Posted: January 24th, 2024
DAVID FARR, a former news editor and assistant editor of the Sunday People, died on January 24 , after a fall at his Torquay home. He was 90.
His funeral service will be at 12.30 pm on Tuesday, February 6, at St. Matthias Church, Babbacombe Road, Wellswood, Torquay TQ1 1HW, followed by a reception at Livermead House Hotel, Torbay Road, Torquay TQ2 6QJ.
As news editor in the 1960s and 70s, when The People was selling in the millions, he was instrumental in maintaining its reputation as Fleet Street’s most fearless compassionate and campaigning newspaper.
Often allied with investigations editor Laurie Manifold, David deployed a tenacious team of reporters – inluding Len Adams, Frank Thorne, Trevor Aspinall and Harry Warschauer – to uncover the dodgy dealings of corrupt coppers, philandering politicians, bribe-taking officials, evil paedophiles and heartless conmen.
One of the most outstanding of those investigations took place in 1975 when People reporter Mary Beith went undercover at a research laboratory where almost 50 beagle dogs were being used to test “safe” cigarettes. Trussed and masked, the dogs were forced to inhale cigarette smoke for days at a time. The shocking words and pictures earned Mary the accolade of Campaigning Journalist of The Year, and reinforced the People’s place as Britain’s leading exposer of cruelty, wrong doing and injustice.
But alongside these hard-nosed investigations David never lost his love for a good human interest story, and he was justifiably proud of the part he played in obtaining from Jimmy Greaves the heart-rending Page One confession that the former England soccer star was an alcoholic.
Tall and good looking, David’s formal manner and almost austere relations with his staff spawned a slew of imitations in the newsroom. They frequently included his habit of addressing male reporters as “old son” while all females were merely called “pet.” His oft repeated mantra to his team was the reminder that they were all earning “government ministers’ wages.”
David’s journalistic career, interrupted only by National Service as a pilot officer in the RAF, began as a junior reporter on the Dalkeith Advertiser in his native Scotland. He moved to the Scottish Daily Express and his success there resulted in him being head-hunted to join The People as a northern correspondent. He won widespead acclaim for a long, daring and dangerous investigation into a gang of brutal criminals operating a racket involving fruit machines in clubs and pubs in NE England. His story sent the gangsters to jail and earned him the title Reporter of The Year in the British Press Awards in 1968.
For those of us who worked with him he will always be remembered as one of Fleet Street’s finest.
He leaves wife, Joyce, and son Adrian. (With thanks to Plainjohn Smith. News item Sunday People 28/01/24 below.)