We asked newsboys and girls, past and present, to share their stories of being the doorstep heroes who get the P&J and Evening Express to our readers – and did they ever deliver.
From touching stories of helping others and moving anecdotes of support though personal tragedy, to first records bought, a stand for equal rights – and even a generation-spanning paper round, these are tales both affectionate and inspiring.
They help paint a picture of just how the people who deliver the papers have been part of the community across the north-east over the decades. It’s a proud tradition that carries on to this day.
We are delighted to be able to share some of these stories here:
Memories of help through a tough time
Morven Scott simply loved her P&J paper round in Bridge of Don as a young teenager in the late 1990s – that love was paid back when her customers rallied round to support her through the sudden loss of her father to cancer.
“My dad, Stewart Philp, was head of Linksfield Academy and when he died it was in the paper. A lot of my customers put two and two together about my name and age and a quite few of them said: ‘Was that you?’,” said Morven.
“People took me in in, gave me a juice and checked I was okay. People would start speaking to me and checking I was all right. That paper round really helped me through a tough time for a teenager.”
Morven, started her round in the Woodcroft area in 1997 at the age of 13 and gave it up in 2000, a year after her dad died.
During that time, she became friendly with many of her customers on her Friday nights going round to collect their delivery payments.
“I was savvy and realised the earlier you got up and did your round the more tips you got and nicer people were to you. They were always really nice because I did all the papers by 7am,” said Morven.
“I loved my Friday evenings going round all my customers. It was funny, when I first started collecting the money, it would take me about 40 minutes, by the end of doing the round it would take me about an hour and half, because I was just chatting to everyone.”
I changed my nails every two days, there would be glitter and I would do patterns and experiment nail art…”
Morven was also known to all of her customers for her eye-catching coloured nails.
“I changed my nails every two days, there would be glitter and I would do patterns and experiment nail art, which looked horrendous. But the customers would always ask me ‘let’s see your nails’. I always remember one customer telling me a bit of my varnish had come off in her letterbox… she said: ‘Your nail varnish was stuck to my paper!'”
It meant that Christmas tips often involved being given nail varnish sets and glitter – especially the year her father died in November 1999.
Not only did her round help her through tragedy, it shaped her life. Morven became a journalist.
“Back in the day we used to get spares, so every morning I would take the paper home and read it,” she said.
“I always had an interest in newspapers, so loved delivering it and getting a free one to read, so it was round about that time I decided to do journalism at Napier. From there I went to Dubai and worked for Gulf News in Dubai. Then I moved to London, worked at the Metro for a few shifts and then to Glasgow. I’m on maternity leave but working at the Scottish Sun. “
So from delivering papers to writing them, Morven has a lot to thank her paper round for.
“I have so many happy memories,” she said.
Paper round that passed from son to father
When Andrew Simpson first took on his Evening Express paper round in the late 70s he had little idea it would become a generation-spanning job – in reverse, passing from son to father.
After he gave up his route in his home village of Archiestown, his dad Davie took it on – and went on to become the oldest paper boy in the Evening Express’s books, still doing his round well into his 80s.
Andrew said: “If I couldn’t manage it, say if I was away to the football on Saturday and not back in time, my father who was retired would do it. When I left school and went to college, he took over my round. He was featured in the Evening Express in a story about their oldest paper boy.”
In fact, his dad kept up the rounds until shortly before his death in 1998 at the age of 90, and was a well-known figure in Archiestown, never missing a day’s delivery, getting round the village in all weathers.
It was his Andrew, though, who first established the round around 1978, when the Evening Express was expanding its deliveries to reach the Speyside community.
People would see me walking past with my paper bag and stop me to buy a paper.”
“When I first started, I had to deliver a free paper to every house in the village, about 90 papers for three nights, along with a letter telling them it was free and if they wanted to take on the paper they could.
The Aberdeen Journals rep, based in Elgin, told Andrew he’d be doing well if he got 10 or 11 folk to sign up.
“I think I got 22, so I did not too bad,” he said.
Andrew said the Evening Express bundles of papers were delivered to the village on the same bus he took home from school, so he could just hop off and start popping them through his customers doors.”
“I also put them into the shop and they often sold in the shop as well. I quite often sold to someone passing by. People would see me walking past with my paper bag and stop me to buy a paper,” he said.
“My happiest memories were getting exercise, wandering about, meeting people and speaking to the folk in the wee village. It was good.”
Andrew, now a distillery operator in Dufftown, said being a paperboy gave him a good start in working life, helping to teach discipline and a good work ethic.
“I think it did because I had to control the money. I collected the money at the end of the week and sent a letter in to Elgin every week with it. I had a calculator to tell me how much I got per copy. So it gave me a good start in life.”
Delivering a stand for equal rights
When Donna Cooper took on a paper round in Summerhill in 1989, she not only gave her pocket money a boost – she also struck a blow for equal rights.
Donna, was 13 years old when she saw an advert for paperboys in her local newsagent, run by a Mr Gerrard – known as “Manny G”.
“I said ‘can I be one’ and I remember him saying ‘it’s paperboy… it’s a job for boys’,” said Donna.
“I said, ‘can I not do it’ but he said it was really a job for boys. I said I don’t know why I can’t do it just as well. I was trustworthy and punctual and things. He didn’t put up much of a fight, just said ‘okay’ and gave me a round to do.”
Donna believes she was the first papergirl in Summerhill, she had never seen any before, and enjoyed her round delivering the Evening Express.
