Peter Bossley - Columnist at Sentinel Sunday

Newspaper
comment is a notoriously difficult world to negotiate without having to
tack some personal judgement to the news agenda of the hour. Peter
Bossley, who has died suddenly at the age of 42, was a journalist who
never strayed from his fundamental values and basic humanity.

Born
in Billingham, Teesside, he flirted with several potential callings,
from photography to rock music, each of which proved a useful, if
unconventional, foundation for a career in newspapers, at the South
Manchester Reporter, the Burton Daily Mail and finally Staffordshire
Sentinel Newspapers.

It was, he said later, like a misfit rolling up at the funny farm and feeling instantly at home.

One
early fling that was to impact heavily on his later professional life
was with the infamous Macc Lads, a cult rock group of the 1980s, which
devoted itself less to storming the charts than to railing against the
march of Thatcherism, primarily by attempting to demolish any remaining
barriers against obscenity in contemporary music.

As band
manager, his stage appearances as the self-styled Al O’Peesha were
limited. Not so his anti-Maggie crusade, which was a lifelong obsession
born out of experiences during the closure of mining communities in the
Northeast.

It was a ruling passion that was to translate from the
crude lyrics of the group to the articulate and acerbic logic of
newspaper columns that were to win him awards.

Thatcherism was
only one of several themes he seized on and unashamedly returned to,
often just when it seemed his outrage had run its course. In column
after column he would invent new ways to savage not just the legacy of
Tory rule in the 1980s, but the intellect of George Bush, the conduct
of the BNP and his constant bête noire of British public life, the
Daily Mail- often a trifle inconvenient for his editor, as the Mail is
part of DMGT, ultimate owner of The Sentinel.

None of it diverted
Peter. Not even the hefty mailbag he received every week bulging with
fury and congratulation. He delighted in pushing the boundaries of
acceptable behaviour both inside the column rule and outside the
confines of newsprint. “I never promise objectivity,” he would say,
“only the basics of an argument delivered in an entertaining way. The
rest is up to the reader.”

His strategy certainly suited
followers of Sentinel Sunday and, so too, the judges who awarded him
Press Gazette’s regional columnist of the year title soon after the
newspaper’s launch in 2000. One said in commentary that he started off
appalled by what Peter was saying, but ended up agreeing with him.

Away
from the coalface of column writing, he was a talented newspaper
designer, displaying a precision in typography and layout that belied
an otherwise totally disorganised nature that often infuriated
colleagues. It was an easily forgivable trait in someone who
contributed so much, not just by his devastating pen and unswerving
principle, but in total commitment to the birth and development of this
newspaper and to the enjoyment and exasperation of thousands of readers
of all Sentinel titles.

His writing will be greatly missed by
readers, friend and foe alike. His wider journalism, as an assistant
editor of Staffordshire Sentinel Newspapers, will be missed also by
colleagues, only slightly less than the personal warmth, gentle humour
and penetrating knowledge that made him such a joy to know.

Peter is survived by his mother, Betty, and brother Nick.

By Sean Dooley

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