www.barrowvoice.co.uk - First Publised 1975
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Peter Preston:

the Barrow boy who transformed the Guardian

Tributes from across the country have been paid to the Barrow boy who edited the Guardian newspaper for over 20 years, who has died at the age of 79.

Peter was born on Cotes Road just outside Barrow, moving with his family into the village in 1948 when he was 10 years old. The Prestons later moved to Quorn, where Peter spent much of his childhood. A precocious child, Peter won a place at Loughborough Grammar School, but after a year his father died from polio, Peter catching it soon afterwards and ending up in an iron lung in Markfield Sanatorium. He was later sent away to Harlow Wood Hospital in Mansfield for 18 months. While recovering, Peter became interested in magic and conjuring, becoming so skilful that he was accepted into the Magic Circle.

Prior to his illness, Peter had been a sporty child, but the illness had changed him physically and so back at school he had to find something else to occupy his time. With a lot of learning to catch up on as well, he began to take up a number of extracurricular activities. Peter credits a butcher from Coalville with getting him interested in journalism. At the time the butcher used to run the Magic Circle News and, knowing Peter’s interest in magic, asked him to review magic shows on TV. A few months later he was sacked for being too critical of the acts. Eventually he started writing pieces for the school magazine, which led to a holiday job at the Loughborough Monitor.

After winning a place at Oxford University, Peter continued on his journalism path by combining his studies with working on the student newspaper. He soon ended up editing the newspaper before getting a job on a training scheme at the Liverpool Daily Post, later joining the Manchester Guardian (as it was then known) in 1963.

Successful spells as a reporter and foreign correspondent, among others, led to his taking over the editorship in 1975 at the age of 37. He held the post until 1995, overseeing a number of major stories and radical changes, including the introduction of the G2 supplements. He also oversaw the merger with the Observer and continued to write for the Observer until just before his death.

Peter died on January 6, 10 years after first being diagnosed with melanoma. He is survived by his wife Jean, twin daughters Alex and Kate, sons Ben and Rupert, three granddaughters and five grandsons.
Jerry Sykes