“I would say I had an easy round. Maybe I was given leniency because I was the only girl. But I was given Summerhill Crescent, which was very close to my house. It was literally just up one side of the street and down the other. There weren’t that many papers compared to some of the other rounds that maybe spanned several streets.
I don’t remember any horrendous weather… maybe I’ve just kept the nice memories.”
“It was a really quick round, so I was home in time for Neighbours.”
Donna, who is now a solicitor in Edinburgh, said she enjoyed her weekly wage of £4 and has fond memories of her time as a newsgirl.
“I was only 13, the people I did see seemed very nice. There was never any problems or hassle. One of my friends used to walk me round it, so I would just chat with her then get my four quid on a Saturday.
“I don’t remember any horrendous weather… maybe I’ve just kept the nice memories.”
Donna also had a memorable brush with fame a few years later, when she was working in the newsagent and Dons legend Doug Rougvie dropped in to pay for his papers.
“I think he’d gone down south to play and was back in Aberdeen. I didn’t realise he lived in the area. I never met anyone that played for Aberdeen or any famous or semi-famous person, so I was quite flabbergasted.
“I remember being quite embarrassed and hoping he didn’t realise that I was clearly beaming. I had to serve him and it was such a boost. At 16 in Aberdeen you don’t get to meet many famous people in your life.”
Good turn blossomed into volunteering
The idea of newsboys and girls being doorstep heroes is not a new phenomenon – Tom Donegan was one back in the 1960s when he came to rescue of an elderly customer trying cope with her garden on his Woodside round.
“She was struggling trying to weed her garden so I asked if I could give her a wee hand. I came back to help out at the weekend and do a bit more for her,” said Tom.
But his good work didn’t end there… he decided to go on to help even more people as a result.
“I thought I would join the VSA. I wasn’t a great gardener, but it was fine to do weeds and things like that for some of the older people. I did that for six months, but then I started playing football with the Powis youth club.”
For Tom, his paper round working from Simms papershop, earned him a “fortune” of 7/6 week – 37 and a half pence, today.
“Well in those days, my father always paid my pocket money on a Wednesday. It was his payday, so we got sixpence. Anything else we wanted to get, we had to do chores for neighbours, going shopping and so one. You’d get a penny or a penny ha’penny from them – so 7/6 was a lot at that time.
On Saturday night it was the men standing at the door waiting to get the scores and check their Pools.”
“I bought my first record with it from Woolworths. It was The Beatles, All My Loving.”
Tom, who had his round in 1967 and 1968, starting when he was 12, worked hard for his 7/6. He delivered both the Final and Late Final of the Evening Express – as well as the Green Final on a Saturday.
“I went to St Peter’s so I was home usually by 4pm and the papers were there. It was a compact round, so took me about an hour. When I came back the Late Finals were in, so I went and did that. I got home, had my tea, did homework – sometimes. In the morning I did any homework I hadn’t finished and away to school.
“Eventually, after about a year, my mother got fed up with that and that was when I had to give up my paper round because it was affecting my school work.”
Tom, who worked for years on Aberdeen’s buses before becoming a courier driver, said he got to know his customers well.
“Some of them were virtually waiting at the door for the paper,” he said. “They knew when they were coming, especially on Saturday night for the Green Final. During the week you got the women waiting for the paper, on Saturday night it was the men standing at the door waiting to get the scores and check their Pools.”
I’ve met the boy and girl who deliver here and they are very nice… I think they do a great job
Tom loved his round and said it bedded in a work ethic already instilled by his father, who worked at Donside Paper Mill.
Tom, who retired due to ill health a few years ago, thinks today’s newsboys and girls are still doing a fantastic job. While he prefers to walk to the newsagent to pick up his Evening Express for exercise, he sees today’s delivers hard at work in the sheltered accommodation where he now lives in Kintore.
“I think it is brilliant. I’ve met the girl and boy who deliver here and they are very nice. In the early mornings I see the young girl coming through. It can be bucketing down, but she always has a big smile on her face. I think they do a great job.”
Keeping alive the proud tradition of caring
The vital role played by our delivery boys and girls continues to this day – and Fraser Sandison is a shining example of just how much these doorstep heroes do in our community.
The 17-year-old Elgin Academy pupil doesn’t just pop the P&J through letterboxes on his round in the town every morning – he also keeps an eye out for customers, sends them cards on big birthdays and has even made hospital visits to them.
So much so that won a “shining star” award for the Highlands and Moray at the Aberdeen Journals Home Delivery Awards in 2019, with readers praising his kind gestures.
Fraser said: “Someone who was on my paper round had to go into hospital, so I went in to visit her just to make sure she was okay.”
His caring ways haven’t stopped since the pandemic started.
try to check on all the people on my paper round to make sure they are okay.”
“I try to check on all the people on my paper round to make sure they are okay,” said Fraser who has prided himself on being a “nice person” since he was young.
“I don’t want to be one of those people who is not caring about anyone else.”
And the kind-hearted newsboy also turned a personal disappointment brought about by Covid-19 into a positive.
“I was fundraising to go to Costa Rica on a school trip and I took on this job to get money so fundraise to go there last summer. But because of Covid it was cancelled. So I gave £250 to the NHS as that was how much I had fund-raised with my group. It went to the Friends of Dr Gray’s.”
Fraser says his round see him out in all sort of weathers, but typically he’s more concerned for his customers than himself.
“There are days when it’s raining, it annoys me because the papers might get soaking wet then people can’t read them,” said Fraser.