Recently retired from the Daily Echo, Diana Henderson looks back at some memorable Poole stories over 35-years of reporting.

“HOLD the front page!” is a phrase beloved by Hollywood but rarely spoken in the world of newspapers.

In 35-years the only time I have known the front page to be held, was when the towering chimneys of Poole Power Station were blown up.

The then Evening Echo's front page deadline was mid-morning and I recall standing among thousands of people alongside the Holes Bay Road on February 2 1993, impatiently waiting for the 325ft chimneys to be felled across the bay.

But there was a delay because some people were judged by the police to be too close for safety and as the minutes ticked by the newsdesk voice in my ear via a mobile phone became increasingly edgy.

Finally the explosives were detonated and the tallest structures in Dorset gracefully fell to earth in a cloud of pink dust - and got on the front page.

In many years of writing news for the Echo, mainly as a district reporter covering Poole, there have been numerous memorable people, events and stories.

Another that lives long in my memory is the devastating fire and explosion at the then BDH chemical works at West Quay Road in the town centre on June 21 1988.

The fire broke out in an oxidising store and rapidly spread to an area containing flammable liquids. The fireball included exploding drums of chemicals carried up to 300ft in the air before falling back to the ground and the scene resembled a war zone.

At its peak 100 firefighters fought the flames and more than 2,500 people were evacuated from their homes – the largest mass evacuation since WW2.

I remember walking through the deserted old town, wreathed in a haze of possibly hazardous chemicals and smoke, while the other-worldly flicker of blue lights strobed through the fug as police patrolled the empty streets.

Later I went to an emergency centre at the Arts Centre and spoke to residents turfed out of their homes at a moment's notice, with no idea when they would be allowed home. This turned out to be 5.30am the next day.

Like waiting for a bus, two huge stories happened in the same year, a fact I had forgotten until researching this piece.

In December 1988 the devastating Clapham Junction rail crash took place, in which 35 died and 113 were injured. Twenty-two of those killed were from Dorset and the New Forest and I remember knocking on doors before our Christmas dinner as we tracked down the victims.

But it was not all drama and destruction. I covered many royal visits including when Princess Diana helped the Arts Centre celebrate its 10th anniversary in September 1988.

Usually reporters walk in the footsteps of the royals asking overawed people what they said, but never get to speak to them.

That changed when I was introduced to the Princess Royal, along with then editor Gareth Weekes, as she officially opened the Barn at Holton Lee in 1996, in recognition of our long-term support for the charity.

When told who we were her greeting was, “Bloody press.” While I stood open mouthed Gareth politely explained how the Echo had backed Holton Lee over the years, helping raise awareness of its good work.

Her Royal Highness grudgingly admitted: “I suppose you have your uses.”

Proposals for a giant sundial at Baiter in 2007 sent residents into a tailspin and the council rapidly backtracking.

The Solar Pyramid, variously described as the world's largest timepiece and the UKs largest artwork, at 40-45 metres high would have towered over the Angel of the North.

“Over our dead bodies,” was the reaction of residents and the enormous tourist attraction, which it was said could have boosted the economy by £20m, was killed off by Borough of Poole within months.

It took slightly longer for the furore over the great RIPA scandal to die down. This made national headlines in 2008 when the Echo revealed the council put a family under surveillance for three weeks after suspecting they had lied to gain a place at oversubscribed Lilliput First School.

Among many memorable stories I covered Poole's first young Royal Navy casualty of the Falklands War, Stephen Ford, 17, whose ship HMS Ardent was sunk in action, killing 22 shipmates.

I followed the tortuous birth of the Twin Sails Bridge from the ill-fated first high level bridge across Holes Bay which in 1988 garnered a 25,000 strong petition, the largest ever in favour of a road programme, before being dropped by the government.

The town's second lifting bridge was chosen from a design competition which attracted interest from 30 internationally acclaimed teams and the Echo was there every step of the way.

It has truly been a privilege to be able to record some of the exceptional events and meet the special people who made them happen.