Old and New Soho. Photo & text by Eric Hands, Adam Macqueen (5/5)

Christopher Booker, Richard Ingrams, Auberon Waugh and Barry Fantoni at the Private Eye office, Greek Street. Photo © Eric Hands

Eric Hands writes:

I arrived at Private Eye  as a token working-class boxwallah – Ingrams’ term of endearment for non-editorial staff – following a mystical experience on Clapham Common (the drugs were better in those days) and a subsequent introduction to Barry Fantoni by the local vicar. My first job was to write up the ledgers for the advertising sales and, such was the shortage of space in the Greek Street premises, I shared a small smoke-shrouded cubicle with Auberon Waugh and Paul Foot. Bron had a habit of throwing his cigarette ends out of the window and on more than one occasion laid waste to a few fancy hats. I spent my first decent wage packet on a camera and the rest of my life trying to use one.

Regarding the above photo, Adam Macqueen – who is working on a definitive history of Private Eye – supplies the following which sounds about right. I’d date it circa 1974 as the poster was being used as a prop – rather than the photo being taken to celebrate the poster (if that makes sense). It was from a series of shots I took for a feature in the New York Times. Lighting by Anglepoise.

Adam Macqueen writes:

As far as I can tell, the poster must refer to Wilson’s legal action against the Eye for a joke about the trademark Gannex macs he always wore: they were manufactured by a company owned by his friend Joe Kagan, and the Eye wrote that Kagan had “employed Wilson as a commercial traveller and male model for the last seven years at an annual salary of £5-£10,000.” His solicitor Lord Goodman – himself a regular target and sworn enemy of the Eye – brokered an apology that was printed in February 1973: “This reference was not intended to be take literally, and we apologise to Mr Wilson for any suggestion that he was employed by or received payments of any kind from a commercial concern whilst he was a Minister of the Crown.”

Kagan, who did provide funding for Wilson’s private office, later got a peerage in his resignation honours list – the ‘Lavender List’ – and was imprisoned for theft and false accounting in 1980. And Wilson continued his feud after his resignation as prime minister in 1976, when he started touting what he called a “Private Eye address book” around friendly journalists. It was presumed to have been compiled from information private detectives working for his friend James Goldsmith had acquired from the magazine’s dustbins during his epic legal battle that year.

… for The London Column. © Eric Hands, Adam Macqueen 2011