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PA man Peter Beal marks retirement with 1,150-mile walk

The Press Association’s northern editor, Peter Beal, has retired after 30 years with the agency.

He’s about to swap his laptop for walking boots to cover 1,150 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise funds for motor neurone disease.

Peter, (57), joined PA’s reporting staff in London in 1976 before moving to Scotland and then to Manchester as chief northern correspondent.

In nearly 20 years there he covered virtually every major story in the North, including the miners’ strike, the Lockerbie, Kegworth and Manchester Airport air disasters, the Heysel and Hillsborough football tragedies, the Bradford City fire and the crimes of killer GP Harold Shipman.

He specialised in major trials and covered those of Shipman, James Bulger’s killers, the Leeds United footballers and nanny Louise Woodward in the United States.

Peter began his career in journalism on the Skyrack Express, then part of the Wakefield Express series, in his home town of Leeds and joined the Burton Daily Mail before moving to the Coventry Evening Telegraph where he was crime reporter.

For the past four years he has been based in PA’s operations centre in Howden, East Yorkshire, from where he was responsible for the agency’s regional reporters in England and Wales and was involved in the development of PA’s growing multi-media operations.

His plan to walk the length of the country is a long-held ambition, and he finally decided to do it – and raise funds for motor neurone – after a friend and former colleague, Derek Smith, was diagnosed with the disease.

Derek lost a two-year battle with the illness in October last year. He had a been a sub-editor on the Coventry Evening Telegraph, Birmingham Post, Yorkshire Post and most recently, the Halifax Courier.

Peter said: “It’s a vicious and indiscriminate disease without a cure that can strike people of any age. Tragically, its victims seem to be among the most active of people.

“It’s a very worthwhile cause – now I’ve just got to hope my knees hold out.”

He will start the expected three-month trek on May 6, after a four-week holiday with his wife Jackie in New Zealand and Australia. He will be staying off roads where possible, and using long distance trails such as the Pennine Way – which goes close to his home in the Derbyshire Peak District – and West Highland Way.

Money raised will go to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Pledges and donations can be made on line at – where he will also post details of his progress – or to