Peter Lea, former Daily Mail sports editor, has died

Peter Lea, sports editor of the Daily Mail from 1987-1990, died on Friday at age 81. He had been ill since breaking a leg in a fall at home in December.

Peter was part of the Daily Sketch sports team which moved with the Editor, David English, to the Mail when the two papers merged under the Mail title in 1971.

Peter rose through the sports desk ranks to become chief sub-editor, then deputy sports editor to Tom Clarke in 1984. He was, says Clarke, “a meticulous sub and  a very good man. With Ken Haskell and Ken Wilson, he was a key player in transforming the sports pages of the old broadsheet Daily Mail into lively award-winning tabloid pages.

“Those were heady days. I think of the likes of Ian Wooldridge, Jeff Powell, Brian James, Peter Moss, Michael McDonnell, Terry O’Connor, Laurie Pignon, Neil Wilson, John Parsons, Peter Jackson, Jeff Farmer, Ray Matts, Brian Scovell and Harry Harris. Add their talented words to Peter’s attention to detail and we had a great team.”

From left: Neil Wilson, Peter Lea, David English, Tom Clarke, Ian Wooldridge

Jonathan Hunn remembers his early days at the Mail: “He was my first sports editor at the Mail, a lovely guy who made all those hard early nights seem easy. Unflappable and an absolute gent.”

Peter was born at East Dulwich in South London and began his career on the Morning Advertiser (as did Ken Haskell). He was a lifelong fan of Dulwich Hamlet and Crystal Palace.

Peter retired at 55 and had lived in Derby for the past seven years. His two sons followed him into journalism: David is assistant chief sub of the Daily Mirror, and Michael, after working for The Sun, is now a speechwriter for the Bill Gates Foundation in Seattle. Peter and his wife Gina had three daughters, Alison, Ruth and Joanne, all of whom have forged successful careers, and ten grandchildren.

The requiem mass for Peter is on May 18 (1pm) at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Bridge Gate, Derby DE1 3AU, followed by a private committal service, and then from 2.30pm tea and drinks at The Folly, The Farmhouse at Mackworth, 60 Ashbourne Road, Derby DE22 4LY.

Donations in memory of Peter can be made to Derby Hospitals Charity at or Derby Hospitals Charity, Level 5, Royal Derby Hospital, Uttoxeter Road, Derby DE22 3NE, or at the church.