Celebrated Daily Mail diarist Nigel Dempster is dead. Barry Everingham recalls an unflattering encounter.
I first encountered Nigel ‘Dumpster’ Dempster in 1985 when I was touring England during the launch of my unofficial biography of Princess Michael of Kent.
We met in the make-up room at the BBC’s London TV studios where we to take part in the breakfast program. MC, as the princess is known, was smarting that news of her father’s Nazi past had become public and Dempster was in two minds about whose side he should be on.
After the cameras rolled he pompously denigrated Australians in general and me in particular — he didn’t know at that stage MC was actually a naturalised Australian and he didn’t know that I knew he in fact had Australian grandparents. After telling him to stop being so pompous I reminded him of his own Aussie connections and MC’s which floored him.
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Not to be outdone he claimed to be a member of Britain’s royal family. Really? I asked: since when did marriage to a non-royal duke’s daughter gave him that honour — his father in law the Duke of Leeds, happened to be a cousin of the Queen Mother.
”Damn you,” he said, ”you bloody Australians think you know everything.”
Never one to leave bad enough alone, I chipped in ”like your Granny does I guess”. Then he accused me of not having contacts worth tuppence … I let that one go through to the keeper and I’m pleased I did, because later that day I was lunching at San Lorenzo with a lady in waiting of the Queen and a titled cousin of Dempster’s wife, (who like Dempster’s wife is a second cousin of the Queen) who would never claim to be royal. One of his rival newspaper’s gossip columnists saw us and reported it the next day – -so dear old Nigel got his comeuppance.
Dempster was no doubt the best of them all but having been a gossip writer myself in another life, I know how easy it is to collect the bile on people — a columnist’s telephone doesn’t stop ringing and people in the main don’t really give a toss what is written about them so long as their names are spelt correctly.
Dempster knew that, but at the end of the day his jaw was made of glass. He couldn’t abide criticism from his peers and he really wasn’t a nice bloke.