SOMEONE asked me the other day what was the most memorable story I had been involved with during my half century as a reporter.

Lots sprang to mind, many of them from the press benches of the various court rooms I have polished with the seat of my pants over the years.

There was the man who was refused bail at Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court and was so incensed that he leapt out of the dock, and dived straight through the courtroom window, finding himself covered in shards of broken glass, perched precariously on a pigeon guano strewn ledge, many dizzying feet above the happy throng shopping in the Market Place.

He was eventually rescued by the fire brigade and returned to court - and was still refused bail!

At the same court, a solicitor demanded evidence that his client had been caught in possession of a large quantity of Indian hemp.

A constable produced a block of vegetable matter, which the lawyer sniffed with some contempt, - before being completely overcome by the fumes, passing out, and cracking his head on the corner of the dock.

He got an adjournment for an hour to regain his equilibrium - and his client still got three months.

Police were caught on the hop in what appeared to be a cut and dried speeding case at Macclesfield, where the speed cop positively identified the young man before the court as the one he had seen roaring through a 30mph zone at over 50 mph in his souped up Mini.

The defendant declined to give evidence - but then called as a witness his identical twin brother, who refused to answer any questions on the grounds it could incriminate him!

In my early days on the Courant, there were courts sitting every day, with courts at Haltwhistle, Alston and Bellingham as well as the regular courts at Hexham.

The country magistrates tended to be rather fierce - one grinning toonie was brought before the Bellingham bench for running over a sheep and putting the corpse in his car, but his smile faded rather when he was told by the local squire who was chairman of the bench: “ You do realise that not so long ago in these parts you would have been hung for this?”

The magistrates at Alston liked a good tale, and I’m not sure that even they believed the story of the man caught in the middle of a salmon river in the dead of night with a powerful lamp that he was not poaching, but was a keen naturalist who was only photographing the salmon as they went to their spawning beds - but they acquitted him any way.

Also acquitted was a man who passed through a speed trap in Haltwhistle well in excess of the limit. He managed to convince the bench that he had been a member of the security forces in Northern Ireland, and when he saw a man in dark clothing crouched down appearing t point a weapon at him, he had floored the accelerator to avoid being shot.

Other memorable tales I have been involved with include the incredibly sad murder of the commandant of the Otterburn Army Ranges, who was shot through the door of his home by an IRA sympathiser with a home made pistol.

Hexham detective Keith Wills was also shot as arrests were being made, and the culprit eventually died in prison.

Royal visits also stick in the mind, especially when the Queen came to Hexham in 1974 to celebrate the 1300th anniversary of the founding of the Abbey - the first visit to the town by a reigning monarch for something like 500 years.

I crossed paths with Her Majesty again in 1882 when she came to Kielder to open the new reservoir, but I’m not sure she actually remembered me!

Royal visits apart, not many of these tales from long ago were cut out and are now turning yellow in a scrapbook in the dark recesses of a cupboard.

Those places are reserved for the wedding reports I wrote by the thousand in an empire line haze of guipure lace, slub satin, gypsophila and stephanotis - not that I knew what any of these things were.. Those were the stories that really mattered and have been treasured for decades.

It’s also heartwarming to be approached in Fore Street by some creaking old gent who will remind me that in 1974, I reported on a football match in which he had played. He still had the cutting which described him as “not the most elegant player on view, but one of the most effective.”