One of The Sun’s best-loved and most popular reporters, Denis Budge,
has died at the age of 65 of a suspected heart attack while at sea on
Denis, known universally in Fleet Street as Budgy,
joined The Sun shortly after its launch in 1969 when he sailed his
yacht back to the UK from Australia where he had been working as a
Scotsman Denis soon became a key member of The Sun’s
fledgling newsroom, which boasted top reporters such as Les Hinton, who
went on to become boss of all News International’s UK operations, and
ace royal man Harry Arnold.
His biggest coup was sneaking into
the giant British Leyland factory at Cowley in Oxfordshire, where he
observed workers sleeping throughout the night shift.
As he left
the plant at 7am with the rest of the shift, Denis began whistling
Lullaby of Broadway which gave him the inspiration for the headline
“Lullaby of Leyland”– The Sun’s splash the next day.
story covered by Denis was the assassination of Conservative MP Airey
Neave at the House of Commons by IRA terrorists in 1979.
late 1980s Denis took voluntary redundancy and went to work for PR
Week, before switching to the Food and Drink Federation where he edited
its in-house magazine.
After he retired at the age of 60, Denis
indulged his great passion for sailing and always had a boat moored at
Eel Pie Island near his riverbank home at Twickenham.
Last month he went to Dover to collect his boat, which had been refurbished, and decided to sail her back home single-handedly.
the Kent coast near Whitstable the propellor became jammed. It is
believed that Denis donned a harness attaching him to the boat and went
over the side to investigate.
A post mortem reached the
conclusion that the shock of entering the cold water on a baking hot
day probably brought about a heart attack.
Denis was a true Fleet Street legend and spawned a host of hilarious anecdotes.
Budgy once invited an unsuspecting young female Sun reporter to join him on a weekend cruise.
they reached Emsworth, Hampshire, where his yacht was moored in the
middle of the harbour, they boarded a motor-powered rubber inflatable.
way out it sprang a leak and sank. The hackette, who was wearing a
life-jacket, began frantically blowing a whistle she had fortunately
put round her neck.
To her horror, she saw her gallant captain
swimming at great pace away from her in pursuit of floating cans of
Fosters lager which he regarded as an essential provision for the trip.
another occasion, Denis confessed to acquiring a secondhand overcoat
from an Oxfam shop in Twickenham – and it turned out to be the same
item another newsman had handed in to his local branch in Finchley a
Budgy told him: “If you’ve got any more clothes you don’t want, give them straight to me and cut out the African middleman.”
death of Denis came as a severe shock to his many pals in Fleet Street.
Les Hinton paid this simple tribute, which is a fitting epitaph: “There
was no nicer man in the newsroom.”
John Kay, chief reporter, The Sun