And finally... it's farewell: End of an ITN era
After more than 30 years with ITN, Trevor McDonald last night uttered those famous words for the last time. Ciar Byrne recalls some of the memorable stories that followed
Friday 16 December 2005
Humphrey's Downing St press conference, 1995
A report in The Times that Humphrey, the Downing Street cat, was "missing, presumed dead" led to one of the greatest celebrity pet stories of the decade. Rumours that the seven-year-old had slunk off quietly to die after kidney trouble quickly proved to be grossly exaggerated, and ITV News eagerly embraced the happy tale of Humphrey's return. In fact, the moggy had been staying at the nearby Royal Army Medical College, where he had spent a happy three months. His adopted owners, recognising his picture in the papers, returned him to his rightful home. With perfect timing, he arrived back at No 10 on the 70th birthday of Baroness Thatcher, under whose occupancy he had first moved into Downing Street. John Major, said to be a great fan of the cat, was reportedly very pleased to be told the news of his safe return during a break in talks in Northern Ireland. The Cabinet Office even issued a statement on behalf of the celebrated feline, which said: "I have had a wonderful holiday at the Royal Army Medical College, but it is nice to be back and I am looking forward to the new parliamentary session."
Sefton has a happy retirement, 1984
In a classic feel-good "And finally..." story, ITV News covered the retirement of Sefton the Household Cavalry horse, who touched the hearts of the nation when he was injured in an IRA bomb attack in Hyde Park on 20 July 1982.
Four members of the regiment and seven of Sefton's companions were killed by the blast. In 1983, Sefton was named Horse of the Year. The following year, he was retired to a rest home for horses in Buckinghamshire, where ITV News pictured the equine hero. Demonstrating the longevity of his fame, in August, Sefton was posthumously named as one of the first laureates in the British Horse Society Equestrian Hall of Fame.
Longest baby name, 1961
A British couple who could not decide what to call their baby gave her all of the 139 names they liked. These were whittled down from an original list of 217 names.
Hamster with a bus pass, 1995
Sweep the hamster was given his own bus pass after his owner, 11-year-old Wayne Bass from Birmingham, was charged an extra 45p for taking his pet on the bus, as well as the 36p he had paid for his own ticket.
The boy had been looking after the hamster for the weekend and was taking him back to Lode Heath school in Solihull when he was requested to pay the extra charge.
An embarrassed West Midlands Travel issued Sweep with his pass and gave Wayne a free travel card. The hamster bus pass is now kept at the school, so any other pupils taking him home will not get into a similar scrape.
A spokesman said: "Charging is at the driver's discretion, but this seems a bit silly." Wayne's mother Jayne said: "The driver must have been a miserable old sod." The story was in the headlines for two days in 1995.
Human Zoo exhibit, 1985
When a Spanish mime artist, Albert Vidal, decided to turn himself into a human exhibit at Barcelona zoo, ITV's "And Finally ..." was there to capture the moment. Vidal sat in an cage with a sign reading: "Primates: Urban man." The zoo paid him $1,500 (£850) to stay for three days in the cage with chimpanzees, where he was visited by about 10,000 people. A camel and an elephant also joined him and he mimed the everyday behaviour of a typical homo sapien, including reading a newspaper, waiting for a taxi and sitting at his desk. The elephant became so friendly that at one point she rested her trunk on his groin.
Fishing float tube, 1986
This 1986 favourite "And Finally..." combined sport and invention. A cross between a dinghy and a rubber ring, the fishing float tube used cutting-edge technology to allow fishermen to catch more fish than ever from British rivers. The angler stays afloat by sitting in the tube, which has room for legs to go through the bottom. From underwater, the fisherman is cunningly disguised to appear like a larger than normal swan. Unlike other "And Finallys..." which merely documented passing fads, the float tube proved to have staying power. It is still popular today, with increasingly elaborate models now on the market.
Rocket man, 1966
Michael Nicholson reported from Nigeria during the civil war with Biafran separatists, from the death of East Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh, and from Israel following the Egyptian attack across the Suez Canal. He also smuggled home a Romanian orphan who was adopted by Michael and his wife.
But one of the stories he is best remembered for was interviewing a man who was operating a rocket that allowed him to fly into the air for 21 seconds at a time.
The woman who refused to move from Sainsbury's car park, 1997
Eileen Halliday, a pensioner, refused to sell her house to Sainsbury's when it was developing a supermarket near Stroud, Gloucestershire.
Her neighbours took the money and sold up, but not even the offer of £250,000, a world cruise or a replica house could persuade her to part with the stone cottage that her grandfather had lived in before her father bought it in 1894, and where she was born in 1918. Miss Halliday had already refused to allow Gloucestershire County Council to destroy it to make way for a bypass.
She made the best of the situation, befriending the builders by taking them coffee and biscuits and persuading Sainsbury's to repair her chimney and put in double-glazing. The store's manager even invited her to conduct the official opening. Bravely, Miss Hamilton declared that although she missed the old water meadow that had once surrounded her home, she recognised there were far worse potential neighbours than Sainsbury's.
Mice that drank sherry, 1986
One of Spain's top sherry exporters came up with a novel solution to the problem of mice gnawing through barrels.
Instead of buying a cat, or laying traps with cheese, the brewery decided to help the rodents to become so inebriated they were no longer capable of inflicting damage as workers had noticed that when the mice were intoxicated, they were harmless.
The sherry manufacturer propped miniature ladders up against sherry glasses, allowing the mice to help themselves to their favourite tipple. So amusing is the thought of drunken mice, that the Gonzalez Byass winery in Jerez has turned the mini-ladders into a tourist attraction.
Bingo the dog does maths, 1961
Animal stories are a peren- nial favourite in the "And Finally..." slot and animals who do tricks - like the mutt who would later say "sausages" on That's Life - are virtually guaranteed instant television fame.
One of the earliest involved a dog called Bingo who had been enlisted to help teach school children to count. Displaying what appeared to be amazing canine powers, Bingo demonstrated his ability to do sums. When his trainer asked him to count to three, he barked three times. In an even more startling display of mutt mathematical prowess, when school pupils asked Bingo to perform the addition two plus three, he barked five times.
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