On the day of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s death, the Times Series dips into its archive to uncover some lesser-known memories of the Iron Lady.

Late Hendon and Finchley Times editor Dennis Signy became close to the Conservative politician during her years serving as a constituency MP on the newspaper’s patch.

Mr Signy, who passed away last year, wrote a column in 2008 describing his experience of penning a preparatory obituary for the country’s first female Prime Minister.

Remembering my friend Margaret
By Dennis Signy »

The day I wrote a preparatory "obituary" for Margaret Thatcher some 25 years ago I met her at Alexandra Palace in the evening when we shared a speaking platform.

I told her what I had been doing and she replied: "Do you want me to do one for you, Dennis?"

Reading some of the bile being poured on the suggestion that the former Prime Minister should have a state funeral reminded me of that long-forgotten document and made me wonder how I would update it over the intervening years.

I knew Mrs Thatcher as MP for Finchley and Friern Barnet, as Opposition Leader, as Britain's first-ever woman Prime Minister and as a family friend. She came to my eldest daughter Julie's wedding recepton at the House of Commons and later wrote to her when she was ill in the USA.

She came to the Times office in Church Road, Hendon, to unveil a plaque when the editorial office moved to a rather splendid "penthouse suite" (her description). She invited Mrs S and I to No 10 Downing Street and to Chequers. "Come and sit next to me and give me the dirt about what's going on in Finchley", she said at Chequers.

It was our policy only to cover her as the local MP. Finchley was her haven when things started to go wrong elsewhere. She had an uncanny knack of picking out a face in a crowd, identifying them and making them feel ten feet tall.

I remember on a walkabout in North Finchley she asked a lady how her cats were doing. I asked if the lady knew Mrs Thatcher well. She said: "I haven't seen her for 13 years".

She had a good news sense and loved organising groups for photographs. I remember once when I was chairman of Finchley Carnival and she was touring the park with me, she said she had a political story she wanted to leak to the national press.

"Snag is, Dennis, that if I give it to you everyone will know it's come from me", she said. I called over Clarence Mitchell, who was covering the carnival, and introduced him.

"Take this story and give it to the Press Association and earn a few bob", I said. The unknown (at the time) Clarence duly performed and most Sunday papers carried the story. He never told me what he got.

I remember her best for three personal moments. When I was chairman of the London region of the Guild of British Newspaper Editors I invited her to speak at a dinner at Hendon Hall Hotel in 1982 to mark the end of my year in office.

The Falklands conflict had just ended and she turned up at the end of a tiring constituency day, had a glass of her favourite Rob Roy whisky and, when she stood up to speak, kicked off her shoes under the table, pointed at me and said: "I'm only here for him".

She then launched into 45 minutes of an off-the-cuff, off-the-record talk about the war that held 100 editors spellbound.

I had invited Jeremy Hands, the award-winning ITN journalist who started as a cheery young star-to-be prodigy on the Times group and had covered the Falklands for both ITV and the BBC.

Jeremy Gyles Hargraves Hands, as he announced himself when I pointed out the newcomer sitting on the floor in the reporters' room on his first day, was a grammar school boy who left Hendon to return to his native Torquay and climbed, via Westward TV and Border TV, to ITN, for whom he covered the storming of the Iranian Embassy by the SAS in 1980.

He became Jeremy or Jerry after that first day as I pointed out that you couldn't get four names in a by-line.

Mrs Thatcher singled out Jeremy for praise for his coverage of the Falklands, living rough with the soldiers, sleeping in foxholes and sheep sheds and frequently strafed by enemy aircraft. Sadly, he later died at the young age of 48.

After the Brighton bombing, Mrs Thatcher came to her constituency office in Finchley as president of the Barnet appeal of the Army Benevolent Fund to collect a cheque from me, the chairman.

There were a dozen of us present and, after the presentation, we sat round in a group as the Prime Minister, again taking her shoes off, gave us a graphic background account of the bombing.

My impression: if you could have taken her round the country talking to groups like that she'd still be Prime Minister.

My last outstanding memory is of sitting on a bunk seat with Mrs Thatcher at a function at a hotel in Watford just days after she had been ousted as Prime Minister.

"They lost their bottle", she said of her former Cabinet colleagues.

I bequeath that exclusive quote to the Times group, if they can find my original Margaret Thatcher piece.