Humphrey Carter usually writes this section on a Sunday. He has been penning the Sunday Interview for many years but this week Humphrey himself is the subject of our interview because this week he marked a quarter of a century at the Majorca Daily Bulletin. An important milestone both for him and ofcourse the newspaper because he has effectively worked on this paper for half of his life and almost half the publication span of the Bulletin. I have had the pleasure of sharing many great experiences with Humphrey over the years and today I will recount some of them because it has been a glorious 25 years.
“It pays to read local newspapers, the Malaysian Times got Nick Leeson and the Majorca Daily Bulletin got Christopher Skase.” So read an item in the Financial Times´ Observer Diary. The report went on to say that we had been beaten “cheque waving Australian journalists,” to the ultimate prize, an interview with Australian tycoon Christopher Skase, who was living in Andratx following the collapse of his leisure empire and was wanted by the Australian authorities. I think I am right in saying that Humphrey probably considers this as one of the highlights of his career. It was indeed an important coup; not many interviews get a mention in the Financial Times! Humphrey´s photographs of Skase were on the front-page of every major Australian newspaper (and there are alot of them). In fact, a sub-editor on the Sydney Morning Herald told him that his photos had knocked the Rolling Stones (who were performing in Sydney) off the front page of many newspapers. The interview, over six pages in the Bulletin, was picked up by media across the world. We were even invited to be on an Australian chat show....flights included. The interview and the Skase sensation came about within months of Humphrey joining the Bulletin, so he certainly hit the ground running.
Just months later we were dispatched to Palma airport on what was called “airport duty” in those days. We had received a tip that Kirk Douglas would be coming to the island to enjoy a short holiday with his son, Michael at his Majorca home.
The chances of us even seeing Kirk Douglas were almost one in a thousand and the chances of Humphrey getting a photograph of father and son together, were almost one in a million and that is putting it optismitically! But that is what happened; through a great deal of luck, manners and handwork Humphrey took a photograph of father and son at Palma airport and to this day it is the only one of them together on Majorca which actually exists.
It was the the culmination of many months of hard work. I remember sitting in the newsroom at the Bulletin looking at photographs of Michael Douglas which had been taken by some colleagues on our stable mate newspaper, Ultima Hora. That day we vowed that we would get the best possible photographs of Michael Douglas and Humphrey succeeded with the ultimate prize; Hollywood legends together in Palma and an exclusive.
You couldn’t put Anthea Turner, the former GMTV TV host in the same category as the Douglas family but Humphrey´s photographs were plastered across newspapers across Britain.
Anthea, who in those days was the undisputed Queen of Breakfast TV, was filming on Alcudia beach. She was on horseback for one TV scene but the horse was not too impressed and Anthea went bolting across Alcudia beach at almost full gallop. Humphrey got the photographs and within minutes the screen on his mobile telephone lit up like a Christmas tree. Every newspaper in Britain wanted those photos. For the Bulletin it was a good story for some of the tabloids it was bigger than Brexit!
Getting photographs back to Britain in those days was no easy task...email technology was still very much in its infancy. It seems outrageous these days to think that people would actually do it, but on numerous occasions we asked a passenger of a flight (a complete unknown) to take the negatives back and give them to one of Fleet Street’s finest at the other end!
All these results which Humphrey enjoted over the years were not just thanks to good luck but plenty of hard work and dedication. Many hours spent waiting at Palma airport or outside the homes of the rich and famous and that was only the day job! Returning to the office after being on the hunt for the rich and famous or any other news story was always fun, but then there was the other side of the job, doing football tables late on a Saturday night or hanging around for a late football result or international news event. It is a question of taking the good and the bad and that needs plenty of dedication and believing in the newspaper which you work for.
There is also an element of risk involved. I remember planning the Bulletin’s first Monday edition to coincide with the historic visit to the island of President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary.
This special edition would depend heavily on Humphrey’s photographs. Clinton arrived on the island and then disappeared, leaving the Bulletin without photographs of Clinton in a Clinton edition.
Late into the evening on that fateful Sunday and starring into eight blank pages, we had one last chance to get photographs of the U.S. President. He was due to visit Valldemossa but it was a long shot. The President did go to Valldemossa and instead of disappearing into a restaurant which was out of bounds for the media, he decided to go on walkabout in Valdemossa and Humphrey was there to take the pictures which salvaged our second edition and made it one of the most successful to date. The following day, the father of a child which was kissed by Bill Clinton and adorned our front page arrived with a bottle of whisky to say thanks.
An event I remember fondly was when Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin tycoon, was planning to turn an estate in Banyalbufar into one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Branson was meeting local officials because he was having planning problems. After the meeting most of the media left and Branson and his business partner Axel Ball headed to the estate. We followed them and I remember Humphrey shouting out to Ball, Yo Axel, using the line made famous by the Hollywood hit Beverly Hills Cop. It worked very well and we were given a tour of the estate by Branson himself and I think I am right in saying that to this day it is the only photograph which exists of Branson at his Majorcan estate.
In the middle and late 1990s we were so successful (on a Majorca scale) that we were dubbed the A-Team by the late former Anglican Chaplain Jim Hawthorne.
The years of “being up a tree” as our search for the rich and famous was called in the Bulletin offices passed to a new role of being more office bound.
In fact, staff would joke that they would have to tie us to our desks to stop us going out and about in the search for news.
Some of the stories were eye-openers to say the least; being shown around a Japanese tuna research vessel in the port of Palma; being offered tea and toast from their own kettle and toaster which they had brought on holiday by a British family who had been involved in an accident at a Palma hospital; hiring the banana boat to take a look at a big yacht out in the Bay of Palmanova, only to discover that there were still tourists on the banana which was being towed out to sea at speed: being threatened with arrest by the organisers of a European Union summit in Alcudia because they were not convinced by our press credentials. The list goes on.
Journalism is all about dedication. I remember we were walking home from a night-spot on the Paseo Maritimo in the early hours of the morning and being told that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash; we had a second edition out within hours.
I think one thing that stands out in Humphrey which he has proved on many occasions over the last 25 years; is his love for this newspaper and what it means to him.
We often joke; you don’t to it for the money, you don’t to it for the credit, you do it because you are doing something which means something special for many people.
Well done Humphrey; these words sum up his 25 years; hardwork, dedication and a sense of humour.