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Former reporter who served in WWII dies aged 85

A former regional press journalist who worked for Sheffield Newspapers for four decades has died aged 85.

John Piper, left, joined the company in 1947 but in only his second week he was asked to “fill in” at The Star’s Rotherham branch office, where he subsequently stayed for nearly 40 years.

He later became Rotherham United reporter and covered the team in-depth until his retirement in 1986.

In following Rotherham the length and breadth of Britain, John achieved what is believed to be a unique record – reporting on just one club in all of the original 92 football league grounds.

Les Payne, The Star’s current Rotherham United reporter, said: “Across the decades as a news reporter, in addition to Millers duties, he became extremely well known to everyone in the town, whatever their standing.

“From celebrities and all major figures in authority to the street cleaner, from police chiefs to constables on the beat, from leading council figures to town hall clerks and, above all, to the man in the street as, it seemed, everyone in Rotherham knew John Piper.

“If it happened, John knew about it or got to know about it – and his contacts knew that he was a man of absolute trust and integrity.”

Born in London, John moved to Somerset at a quite early age, followed by a spell in Northampton before eventually moving to Sheffield as a result of wartime evacuation.

During World War Two he served in Bomber Command, as a rear gunner in Lancaster bombers, joining The Star two years after the war ended.

After his retirement, John moved to Cornwall where he worked for the Cornish Times. He died in a Penzance hospital last week.

A widower, he is survived by his son John, daughter Susan and two grandchildren.


Roger Ware (10/09/2009 12:08:29)
Dear old John was the affectionately-held subject of one of the many “old days” anecdotes with which I bore my present-day colleagues! In days gone by I used to cover Reading for the Reading Chronicle and we played one night at Millmoor when local radio was a brand new entity. John, who, like all of us, had only ever dictated at-event copy to a copy-taker, had been delegated to voice update reports for the then-new BBC Radio Sheffield – and had apparently taken to the new-fangled radio business quite well. He gave a vivid and well-spoken description of play, referring occasionally to notes… which led to the moment when, on air, he said something like: “United set up a smart move down the right and ‘Jones’ sent a perfect cross to the far post where ‘Smith’ headed just over…point, paragraph.”(!) Part of the fun in those days was meeting up twice a year with people like John – and Les Payne, who, as a teenager(!), was probably there on the night I’ve referred to above. Amongst others from that lower-league group were Graham Taylor’s well-built Dad Tommy at Scunthorpe, Malcolm Waller and Ollie Phillips at Watford, Peter Godsiff and Robin Perry at Bristol City and Rovers respectively, Harley Lawer, Keith Perry and Graham Hambly at Plymouth and Torquay, Dick Williamson at Bradford City, the late John Parsons and a young Gary Richardson at Oxford, the late Clive King at Swindon, Jim Rosenthal then at BBC Radio Birmingham, and others whose names have disappeared in time. Anyway, cheers to John Piper. He will live on in my memory, and become “the broadcaster they never knew” – for those to whom I tell the “point, paragraph” story!