One Bangor man remembers the story of the Beatles’ visit to the City very well, as it secured an exclusive story that ignited his fledgling journalistic career.
Mark Roberts was an eighteen-year-old reporter working for a chain of Manchester-based weekly newspapers at the time and managed to unknowingly sneak his way on to the same train as the “Fab Four”.
While the mass of London’s Fleet Street newsmen tried to catch up with the Beatles as they travelled from Euston to Bangor, Mark had already boarded the train at Chester to connect him for a weekend break with his parents in Llandegai, which just so happened to be the same train that the world-famous band had boarded too.
“The chances of that happening to any journalist was astonishing, but even more so for a young reporter desperate to catch the attention of national newspaper editors”, said Mr. Roberts, now 68 and living in Bangor.
“I boarded the train as a skint cub reporter yearning to become a national press high-flyer and got off at Bangor having met the Beatles and their entourage; got their story ahead of the pack and sold my exclusives around the world!
“It was an amazing chance of luck. In Bangor there was almost a no interviews media lock-down and yet I’d accidentally become part of the Beatles team and their minders, who of course didn’t know I was a reporter. And I of course, didn’t then know the significance of the story until the train hit Bangor!”
Upon arriving at Bangor rail station, as media and fans swarmed the Beatles, Mark was able to slip out with the Maharishi Mehesh Yogi’s group carrying George Harrison’s rucksack and was even assumed to be part of the official group when he was driven through the security barriers at Normal College.
“The Beatles didn’t know I was a journalist and frankly, nor did they seem to care.
“However, I do remember the faces of sheer envy – and horror - as some of the resident North Wales reporters at Bangor station watched me, the pip-squeak cub-reporter from Llandegai get off the London train with the Beatles with all their exclusive quotes ready to sell to the national newspapers in London. It was Brilliant!”
Mark insists that getting the scoop early made his journalism career. Two years later, whilst he was busy completing his three-year journalist indentures course, the budding reporter received another telephone call from the Northern Editor of the Daily Mail, asking him to work for the top-selling tabloid for two weeks for the investiture of Prince Charles in Caernarfon.
He said: “Why me?” and he answered “Well you were the Welsh guy that did the exclusives on the Beatles!”.
That same year, Mark was offered his first job on a top-selling national newspaper, the News of the World.
“I had a great career in journalism all because of a chance train journey from Chester to Bangor and because I needed to get home to Llandegai for mum’s cooking and my own comfy bed.” he said.
Mark explains that he accumulated several autographs from the stars over the years, including Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali), Charlie Chaplain, David Niven, Tony Curtis and George Best, all of which he has since passed on to his younger sister Bridget.
“The one probably most valued are the autographs – all on the same scrappy sheet of reporter’s Shorthand Notebook – of the Beatles.”.