Birthdays tend to make people pretty nostalgic. Whether it’s a phone-call from your partner, a message in a card from your Mum or a mortifying old picture from your best friend on your Facebook wall. No birthday is truly complete without the special wishes FULL of embarrassing throwbacks from those who have been a part of your life so far. Our company’s 30th is no different and that’s why we decided to reach out to some of our past staff to hear their memories.
Hard to believe we know but it’s true, despite their now fancy titles, all of these people were once slumming it at SNS Group with the rest of us. Click their name below and enjoy the tales of the good, the bad and the downright unbelievable moments of SNS Group through the years.
Robert Grieve – Scottish Sun Chief Football Writer >>
John Munro – Freelance Writer and former Daily Record journalist >>
Tracey Saunderson – Corporate Communications Manager, NHS Dumfries and Galloway >>
Anthony Haggerty – Sports Writer at Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail Ltd >>
Jonathan Forsyth – Head of Sales & Syndication at Cover Images & WENN Media Group >>
Michael Tumelty – Acting Head of Radio, BBC Northern Ireland >>
Ally Ross – TV columnist, The Sun >>
Jason Kerrigan – Creative Director, Titan Advertising Agency >>
Robert Grieve – Scottish Sun Chief Football Writer
WE had KFC, B&Q and a cheap furniture shop called MFI, a place where everything was made of MDF.
But in 1998 there was no such thing as SNS.
Scottish News and Sport, that’s who I worked for. 74 York Street, Glasgow, a dank and dingy office four flights of stairs up a close.
Not some swanky, plush building like they have now, with ceilings higher than a junkie on Giro day.
Our gaff was a sh*thole, for sure, but our sh*thole.
We had Sadie The Cleaner (STC) who made coffee with so much sugar you’d swear she was the majority shareholder of Tate and Lyle.
But then working in that office was pretty sweet.
There were bust-ups. Real arguments. Jim v Jeff. Jeff v Phil. Phil v Jason. Jason v Jeff. Jeff v The World.
All the while, Alan would just sit there and grin.
For all the barneys, though, there was also a camaraderie and team spirit that made it an amazing place to work.
Like the day snapper Steve Lindridge and I were on our way back to the office from a job in Greenock.
Crossing the fly-over at Glasgow Airport, the traffic started slowing down almost to a standstill, when we both saw a huge goose toddling up the inside lane closely followed by a motorway cop.
We were past the bird before we could do anything about it. But quick as a flash, Steve pulled over at the next junction and jumped into the back of his old motor.
‘You drive, Rob, and I’ll snap,’
Two minutes later we’d swung back round with Steve hanging out the window, me driving the car at 5mph, one hand holding onto the steering wheel and the other hand holding onto him.
Next day our Wild Goose Chase picture/story made just about every paper.
To me, that fun and spontaneity summed up my time there as a rookie reporter.
To begin with I was utterly hopeless. Some say I’m hopeless now but, Jeez, they should have seen me back then.
My spelling was abysmal, my grammar utterly appalling. I could barely write my own name.
I’ll never forget being taken for lunch one afternoon by Jim and Phil.
I thought my work had been good and was wondering on the way into the restaurant if it might be a good time to ask for a wage rise.
Less than half an hour later and I was convinced I’d be sacked within a week.
‘It’s not good enough, Robert,’ they both explained to me, ‘you better start raising your game.’
I went straight around the corner to Kerrigan’s flat on Argyle Street.
‘Dry your eyes,’ he said shaking his head.
That was Jason. Straight to the point. He had more balls than Mitre.
Like when he got bladdered the night before a red-eye flight to London and slept right through his alarm, telling McCann he’d been ill all with food poisoning from a dodgy curry.
All in all I think I only had around 18 months working for the company before moving onto the News of the World.
Even then McCann did me a turn when I was going off for the interview.
“If they ask how much you earn add on a few grand so they make you a better offer,’ he told me. And I did.
Nearly 20 years on and I have nothing but good memories from those times in York Street. It was the making of me as a journalist, there’s absolutely no doubt about it.
I’m genuinely proud of the fact I worked for SNS.
Well, Scottish News and Sport.
