A top scribe’s tale of unrequited love

30th birthday - net


Sallyanne is probably still kicking herself….


A long time ago in the magical craft of journalism, cadets striving to ensure they nailed the intro good and proper like were taught a very simple technique.

They had to imagine sending a telegram summing up the yarn. What words would they use in a short sharp message that didn’t cost too much money?

Younger readers may now wish to pause in their reading of this story to search the internet to enlighten themselves about telegrams.

For others, we can advise that imagining a telegram is the technique the good people at The Bug applied in 1992 when famous journalist and author Hugh Lunn published a little tome, Head over Heels, about his time at The Courier-Mail.

Central to the story was the fact that poor Hugh had an almighty crush on a beautiful female journalist there at the time: one Sallyanne Atkinson (we can’t remember her maiden name and we’re sure as hell not going to read Head Over Heels again because it was absolute shit) who went on to be Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

Woven through Hugh’s recollections of what a great unionist, fine writer and decent all-round-good guy he was up at the Bowen Hills newsroom was the sad lament that, smitten as he was,  he never got to do any horizontal folkdancing with the beautiful Salaryanne – sorry! – Sallyanne.

So what was the nub of his book? What was its core message? Its distilled essence? What was the short, sharp telegram?

When all is said and done, the answer was plain and simple: I DIDN’T ROOT SALLYANNE.

The use of the word “I” to start this four-word Bug splash heading was deliberate for, you see, Hugh had quite a reputation for using the personal pronoun a helluva lot in his newspaper writings.

Legend has it that some character once snuck up to Hugh’s office desk late one night and filed the “I” off his typewriter!

And as The Bug‘s special nod to Hugh, every paragraph of its review of Head over Heels began with the letter “I”.

The intro went something like this: I have often been told by friends I have that I have a similar writing style to Hugh Lunn and I have often wondered if that’s true about I.

Footnote: This issue was the only time that The Bug was seriously threatened with legal action. The publishers, University of Queensland Press, fired a shot across the paper’s bows.

The Bug checked over its review and, apart from our pisstake of Hugh’s personal pronoun addiction, came to the conclusion that the UofQP anger might have been over the claim that Head Over Heels reeked of a book rushed out to capitalise on the success of Hugh’s previous autobiographical piece, Over the Top With Jim, a great piece of nostalgia that had not just Catholics around Australia wetting their pants about the way things used to be.

Golly gosh! Imagine anyone having the temerity to suggest that a book-publishing business would do such a shameful thing as rushing out a sequel to capitalise on an earlier success! Like whoever put out every other Jack Reacher book after Lee Child’s first.

The Bug had a good hearty laugh to itself and the UofQP probably cooled down as soon as it or its lawyers inspected The Bug‘s financial position.

POST FOOT SCRIPT NOTE: Hugh Lunn’s Head over Heels was the inspiration for Bug writer Don Gordon-Brown’s own reminiscences of his Courier Mail career – Arse Over Tit, or I Didn’t Root Sallyanne Either But Then Again To Be Fair I Never Got the Chance.

More chapters of his six wonderfully turbulent years at the paper will appear online shortly.

Tomorrow: While we’re on the subject of roots – good, bad or never happened – we look back on The Bug‘s only broadsheet issue:

cover - rudd a dud root - net.jpg