AN EMOTIONALLY-charged party marked the retirement of Dispatch chief reporter Denis Robinson after 57 years as the heartbeat of the newspaper.
Since the age of 16, Our Denis has put the communities of Hucknall and Bulwell first.
But at the Rolls-Royce Leisure Club off Watnall Road in Hucknall, it was his turn to take centre stage.
Invited guests flocked to pay tribute, shower him with gifts, share a few memories and a drink and play a part in the curtain-call of a remarkable life in journalism that started in October 1953.
Dignitaries on hand included Hucknall’s Conservative MP, Mark Spencer, and Coun John Knight (Lab), leader of Ashfield District Council, who mingled with dozens of Denis’s friends. The town’s former MP, Andy Stewart, was also there.
The formal part of the event was compered by Dispatch editor Richard Silverwood. Having worked with Denis for more than 30 years, he gave a glowing endorsement of the role played by the celebrated newsman in the long history of the Dispatch.
Richard also took the opportunity to reveal a “world exclusive” that Denis will not disappear from the pages of the Dispatch entirely. For he has agreed to write a weekly column entitled ‘Gone But Not Forgetting’.
Next on stage was Tracy Powell, editor of the Dispatch’s sister paper, the ‘Mansfield Chad’, to express her amazement and admiration of 73-year-old Denis’s longevity in the industry and his ability to adapt to many changes over the years.
She was followed by Coun Mick Murphy (Con), a Hucknall member of Notts County Council, who labelled Denis “incomparable”.
Coun Murphy then surprised the self-confessed technophobe with a special gift on behalf of the community — a state-of-the-art laptop, complete with accessories.
A gift of theatre tokens from Denis’s Dispatch and Chad colleagues was also handed over before the man himself delivered a gem of a speech packed with amusing anecdotes from his days with the paper.
“What a year 1953 was,” he said. “The Coronation of the Queen, the ascent of Everest, the Stanley Matthews Cup final and me starting work on the Dispatch!”
Denis quipped that “retiring is hard work” and his last week as a reporter had been one of the most exhausting of his long career.
He went on to say: “I am absolutely overwhelmed by the wonderful reaction from the community of Hucknall and Bulwell.
“I would like to take this opportunity of expressing a very big and heartfelt thankyou to everyone who has presented me with gifts, cards, messages of good wishes and all who have made my farewell party such a brilliant and memorable occasion.
“Looking back, I am staggered to reflect on all the time that has passed since I embarked on my career of nearly six decades.”
Denis signed off with one of his trademark poems (SEE ABOVE LEFT).
Musical entertainment on the day featured Hucknall’s own ‘singing councillor’, Robert Rankin (Ind), of Ashfield District Council. He gave an imposing operatic performance of Pavarotti’s signature piece, ‘Nessun Dorma’, and then the Italian song, ‘O Sole Mio’, which literally translates as ‘My Sun’.
Coun Rankin was followed by well-known singer Kellie Leigh, who performs a tribute act to Patsy Cline.
Another special guest on the day was Coun Tom Pettengell (Con), chairman of Notts County Council, who presented Denis with a framed copy of the front page of the very first Dispatch he worked on.
Despite retirement, Denis hasn’t been able to put his feet up for too longin his first week of retirement. For he has been in much demand from other media organisations.
He was even featured in a special piece on the ‘East Midlands Today’ regional news programme on BBC 1. Chief news reporter Quentin Rayner spent more than an hour filming at the Dispatch Office before spending an afternoon with Denis at his home in Bulwell.
Anyone who missed the footage can follow the link on the right.