Paul was military reporter at the Evening Gazette, Colchester, in the Seventies - an important post in an Army town in the Troubles era. He was also a nice bloke with an ability to get on with people in a way that gave him access to the heart of stories.
At weekends he would do reporting shifts with the People and he eventually moved there full-time - the staff job, if I recall correctly (and I may not) a reward for nearly losing an eye while covering the Brixton riots for the paper as a freelance.
Moving to the News of the World, he was reunited professionally with his friend and former Colchester oppo Dave Clark. Paul and Nobby had made an imposing pair, broad-shouldered six-footers walking side by side in their navy trenchcoats with a reluctance to disabuse anyone who mistook them for rozzers.
Apart from his own abilities, Nobby had another journalistic claim to fame. His wife Patsy was a news sub on the Sun. In those days women weren't supposed to sit on Fleet Street news subbing desks, but not only was she there, she had a reputation for being rather good. So good, in fact, that she went on to become editor of the News of the World. Nobby moved to the Screws while Patsy was still at the Sun and moved up to the backbench. His wife, sadly, would have to retire through ill health, long before her time, in the mid-nineties.
Others in the Colchester newsroom all those decades ago included a trainee called Richard Kay, who became a Princess's confidant, and a joker called Bill Langley, who reverted to his full name of William and never looked back. Others in the pub in those days included a thirtysomething Labour councillor-cum-agency reporter who has since changed his colours, but not his loyalty to the town. He is now better known as LibDem MP Sir Bob Russell.
But I digress into a world of dodgy memories. The point of this note is not simply to mourn Paul Davidson's parting, but to commend the Sun's recognition of one of its own.
Paul, who had switched from reporting to subbing, died last week of a suspected heart attack on the train home to Colchester after work. His death was reported in Saturday's paper and in Greenslade's blog, which includes this paragraph:
The Sun’s editor, David Dinsmore, said: “Everyone will miss him dearly. This is a sad day for the Sun”. And the paper’s managing editor, Stig Abell, said: “Paul was a brilliant journalist and a lovely man - always full of ideas and fun. Life was never dull with him in the newsroom”.
An editor may, of course, feel obliged to say something kind about a member of staff who drops dead after a shift. And the Sun is, of course, a "subs' paper".
My old home The Times is, on the other hand, a "writers' paper".
In the Eighties Charlie Wilson made it his business to know all of his journalists and was closely involved with all appointments - even the "lowest of the low", downtable subs. His several successors would be hard pushed to name all the top-table news subs, let alone those toiling at the end of the desk.
Someone with the physical and congenial presence of Paul Davidson would be noticed in any environment. But too many others who make a true contribution to their papers from the subbing bench remain anonymous and unsung.
Here's to them. And here's to Paul. A sad day, indeed.