My mother often had uncanny foresight. The most significant for my future happened when I was 15. I disliked school immensely and intended to leave at 16, despite having no idea of what I might do.

It was a notice in our local weekly newspaper, the Harwich and Manningtree Standard, which ultimately gave me my lifelong vocation.

A reporter on the newspaper had become engaged to a British soldier.

My mother thought it would be a great idea if I wrote to the editor expressing my interest in a job the following year when I turned 16.

That reporter may well get married within a year and then go with her new husband to a posting overseas, she reasoned.

I was sceptical, but after some thought – English was my best subject – I wrote to the editor.

As I expected there were no vacancies but he would keep my letter on file.

The editor called me in for an interview near the end of my last few months at school. There was a vacancy. As my mother had predicted, the reporter had married and she and her soldier husband were being posted to Germany.

If my three months’ trial period succeeded, I would be offered a four-year indentured journalism apprenticeship.

I started my new job the day after leaving school. But the vacancy had been very aptly filled by a 24-year-old for seven years. Almost impossible shoes to fill in three months.

In my regular rounds,I called on police, undertakers, a cobbler, the local priests, fire brigade, all the usual suspects for hopefully a good story. It wasn’t working.

Unimpressed the editor told me to try harder.

I told my mother. Angry, she went to see him, despite my mortified protests, She gave me no details but I imagine what was said. My often unassuming mother could be very feisty.

“How can you expect a 16-year-old to fill the shoes of an experienced journalist by being thrown in the deep end without sufficient training,” or words to that effect.

I arrived at work the next day expecting to be fired. Instead I was given a new write a theatre review.

The editor said it was “spot on” with its unusual angle. My future was secured. He had once refused to send me to fatal road crashes and other confronting events because “I was too young”, despite my objections. His attitude eventually changed.

I continued my general rounds for story ideas, but with a different attitude from one of slight apathy as to the point of them.

How do you get a story from an undertaker? I was often tempted to skip dropping by, but Ernie was a treat to chat to and you never knew.

Then it happened: His nephew Mick Oldroyd had joined the popular 60s pop group, Manfred Mann and changed his name to Mick Rogers. What a great “local boy makes good” story.

I later met Mick again at a Manfred Mann concert in Brisbane after emigrating to Australia in 1966.

Then there was the glamour of interviewing pop stars, like Adam Faith and Billy J Kramer, on their way through my patch to the pirate radio ships anchored in the North Sea.

At 17, an accidental encounter with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton at the port of Harwich gave me the chance to be the only journalist who was able to interview them. Burton had been filming The Spy Who Came In From The Cold in Germany.

My chief of staff had asked me to go with him just for a look while he attempted an interview – then neatly stepped behind me. I was the only print journalist among the TV cameras facing the famous pair when they emerged from Customs.

I babbled obvious questions about the film. Then Burton, keen it seemed to put me at ease, talked about the experience and future plans while Taylor tugged at his arm, urging him to get on the train to London.

She was stunning. Petite in a pink suit and matching boater. I was on a high. On TV that night. In my newspaper.

But my euphoria did not please everyone. The Catholic priest I visited on my rounds for leads and to share his daily tipple of whiskey – very small for me – refused to let me into the presbytery after reading the story.

He told me he had no intention of talking to someone who had lowered their moral standards to chat with “such a hussy as Elizabeth Taylor”.

Needless to say my mother was thrilled. But it was only after she died in 2010 that I discovered she had kept those long ago press photographs and many more charting my career in England, Australia and other countries.