Marje Proops bares her soul over the agony of a love affair: David Lister hears the long-serving Mirror advice columnist confess all

MARJE PROOPS, agony aunt in need of an agony aunt, yesterday received some pert and straightforward advice from a woman who could have been born to the job had she not decided on higher things.

Addressing a Foyle's Literary Luncheon in her honour, Mrs Proops, the Daily Mirror's long-time columnist, said she had never imagined that other journalists would be interested in her 20-year adulterous love affair during a sexless marriage, revealed in her recent authorised biography.

However, Baroness Castle, the redoubtable former Labour Cabinet minister, sitting immediately next to her, interjected anything but sotto voce: 'Grow up, then.'

Perhaps spurred on by this novel form of counselling, Mrs Proops, staying within the parameters prescribed to her some decades ago by her then editor, Hugh Cudlipp, never to use three syllables where two would do, proceeded to bare her soul.

Having discarded her prepared speech, she faced the gathering. The audience consisted largely of ladies from the shires who were past the first flush when Marje started her 'Soul Surgery' in 1956. (It sounds like a compilation of Tamla Motown hits, but was the name of her first Daily Mirror page).

On the top table was a snapshot of the British left circa 1959 - Michael Foot, Baroness Castle, Lord Wyatt and Lord Cudlipp.

'The book has caused me quite a lot of pain and suffering,' Mrs Proops said. 'Gradually it gets to be worse and worse, more and more painful, peeling off layers of your life like peeling an onion . . . it gets to be agony. You get to know what agony means. You're forced to recognise yourself and confront yourself. I found it very difficult to cope with.

'Talking about my marriage was extremely painful, reliving the agony of that, then finally the meeting with the man that I loved, that gave me something to live for.'

She added: 'I have grown up since the book was published,' and then, showing that a circulation war can inspire one to a passion as extreme as any love affair, declaimed: 'When it was published, it never occurred to me for one minute that the other newspapers would focus only on my love affair as the only thing in a long and interesting life.

'It seemed like the other papers were only interested in the destruction of Marje Proops and via that the Daily Mirror and I was a very useful tool in that exercise.

'But we are all survivors, and survive we will, despite efforts by the other newspapers to destroy us - and we will teach them a bloody good lesson.'

Such excesses of emotion that even the 'Dear Marje' page cannot always aspire to were dampened by Lord Cudlipp's more earthy observation. As the employer of both Mrs Proops and her late lover, the then Daily Mirror lawyer, Phillip Levy, he said: 'What lifts the book is its insight into the arid marriage . . . and the passionate affair with the head of our legal department. I for one had no idea that Phillip Levy was working for the Mirror by night as well as by day.'

Angela Patmore, author of Marje Proops, The Guilt and the Gingerbread, said after the lunch that Marje spent two years working with her on the book and had a serious health problem which made her decide to come clean over her private life, which she did after talking it over with her 52-year-old son.

But the ultimate challenge to Marje Proops came from a fellow lunch guest on the top table. Michael Grade, head of Channel 4, had read in his local newspaper, the Hampstead and Highgate Express, an agony column which began: 'I make no apologies for returning to the subject of premature ejaculation because my postbag is full of it.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power