connor. When he died, at 57, his editor, Hugh Cudlipp, wrote a memorable memorial. Some of the Fleet Street writers must recall him. Please tell me what kind of cars he drove.