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UK's first free newspaper editor dies aged 73

One of the pioneers of the free newspaper revolution which swept Britain in the 60s and 70s has died.

Together with the late Lionel Pickering, Tony Mather founded and subsequently edited the country’s first free newspaper, the Derby Trader, in 1966.

Over the ensuing decades the duo launched nine more free weekly papers across the Midlands before the group was sold to the then Thomson Regional Newspapers for £30m in 1989.

Tony, of Ashbourne, Derbyshire, died on Monday from a throat-related cancer, aged 73.

Before launching the Trader, Tony worked for the Derby Evening Telegraph for 15 years, becoming a sub-editor and writing a regular fishing column.

His wife, Sheila, whom he met at the Telegraph, said: “He was a huge part of all our lives. His death will leave a massive hole behind.

“In our years together we went all over the world. Tony used to love it because I would book the trips in secret then surprise him with the tickets. We were on a cruise in October when he suddenly collapsed.

“Although he regained consciousness in hospital, the trip would have been some of his final memories and I know that would make him happy.”

Tony was a regular fixture in Derby pubs such as The Dolphin and The Bell and described himself as “an enthusiastic drinker.”

His son Richard, said: “All of us loved him to bits and life won’t be the same again.”

  • You can leave your memories of Tony at his page on Lasting Tribute


    paul mortimer (05/12/2008 09:27:11)
    AS production editor and then editor of one of the Trader papers, I worked with Tony in the early 80s.
    He was a true pro, unflappable and the sort of grass roots journalist that is, sadly, rarely seen today.

    nick hudson (05/12/2008 11:58:02)
    A man who shamelessly devoted a quarter of a century of his working life to another man’s dream.
    Tony Mather, with whom I worked with from 1979 and later succeeded as group editor of Trader Group Newspapers at the takeover by Thomson, was a fellow of infinite jest and the most meticulous sub I have ever encountered.
    Like his column In Case You Missed It, he will be missed beyond words by the people whose lives he touched.
    God bless you Tony, I’m sure you’re making them smile somewhere else now

    Helen Meynell (05/12/2008 18:33:05)
    I am saddened to hear of Tony’s death. Tony was the second editor I worked for, after Margaret Aitken, and I remember being shocked at the contrast! But I soon became used to his occasionally brusque manner and grew very fond of him. He certainly was a meticulous sub – I remember him taking a piece of my copy and subbing it before my eyes. He cut it from about 150 words to 50… and it still contained all the facts. I was impressed… but naturally didn’t let on!

    Pat Parkin (06/12/2008 12:57:39)
    Tony was an exceptional journalist whose encouragement, help and advice spurred on many of us who followed in his wake. When Lionel Pickering returned from Australia with his idea for launching free newspapers, all of us thought he was mad. In those days no-one could understand how a newspaper could survive without paying customers. Tony probably didn’t understand either but was the only one who agreed to give up his job with Raymonds News Agency to help Lionel, even though he had a wife and two young boys to support. It was more than a year before the paper began to make any money but Lionel, his wife Marcia and Tony continued battling with their dream …. the rest is history. Lionel went on to sell his dozen or so papers for millions and then achieved his other dream of helping Derby County get back into the big time. Tony meanwhile, continued “churning out the words” as he called it. He was a wise, intelligent man with a great sense of humour and will be sadly missed by his many friends, former colleagues and most of all, of course, by his family.