Funeral held for former Doncaster Free Press journalist and author

Family and friends came together to pay their respects to a former Doncaster Free Press journalist and author at his funeral yesterday.

Friday, 3rd May 2019, 8:54 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th May 2019, 3:10 pm
Peter Whittell
Peter Whittell

Peter Whittell, 78, died last month and during a long career he worked for The Sun, Daily Star, Daily Express as well as the Doncaster Free Press and also penned the life story of Doncaster Rovers legend Alick Jeffrey.

His funeral took place yesterday in the small North Yorkshire village of Birdsall where he had retired to with his wife Dinah.

The picturesque St Mary’s Church was packed with family, friends and former colleagues who came from far and wide to pay their respects to Doncaster-born Mr Whittell.

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His son Ian led the tributes, recalling tales and escapades from a lengthy career in journalism which saw him work alongside broadcasting icon Sir Michael Parkinson and cover some of the biggest stories of the 1970s and 1980s.

Later, former Free Press journalists gathered at the Jolly Farmers pub in nearby Leavening to raise a glass and share memories of Peter who died while visiting relatives in Doncaster last month.

Born in Scawthorpe, he attended school in Highfields and began his illustrious career as a trainee journalist on the Yorkshire Evening Post and Doncaster Chronicle before becoming a freelance journalist in Barnsley.

It was during his early days in Doncaster that he worked alongside Barnsley-born broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson, long before the latter went on to enjoy a lengthy television career as a renowned broadcaster and chat show host.

The pair covered the 1958 Munich Air Disaster when eight Manchester United players were among 22 people who died when their plane crashed on a snow covered German runway on the way back from a European Cup match.

Then a 16-year-old raw recruit, Peter was a friend of the family of Highfields-born Red Devils ace David Pegg - and as news of the disaster filtered through, he was given the unenviable task of breaking details of the tragedy to the player’s mum and dad.

He later worked on the staff of the Sheffield Telegraph before making the move over the Pennines to Manchester where he spent the bulk of his career.

Starting as a news reporter with The Sun, he later worked as assistant news editor at both the Daily Express and Daily Star and covered a number of major stories during the 70s and 80s including the arrest of the Yorkshire Ripper and risking his life covering The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

In the later years of his career, he returned to Doncaster and became news editor of the Doncaster Free Press, living at Scawthorpe with his wife of more than 50 years, Dinah.

The couple had two children, Sarah, who now runs the Jolly Farmers pub and Ian who followed his father into journalism, becoming an acclaimed sports journalist and covering basketball and other sports for The Sun for many years.

After his retirement in 2001, Peter, a keen walker and swimmer and lifelong Doncaster Rovers fan, kept himself busy and threw himself into writing the life story of club legend Alick Jeffrey.

He would also spend hours with his three grandchildren Jamie, Tommy and Hannah and occasionally attended games at Manchester City, a club he had come to love and support while working in the city.