John Munro – Freelance Writer and former Daily Record journalist
In February 1989 I was working down in London with National News Agency. I hated every minute of it. Kathy Burden, who also worked there, said ‘You should speak to my friend Jim McCann, he’s just started up an agency in Glasgow.’
I met Jim in a greasy spoon café in Maryhill and started worked at SNS pretty soon afterwards. I must have worked there until late 1991. It was a great place to work, lots of laughs with characters like Michael T, Raymond ‘the Hit Man’, Dave Bennett, Big John ‘Biffa’ Thomson and Barra.
Every now and then Charlie Tallon would be there too, and that’s when it all got a wee bit surreal.
I’ll always be grateful to Jim and Jeff. They helped me get started with the Daily Record… and it’s all been downhill from then onwards!
Working in Maryhill was a real eye-opener for me. I remember the queues outside the Greggs shop every morning.
One night, McCann took me for a pint to the Viking Bar. We were met at the door by a big bruiser of a guy who said ‘You cannae come in lads. The barman’s been shoat. Deid.’
Ah happy daze.
Tracey Saunderson – Corporate Communications Manager, NHS Dumfries and Galloway
I came to work at SNS Group in 1997 when it was still Scottish News and Sport. I had absolutely no experience and my technical skills were not good but Jim gave me an opportunity and I like to think I made the most of it. Over the course of the year I worked there I learned how to spot a good story, write it in the style best suited to the publication and use emerging technology to get copy and pictures out as quickly as possible. I also learned how to ignore explosive sweary outbursts, who took what in their tea and to knock on the toilet door before walking in. As the only woman in the office that last lesson was by far the most important.
As a small town girl with an HND from a third rate FE college I hoped – but never really expected – to have a fulfilling and exciting career. Because Jim McCann had a bit of faith in me I was able to develop excellent instincts, top writing skills and a big shiny brass neck. He’s still my favourite boss and I owe him a debt of gratitude I can never repay.
Anthony Haggerty – Sports Writer at Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail Ltd
I was a qualified journalist academically certainly on paper when I joined SNS as a sports reporter in 1998.
I wasn’t as I believed then a sports writer despite honing my craft for a year at the Paisley Gazette series.
SNS took me (canary yellow highlights in my hair and all) under their wing and under the guidance and tutelage of Jim McCann, I learned the lot.
SNS taught me all the tricks of my trade.
It was they who fashioned me into the sports journalist that I am today having spent the last 19 years on the Daily Record sports desk.
It was Jim who also had the foresight to make me lift the phone to then Daily Record Sports Editor Gordon Waddell and ask for a job.
It was the phone call that changed my career and ultimately changed my life.
I am indebted for the 12 months that I spent at SNS.
We laughed constantly every day for a year.
As for Jim McCann, suffice as to he was more than just my boss and he became my mentor as well as a close personal friend and remains so to this day.
I can think of nobody more deserving than Jim to celebrate 30 years in the cut-throat world of football media. He is the exception to the rule that nice guys cannot thrive in the media business.
My time at SNS may have been short and fleeting but it still lives long in my memory.
Thanks for everything.
It was a pleasure and a privilege and an education as well as a blast.
Congratulations to all at SNS and here’s to the next three decades.
Happy 30th anniversary.
Jonathan Forsyth – Head of Sales & Syndication at Cover Images & WENN Media Group
The War Photographer
SNS veteran, super snapper and all round nice guy Alan Harvey confided in us once that rather than travelling to Inverness for a cup game on a Wednesday night, he had always aspired to be a war photographer, visiting conflict zones around the world, producing great reportage in dangerous areas. On one international trip to Italy, Alan was our man in the ground, sitting behind the goal, on the off-chance that Scotland would get somewhere near it.
The game was pretty dull, but at some point in the match, one group of Italian fans started fighting another group of Italian fans, and while we were watching on screen, Alan phoned the office. I think it was our weekend stringer Gareth that took the call, but my memory is a little hazy. What I do remember, though, is a loud bang on the television screen and a scream down the phone that the whole office heard “AAARRGGHH, what the f@&k?”. Our war photographer hung up, and we all laughed as red smoke from a flare appeared on the screen. The next week, our sensitive correspondent was back in Gretna, shooting a cup tie, and we all agree to this day, that’s where he belongs.
