GRAHAM SNOWDON pays tribute to an old friend and colleague
Peter Bryan, the last surviving founding member of the SJA, has died at the age of 89 after a long illness.
Peter was credited with being the first journalist to join the then Sports Writers’ Association at its inaugural meeting at the Newspaper Workers’ Club, off Fleet Street, on April 15, 1948.
Peter’s career as a cycling writer spanned more than 60 years, but he had a parallel career as a magazine executive and was at various times managing editor of Charles Buchan Publications, then the publishers of Coureur, “the magazine for the sporting cyclist”, and later editorial director at Cycling (now Cycling Weekly) and other magazines within the group.
Peter started freelancing for The Bicycle as a teenager before World War II, and after service in the Army (where he would meet future colleague Jock Wadley) he joined the staff and eventually became editor. The Bicycle closed in 1955 and was absorbed by the rival title Cycling.
Although the fledgling Coureur magazine will always be associated with the name of its editor, former Bicycle staffer JB Wadley, Peter Bryan was very much instrumental in its launch and indeed the first quarterly issue in the autumn of 1955 (the magazine did not become monthly until May 1957) was produced on the dining room table at Peter’s north London home with help from photographer Bill Lovelace and designer Glenn Steward.
Money for the magazine had been put up by London cycling enthusiast and timber merchant Vic Jenner. The first issue was written entirely by Wadley, although Peter subsequently wrote reports and features anonymously. My late father, Dick Snowdon, was also a regular contributor.
In late 1956, Wadley secured the backing of the publisher Charles Buchan, the former captain of Arsenal and England, who wanted a companion to his Football Monthly. The magazine continued until April 1968, by which time Sporting Cyclist was owned by Longacre Press, which had bought Buchan’s publications. Longacre by then also owned Cycling, and the two magazines were briefly published under the joint banner of Cycling and Sporting Cyclist.
Peter was instrumental, along with the then editor Alan Gayfer, in establishing the appeal for funds to enable a memorial to be erected near the summit of Mont Ventoux to Tom Simpson, who had died there in the 1967 Tour de France.
Meanwhile, Peter was also cycling correspondent of the Daily Mail for 33 years (and also at one time of the London Evening News), and later became a regular contributor to The Times and Sunday Times.
He covered the cycling events at every Olympic Games from London in 1948 to Sydney in 2000.
Martin Ayres, who was editor of Cycling Weekly from 1980 to 1990 and covered his first world championships with Peter in Prague in 1981, said: “Peter was my mentor and a good friend for over 30 years. We spent many hours together on stage races and at world championships. He was always congenial company, and happy to share his deep knowledge and love of the sport of cycling and journalism.
“I was just one of many colleagues who benefited from his generous advice and insight. One had to be alert in conversation with Peter; he had an uncanny ability to spot a flaw in an argument, and was always the man to ask the awkward question at a press conference.”
William Fotheringham, covering the 2015 Tour de France for The Guardian, said: “Peter was a real gentleman and very friendly to me when I was just starting as a journalist. One of the pioneering generation.”
John Wilkinson, another former regular member of the cycling Press corps and a veteran Snowdon Sports contributor, added: “Peter offered many words of wisdom to me in my younger days.”
Stuart Benstead, a former SJA committee member, said: “Peter was a true gentleman and very professional journalist who had covered the Olympic Games perhaps more than any other.”
Ian Emmerson, the former President of British Cycling and chairman of the Commonwealth Games Council for England from 1999 to 2007, said: “Peter was always a well respected scribe and a good friend.”
Jim Hendry, former general secretary of the BCF and British Cycling’s honorary archivist, said: “Peter was a true gentleman and an accurate reporter, since he always did his homework. He will be sadly missed.”
As somebody who worked closely with Peter in the 1980s and 1990s (when he was working chiefly for The Times), often sharing Press cars and hotel rooms with him, I can only echo all those sentiments.
Peter, who lived in retirement at Bournemouth, died on July 6, four months short of his 90th birthday. He served on the committee of what was the Sports Writers’ Association and edited the Bulletin in the 1980s, and again in the 1990s.
He was later made an honorary member for his services to the Association.
He leaves his wife Beryl, three sons and a stepdaughter. His funeral will be at 2.15pm on Monday, July 20, at Bournemouth Crematorium, Strouden Avenue, Charminster BH8 9HX. Family flowers only, by request.
• Graham Snowdon is a director of Snowdon Sports Media Partners Ltd and the second of three generations of SJA members.
- The SJA is the largest member organisation of sports media professionals in the world. Join us: Click here for more details
- This year, the SJA’s nominated good cause is The Journalists’ Charity. To find out more and how you can donate on a one-off or regular basis, go to www.journalistscharity.org.uk
UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Mon Sep 14: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill Golf Club
Tue Oct 6: Entry forms for 2015 SJA British Sports Journalism Awards published
Thu Dec 17: SJA British Sports Awards, sponsored by The National Lottery