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Home » ‘Unflappable’ tabloid journalist John ‘Steady’ Stead dies aged 77

‘Unflappable’ tabloid journalist John ‘Steady’ Stead dies aged 77

Many national newspaper hacks are described as “Fleet Street legends” when they finally shuffle off this mortal coil to prop up the bar in that boozer-that-never-closes in the sky.

But few deserve that moniker more than John Stead, who made his name in both Manchester and London and died last month aged 77.

And while most “legends” were rather Marmite characters, who you either loved or hated, Steady was the exception. For everybody liked John.

He broke into national newspapers on the Daily Express at the Black Lubianka in Ancoats, Manchester, before joining the newly-launched Daily Star in 1978 as an assistant chief sub under editor Peter Grimsditch.

When the Star moved its production operation to London in 1989, John stayed in the north (where at one time he also ran a pub) and subbed on the Sunday Sport.

Eventually, former colleague David Harbord, who by then was night editor on Today, persuaded him to move to London as copy taster and then, when Today closed, he transferred to the Sun’s features desk.

John also did regular shifts on the Sunday Mirror until his retirement. 

John Stead entertaining veteran ex-Fleet Street colleagues in his local Waggoners pub. From left: Dave Harbord, Danny Gallagher, Dave Morgan, John Stead and Mal Tattersall.

He and his second wife Mags lived in Welwyn, Herts, but bought a holiday apartment in Marbella which was regularly “borrowed” by former colleagues.

Over the last few years, John’s health deteriorated – not helped when he fell out of a plane. Fortunately, it was on the ground at the time or the consequences would have been far worse.

But he remained smiling and was always glad to entertain former colleagues in his local boozer, the Waggoners at Ayot Green.

Former Daily Star colleague Danny Gallagher said of him: “I never once saw John lose his temper. He had a great sense of humour. He’d always see the funny side of office mayhem and laugh it off.”

Brian Hancill, who worked with John many years later on the Sunday Mirror, added: “Steady by name, Steady by nature. He was unflappable, no matter what.”

Dave Morgan, who first met him on Today, said: “We all looked up to John – he was a thoughtful man as well as great company. He was like a moral compass, giving people much-needed guidance. I valued his friendship and wise words.”

John’s funeral will be help at 12:30 at Yarwood Park Crematorium, Stevenage, SG2 8XT, on Monday 24 April, followed by a wake at the Waggoners.

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