Michael Tumelty – Acting Head of Radio, BBC Northern Ireland
It was the start of the 1990s. Glasgow was basking and bickering about being the European Capital of Culture. I arrived at SNS from London via Dublin via Belfast lightly armed with a few years’ experience, some trailblazing references pointing to possible potential, a hunger for everything Journalism and a new driving licence, secured in clock-ticking desperation the day before. This proved useful given the job ad had stressed it was an essential requirement and I was immediately despatched to drive to Campbeltown to join a crew of
national newspaper reporters and snappers. It was the first time I’d driven more than a few miles in one go.
At the time, the SNS office was above a metalworks in Ruchill. We never fabricated anything but a good deal of the job when we weren’t reporting events for the various newsdesks was
sifting, linking, joining, shaping snippets of information to make a lead worthy of further investigation or a fully formed, polished story.
That skill of scanning, absorbing and connecting vast amounts of information before others were even getting up in order to produce a nugget one day, and then forgetting it all to make brain-space to do exactly the same the next, has never left me. Nobody did it better than us, or so we liked to think. We lived on our wits and adapted to suit, wherever the leads and business took us. We could have moonlighted as quiz nerds or hawking data.
What we didn’t know then, surrounded by stacks of newspapers and acres of cuttings, as our mobile bricks rang and the metal clanged downstairs, was that we were part of a golden age of the Press in Scotland and beyond, although one that was already declining. It was tough, it could be unforgiving but boy was it a great lesson. And unforgettable.
Ally Ross – TV columnist, The Sun
To Jim and all at SNS, past and present. Thank you. This agency taught me everything I know and quite a lot I’ve probably forgotten. The most valuable lessons, though, were how to write quickly and accurately and, above all, be creative. So that, in the hands of SNS, a simple Scotland World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands could become “Scotland versus whales – Animal lobby call for boycott of whaling nation game.”
Our speciality was the noble journalistic art of surviving off the scraps others were too busy, lazy or stupid to see were tabloid gold.
With my absolute favourite example being the moment I spotted Jane Horrocks’ role as Lady MacBeth involved “urinating on stage, in Glasgow.” An unfortunate detail for some. A row waiting to happen, for Jim McCann. And sure enough, a couple of phone calls to the local political rentagobs and 24 hours later, it was honoured with the Daily Record headline – “Hubble bubble toilet trouble” and the offending scene was removed from the production.
At least as important as the stories themselves, though was the work ethic behind them. First week I arrived at SNS Four Weddings and a Funeral was still big news. After much badgering, from Jim, I managed to secure a phone interview with John Hannah, Scottish star of said blockbuster.
He rang during my next sandwich break, so I did the only thing any self respecting student would in these circumstances.
I told him “Sorry John, I’m a bit busy. Can you ring back later, mate.”
At which point I heard a startled, spluttering noise behind me as Jim’s coffee shot about 20 feet across the old York Street den, where we once plotted.
As soon as he’d regained his composure, all it took was one blunt piece of advice to put me on straightish and narrow.
“Ally, you’re not at work just to get out of the rain.”
I’ve been grateful for those words and SNS giving me the chance ever since. I wouldn’t have had a roof over my head without you.
Now please sub this down to an acceptable length, Jim, and send me an invoice for £250. Fondest regards and best wishes for a glorious SNS future. Ally.
Jason Kerrigan – Creative Director, Titan Design Agency
The brilliant thing about SNS is that they’ve always been first to go out and try something new.
Didn’t matter how daft it might have seemed to the more orthodox industry types, if there was a shred of intelligence or promise shown in a new idea then Jim McCann and SNS would figure out a way to make it work. That’s how we ended up with the internet when everybody else just laughed at the suggestion. SNS might actually have had it before NASA did… And, no kidding here, when we first kindled it up (must’ve been three miles of cable!) it was only available to us in black and white. Like Charlie Chaplin.
Obviously the company’s come a huge distance since then, massive leaps and bounds and success after success. And, guaranteed, only ever have full colour for the internet now.