David Bell -Old Time Hack-Or News Ferret

I published this on Facebook first in June 2020.

What a shock to read this, David Bell has been quite rightly, described as an old time Hack. But he was much more than that! Belly was during my time on the County Council a real ferret. He would be hunting out stories wherever he could find them. I regularly met with him to explain one policy or another when I was a County Councillor in County Hall in Birmingham.

We often met in Committee Room 7 (Turks Head) where he and his journalist friends would compete for the exclusive. He and Barry Hammond from the Express and Star, were great friends, but very, very competitive against each other, I became close to both these regional journalistic sleuths, we has some memorable times. Over a long period of time, both these giants of the local Press have now sadly passed away. ‘Belly’, became a great friend,

Over all those decades i knew him you could always have a laugh. Though you had to be careful what you said in his earshot! When the County was abolished by Maggie Thatcher I remember the television interview he delivered, There he was sitting in the lobby at County Hall, surrounded by TV Journalists, and crew. For a change it was’ him’ that was giving the interview, and it was ‘him’ being questioned by the TV Journalists. He loved it.

Rather than just reporting on the News, David, this time was being asked his thoughts, on why the West Midlands County Council had failed…..I gave him some stick over that TV interview as I recall. Then when I created a career for myself in Public transport, we were back in touch. It used to make me smile that he had moved his office, now to the Old Joint Stock.. So I would wander up in an afternoon when I wanted to brief him on a fares rise, or something similar. It was then that I noticed how great the man was. He was no longer wandering the corridors of power looking for a story, or as Barry Hammond used to say “a tale. “You had to now wait in the queue to give him a tale. Behind City Councillors, and the like. Once even it was rumoured the Coroner!

All this to give this great local journalist, A few words that would, you hope, transform the Mails Front Page. Belly made words talk! I am sad to hear of his passing. He was a huge journalistic character, but we had some fun, as well as the pain he gave me, with words that at time made me wince! It was down to Belly that I have gone through my Local Government life, with the nickname ‘Beefy’. One of his story’s are still implanted in my brain- as he described me as “Two chubby cheeks, held together by a whispy moustache.” Or the other one the “Portly politician from Wolverhampton”.

‘Rest In Peace’ David Bell. Hopefully they will raise a statue to you at the Birmingham Evening Mail -They ought too for all those front page stories you captured over the years! So now my old sparring partners pass on to the great Newspaper in the sky- David Bell. Barry Hammond, and of course Ed Doolan All great charachters…BIRMINGHAMMAIL.CO.UK Much-loved ex-Birmingham Mail journalist dies as tributes pour in Legendary ex-municipal editor was admitted to Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley and passed away peacefully in his sleep.

Phil Bateman

Phil Bateman is Married to Mary and lives in Wednesfield North. He was a long serving local politician having served previously on the now defunct West Midlands County Council... read more