Posted: March 16th, 2023
BEST known for his long stint at The Sun, TOM PETRIE, who died on March 10 , aged 84, also enjoyed success on The Sunday People where he was a columnist and executive editor (features). His former colleague Plain John Smith remembers: “Tom Petrie arrived at The People with a great Fleet Street reputation.
“As news editor of The Sun under the demanding regime of aggressive editor Kelvin MacKenzie, he had inspired a great reporting team that played a leading role in establishing the brash and breezy paper as Britain’s top selling tabloid. He was also the brains behind some of The Sun’s most memorable headlines, including ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’ and The Sun’s rebuke to European Commission leader Jacques Delors: ‘Up Yours Delors!’
“Before Tom joined The People newsroom I had never met him. Knowing the pivotal role he had played in MacKenzie’s rough and tumble brigade at The Sun, I expected him to be of a similar ilk – foul mouthed, ruthless and graceless. To my surprise he turned out to be a soft spoken, mild mannered, pipe-smoking Geordie. He bore the air of a laid back primary school headmaster rather than some battle hardened veteran from the trenches of national newspapers.
“At The Sun he was known for his early start to the day, commuting from his Hertfordshire home to be at his desk by 7 am. It was a habit he brought with him to The People, always first in, forensically wading through every daily paper so that by the time the rest of the staff trooped in hours later he had a notepad bristling with ideas and suggestions for follow-ups.
“When I retired from my job as Man of The People columnist, Tom took my place. And he did it brilliantly, his compassionate, sure and professional touch ensuring that the column continued its hard-hitting, campaigning tradition. Which came as no surprise. When it came to playing a part at the very heart of a newspaper, you could depend on peerless Petrie.”