‘Ink’, a new play at the Almeida Theatre in Islington over the summer (and transferring to the West End in the Autumn), tells the story of Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of the ailing broadsheet newspaper the Sun in 1969, and its relaunch as a successful tabloid. The main characters are Murdoch himself and Larry Lamb, the editor, but also included is Brian McConnell, a well-known Dulwich resident and editor of the Society’s Newsletter between 1993—2000. Brian and his wife Margaret lived at No 9 Frank Dixon Way from the mid-1960s and he was employed by Murdoch for three years as the Sun’s first news editor.
Though often regarded as slightly eccentric, Fleet Street also saw Brian as a competent, hard-working and diligent reporter. He was an archetypal journalist of the old school, hard drinking and heavy smoking, though he quit his 60-a-day habit in the late 1970s after a doctor’s warning. Other than his undoubted journalistic skills his main claim to fame was his accidental involvement in the attempt to kidnap Princess Anne in 1974. Brian and two colleagues were returning from lunch in the cab in front of Princess Anne’s car and, turning around after they heard shots, they saw a man with a gun trying to open the rear door. Brian stopped the taxi and went over to help, saying ‘You can't do that. These are my friends. Don't be silly. Just give me the gun.’ The potential kidnapper responded by shooting him in the chest and opening fire on several others, wounding two policemen and the chauffeur, before being overpowered by other bystanders. Brian spent a week in hospital recovering, and was later presented with the Queen's Gallantry Medal at Buckingham Palace.
Born in Streatham, Brian left school at 14 and worked for the South London Press amongst other papers. After National Service, he joined the Daily Mirror and served variously as the paper's crime reporter, Old Bailey correspondent and editor of the "Live Letters" column. After he left the Sun he returned to the Mirror but as a freelance - mainly because it gave him the opportunity to write books. These included Assassination (1969), which ranged from the Assyrians to the murder of the Kennedys; The Rise and Fall of the Brothers Kray (1969) - based on Mirror reports of their trials); The Neilson File (1983), about the murderer Donald Neilson; and Holy Killers (1995), an account of murderous clerics and religious leaders.