Skip to main content


Scribe's journey: 'Street of Shame' to Berlin Wall

The trainee from Northern Ireland coming onto the World Desk overnight shift was moonfaced, crowned by an extraordinary halo of frizzy golden hair, a likeness somewhere between Botticelli and Beano (kids comic).


But Peter Millar swiftly outpaced any superficial expectations, something of Dan Dare (ditto), ultimately joining the ranks of distinguished reporters in Cold War Europe, for over a decade.


Millar, who died aged 67 in January, left an amusing, self-promoting and bibulous memoir tracing his career entry on the "Street of Shame" in the alcohol-fuelled Roaring Seventies along Fleet Street's press neighbourhood, to the inner workings of Reuter editorial, along with exotic details of the guerrilla-type overnight shift (Full disclosure: my name figures among the Usual Suspects).


He unveils the "upwriting" technique (seldom tolerated dayside) of legendary copytaster David Goddard, hailed by admirers as "the greatest rewrite man since Shakespeare", and how he used this approach to enliven the dead bones of a dispatch.


Eventually, Millar, to escape the "tumbrills" of being a Reuter correspondent, went on to write for British Sundayers. His book, drolly entitled "1989 the Berlin Wall, My Part in its Downfall,” appeared in 2009, chronicling a vanished age.


He concluded with a helpful reminder, "History is not something that happens around us. It is something we are part of." ■