Sir John Donald Brown Junor (15 January 1919 – 3 May 1997) was a Scottish journalist and editor-in-chief of the Sunday Express between 1954 and 1986,[1] having previously worked as a columnist there.[2] He then moved in 1989 to The Mail on Sunday, where he remained until his death.

Noted for his deliberately provocative views, Junor was described by the Conservative MP Julian Critchley as "possibly the best-known Scotsman in England" during the 1980s and as "an ill-natured populist with a taste for common-or-garden abuse."[3]

Early life

North Kelvinside Secondary School in Maryhill, Glasgow, which Junor attended in the 1930s.

Born in Glasgow into a "Scottish Presbyterian, respectable working class" family, Junor was raised in what he later described as "a red-stone tenement in Shannon Street in Maryhill... [in] a two roomed-flat without indoor sanitation", although by the time he was in his teens he was living with his parents and brothers in a more spacious flat with three rooms and a kitchen in Oban Drive.[4][5] He attended North Kelvinside Secondary School (later merged into Cleveden Secondary School) before proceeding to study English Literature at Glasgow University.[4][6] As a student he was "violently anti-Fascist, anti-Franco, above all anti-Hitler", and in 1938 he became president of the university's Liberal Club.[7] Shortly before graduation, Junor was recruited by the Liberal Party activist Lady Glen-Coats to accompany her on a fact-finding tour of the Third Reich; they reportedly only managed to escape Germany days before the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939.[3]

During the war Junor had a commission in the Fleet Air Arm, where he edited a station magazine which so impressed the Admiralty that he was invited to become the assistant editor of a new magazine intended for the entire branch of the service.[4][8] After the original choice for editor, A. P. Herbert, declined to take up the role, Junor was appointed in his place and named the magazine Flight Deck.[4] Following demobilisation, he worked for a time in The Sydney Sun's London office before joining the Daily Express in 1947 as a reporter on a salary of 18 guineas a week.[4]


Ambitious for a parliamentary seat, in the 1945 General Election Junor contested Kincardine and Western Aberdeenshire in the Liberal interest, losing to the Conservative candidate by only 642 votes. He then unsuccessfully fought Edinburgh East at a by-election in 1947, and finally was beaten once more at Dundee West in 1951. From that point on he moved away from the Liberals (breaking with the party completely over the Suez crisis) and into the orbit of reactionary, traditional Toryism.[4] He was a vigorous supporter of Margaret Thatcher during her time as Prime Minister, and was knighted on her recommendation in 1980.[4]


His Sunday Express column (which he continued to write in his years as editor-in-chief) was noted for recurrent catchphrases, two of them being "pass the sick-bag, Alice" and "I don't know, but I think we should be told". Junor frequently mentioned the small town of Auchtermuchty in Fife.[3]

Junor could be brutally forthright in his column. In 1984 he wrote: "[W]ith compatriots like these [the IRA Brighton bombers] wouldn't you rather admit to being a pig than be Irish?" Following complaints that the comment was racist, Junor was censured by the Press Council in May 1985.[9]

He was often lampooned in Private Eye, which nicknamed him 'Sir Jonah Junor' and described the Daily Express building on Fleet Street as 'the Black Lubyanka'.

Contempt of Parliament

On 24 January 1957, Junor was called to the Bar of the House of Commons to be reprimanded for contempt of Parliament[10] – the last non-politician to be so called.[11] The matter concerned an article about petrol allocation that appeared in the Sunday Express on 16 December 1956. Junor apologised:

Mr Speaker, I wish to express my sincere and unreserved apologies for any imputations or reflection which I may have cast upon the honour and integrity of the Members of this House in the article which I published in the Sunday Express of 16th December. At no time did I intend to be discourteous to Parliament. My only aim was to focus attention on what I considered to be an injustice in the allocation of petrol, namely, the petrol allowances given to political parties in the constituencies. In my judgment these allowances were a proper and, indeed, an inescapable subject of comment in a free Press. That was a view which I held then and hold now, Sir, but I do regret, deeply and sincerely, that the manner in which I expressed myself should have been such as to be a contempt of this House. I have nothing more to say. I now leave myself in the hands of this House.

Personal life

Junor married Pamela Welsh in 1942, and had two children.[3] The journalist Penny Junor is his daughter,[8] and the journalist Sam Leith his grandson. He was a lifelong supporter of Partick Thistle.[12]




  1. ^ "'Top 40' UK journalists honoured". BBC News. 22 November 2005. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  2. ^ "British Journalism Review Vol. 13, No. 3, 2002 - the greatest editor of them all?". Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. Retrieved 17 March 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d Julian Critchley (5 May 1997). "Obituary: Sir John Junor". The Independent. Retrieved 16 September 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Sir John Junor", The Times, 5 May 1997, p. 23.
  5. ^ John Junor, Listening for a Midnight Tram: Memoirs (London: Chapmans, 1990), pp. 3-4. ISBN 185592501X
  6. ^ "The Educational Backgrounds of Leading Journalists – Page 18: NEWSPAPER EDITORS (25)" (PDF). The Sutton Trust. 15 June 2006. Retrieved 16 September 2023.
  7. ^ Junor, Listening for a Midnight Tram, p. 7.
  8. ^ a b Peregrine Worsthorne "Sympathy for the devil", New Statesman, 12 August 2002
  9. ^ "Back Issues 20.05.05 - Press Gazette". Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2010. Press Gazette
  10. ^ "COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES (SECOND REPORT) (Hansard, 23 January 1957)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 23 January 1957. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  11. ^ "Law firm 'in contempt' of Commons". BBC News. 25 February 2010. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  12. ^ Junor, Listening for a Midnight Tram, p. 5.
Media offices Preceded by? Deputy Editor of the Evening Standard 1953–1954 Succeeded byCharles Wintour Preceded byHarold Keeble Editor of the Sunday Express 1954–1986 Succeeded byRobin Esser