Funeral details announced for former Doncaster Free Press journalist

The funeral details have been announced for a former Doncaster Free Press news editor and respected national newspaper journalist and author who died after a fall.

By Darren Burke
Saturday, 20 April, 2019, 11:38
Peter Whittell.

Peter Whittell, who also worked for The Sun, Daily Star and Daily Express and wrote the life story of Doncaster Rovers legend Alick Jeffrey, died earlier this month at the age of 78.

Peter, who also worked with broadcasting legend Sir Michael Parkinson during his career, died in after suffering a fall while visiting relatives in his home town of Doncaster.

His family has announced that the funeral will take place in the North Yorkshire village where he lived on May 1.

Mr Whittell had a long and distinguished career in newspaper journalism and reported on dozens of major stories during 25 years working in Manchester for some of Britain's biggest tabloid newspapers.

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 in Leavening, North Yorkshire 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.

The book, published in 2003, charted the rise of the player generally regarded to be the greatest in Rovers' history and went on to become a best-seller in the team's club shop.

In retirement, Peter and Dinah moved to Birdsall in North Yorkshire where he could regularly be found at the bar of the Jolly Farmers pub where he would regale regulars with anecdotes and tales and scrapes from his life in the newsroom.

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.

The funeral will take place from 12.15pm on May 1 at St Mary’s Chuch, Birdsall, North Yorkshire.