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Peter Dewhirst of Paris branch dies aged 91

Peter Dewhirst

Peter Dewhirst   -  © Private

24 May 2013

Graham Tearse, NUJ Paris Branch

Paris branch member Peter Dewhirst, who has died aged 91, was a popular and professional journalist who was highly regarded by his NUJ colleagues in France.

Graham Tearse remembers him:

There are many members of Paris branch past and present who, like me, will above all remember Peter Dewhirst for his immense kindness.

I was not close to Peter, but I enjoyed, over more than two decades, a professional relationship with a colleague who was loyal and an occasional social contact with a lovely man who you could trust at his word, qualities that are not always apparent in the competitive professional world we work in.

I first met him when the branch used to meet at the Foreign Legion in Paris, sessions that were well-oiled by tepid beer and held under a cloud of tobacco smoke in a sombre room of dubious décor.

Like the Legion, Peter – who I believe must have been the doyen amongst us and with whom I shared a significant age gap – appeared to me at first as being somewhat from a different era; an upright figure sporting a moustache à la David Niven, I fancy he must have appeared to many French as an incarnation of Pierre Daninos' fictional Brit 'Major Thompson'. His accent and diction could have passed for the voice of 'bomber command' in a black-and-white film of WWII. When he answered the phone, he'd growl a business-like, ever-ready "Dewhirst".

But, as the French saying goes, 'L'habit ne fait pas le moine' and there can be few better examples of the truth of that than Peter. In reality an unclassifiable figure, a positively unconventional character – as his life history testifies – who exuded an always heart-warming bonhomie,

Peter was also remarkably enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the latest technology of our profession. In that he was a pioneer, well ahead of the rest of us – with the notable exception of sorely-missed David Paskov, one of the great Paris press correspondents who passed away in 1990.

Peter, a much-liked and dedicated branch activist to the end, was also a tireless freelance who continued to work – and commute – far beyond an age when most would have already hung up their keyboards. His personal energy, and the enthusiasm and pleasure he manifestly found as a journalist, were remarkable. I shall remember him with great fondness.

Tags: , Paris, freelance