Ann Leslie on dwarves, frozen sheep and a career on the frontline

Superlatives are often used when newspapers  describe their own star writers but few would argue with its assertion that its own Dame Ann Leslie is “one of the greatest foreign correspondents of our times”.

The paper today prints an extract of Leslie’s autobiography Killing My Own Snakes in which she recalls witnessing some of modern history’s great events – the fall of the Berlin wall, Mandela’ walking to freedom – and her encounters with some of its most interesting characters.

But the encounter with the notorious “irascible Scot” Tom Campbell, the Daily Express’s Manchester news editor who took a young Leslie to task for having the nerve to be a woman in the newsroom.

“There’s a dwarf in Oldham says he was at school with Cary Grant,” he growled at me. “And while you’re about it, lassie, there’s a flock of sheep frozen to death on the moors.”

“Er, do we have an address for the dwarf?” I asked nervously. “Or, indeed, the sheep?”

My boss’s expression darkened further. “You find the dwarf! This is called J-O-U-R-N-A-L-I-S-M, lassie… You find the dead sheep by looking for hooves sticking up over the snow, And you know what, you’re keeping a good man out of the job!”

The book is out on 25 September.

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