By William Carter

Photographer, Author, Jazz Musician

Dave, Mao, and Me

with 3 comments

Timing Can Be Everything

Politics — and photojournalism — make for unexpected relationships.

In 1956 the rulers of impoverished communist China tried something new. They suddenly announced North America was free to send its reporters into the insular nation. Wary of the gambit, the U.S. State Department refused to lift its own ban on Americans visiting this (then) arch-enemy. Canada, however, said okay. Quick to apply was David Lancashire, a bright 25-year-old working for an obscure provincial paper. After China accepted Lancashire’s application, the Associated Press, defying threatened U.S. sanctions, handed this Canadian photo-newbie a camera, wirephoto instructions, and a ticket to the insular Peoples’ Republic.

The first North American correspondent to cover the People’s Republic in the seven years since its birth in 1949, Lancashire travelled more than 5,000 miles across China in six weeks, producing a groundbreaking series of reports on life there — including a story on China’s Last Emperor, Pu Yi, living under house arrest. At Peking airport Dave gained unprecedented access to the makers of one of history’s most famous revolutions: his widely seen “radiophotos” featured Mao Tse Tung, Chou en-Lai, Indonesian ruler Sukarno, and associates (see below).

After that performance, the A.P. hired Lancashire permanently. In 1964 we met at A.P.’s Beirut bureau. Swapping stories of field assignments, Dave and I shared a strong side interest in jazz: he played trombone, and I played clarinet. We formed a little group rehearsing in one another’s living rooms, and even landed a theater gig as the pit band of a British musical comedy, The Boy Friend. Lancashire moved from Beirut to London about when I did, in 1966. Our friendship deepened over the years, and he became Best Man at Ulla Morris’ and my wedding in California in 1984.

Prior to Dave’s death in Toronto in 2007, he sent me some of his historic China negatives, which I hope to transfer to an appropriate institution. Below are highlights of his coverage of Mao, Chou & friends — followed by a photo of Pu Yi, the Last Emperor — then followed by one of us jamming in Beirut, and finally a 1985 wedding photo of best man Dave, bride Ulla, and groom Bill.





Lancs-CHINA-1956008China’s “Last Emperor,” Pu Yi, 1956

beirut-jazzDavid Lancashire (left) and William Carter jamming in Beirut, c. 1965; unknown photographer

Lancs-CHINA-1956009Left to right: David Lancashire, Ulla Morris-Carter, and William Carter at Ulla and Bill’s wedding, San Marino, California, 1985. Photograph by Esme Gibson.

Update on this story from Les Daly, a friend and colleague of Dave Lancashire’s:
November 26, 2013

I am looking for the compliments desk and the complaint desk.

Compliments for the delightful report on our pal Dave. It really brought back a lot of good memories. Well done, my friend.
Which brings me to the complaint desk, and some memories of my own with Dave,
“a bright 25-year old working for an obscure provincial paper.”
Bright, yes. 25-year old, yes.
The “obscure provincial newspaper” was The Herald in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, which I believe was Canada’s largest city at the time, and may still be although of that I am not sure. The Herald was a feisty tabloid, one of three or four English language dailies, that gave young reporters like Dave and me a fair amount of latitude and excitement and an opportunity to learn the craft, as we would later like to think of it, from reporting right through to putting the paper to bed. It died, as did its broadsheet parent, not long after we left, although I doubt the events were related.

Why do I care?

Because Dave and I were working on the Herald together. I was a sportswriter, my first professional newspaper job. Dave was a city-side reporter. We used to hang around together, and ski together and think about girls together. Dave thought better than I did and was far more successful. Always. It might have been the trombone or the skiing, or both. Or just Dave. After he quit the paper and went back to Toronto, he called me one night (we worked nights) and said he was going to China and asked if I wanted to come with him. I told him I couldn’t do that because I am an American and we were, as you point out, still forbidden to travel there. Then, being a sportswriter and thus with limited worldly vision, I asked him, “Why are you going to China anyway?”
“Because,” he replied in his laughing way, “I like Chinese food.”
I asked him, “Can’t you get takeout?” At which point he said goodbye and hung up.

Later on I saw Dave in Beirut, where I believe I first met Ulla, and later in London after he left Beirut claiming he was tired of the Middle East where at press conferences he “was the only guy in the room without a gun.”

More relevant is that Dave and DeeDee stayed with us in Los Angeles when they came for your wedding. I saw them several times after that in Toronto when I went there on business, and followed DeeDee’s condition, and we talked often on the phone but not often enough to know what was coming for Dave. I regret that.

Anyway , you did a fine job and the photos were notable too. Thanks for bringing him back in a way.

Written by bywilliamcarter

November 21, 2013 at 10:00 am

3 Responses

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  1. […] Image credit: Pu Yi in captivity in 1956 Fushun, image by Dave Lancashire, via William Carter. […]


  2. Hi Bill..nice combination of work here and it show the opportunity that appears wasted, having much bite.Best..geo melnikoff


    November 22, 2013 at 7:50 am

  3. Hey Bill ,Lovely photo of your wedding and of dave and you jamming in Beirut.Not sure how this message gets through to you but love any way Sally.


    Sally McLaren

    November 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm

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