Deaths of ex-editor and former chief of ITV Sport

Two former stalwarts of Midlands journalism – Jeff Farmer and David Hopkinson – have died.

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Jeff (pictured),  who passed away aged 79 after battling cancer, was a sports journalist on both the Wolverhampton Express & Star and Birmingham Evening Mail before joining the Daily Mail in 1970.

He left newspapers in 1981 to edit sport for ITV. Working in television, he led ITV's football coverage at four World Cups from 1986 to 1998 and was then invited on to the board of West Bromwich Albion in 2003 to aid on media matters. 

Jeff, whose proudest scoop was revealing that Brian Clough had left Derby County, retired in 2011, aged 72. He is survived by his wife, Kath.

Paying tribute, West Bromwich chief executive Mark Jenkins said: “Jeff always provided wise counsel and was a highly respected and greatly appreciated board member.”

Ex-Albion player Tony Brown said: “As anybody who ever met Jeff knows, he always had a thousand stories to tell you. He will be sadly missed.”

The funeral will be on 5 November at 12.30 at Streetly Crematorium followed by a reception at Moor Hall.

Meanwhile, the funeral service for David Hopkinson, acknowledged as one of the most outstanding provincial newspaper editors of his day, took place on 23 October at St Mary’s Church, Houghton, Cambridgeshire.

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David, who died in hospital aged 88, after a fall, edited both the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail. But he made his name as award-winning editor of the Sheffield Telegraph for exposing assaults by Sheffield police on prisoners in custody in what became known as the “rhino whip affair.”

The son of a primary school head teacher, he was born in Huddersfield, cutting his teeth as a reporter on the Huddersfield Examiner before working for other local papers and for the Sunday Graphic in London. In 1961, he was appointed deputy editor of the Sheffield Telegraph in 196 before moving into the editor’s chair the following year.

 David Hopkinson - as former staff at the Birmingham Post & Mail will remember him

David Hopkinson - as former staff at the Birmingham Post & Mail will remember him

David – known as “Hoppy” - moved to the Birmingham Post in 1964. Ten years later he was appointed editor of the Post’s sister paper, the Birmingham Evening Mail, and in 1975 editor-in-chief for all the company’s local papers.

He left in 1980 after a disagreement with the owners and soon afterwards Harold Evans appointed him chief night editor at The Times, where he became a familiar figure for many years, helping to maintain standards of production through the difficult times as the paper moved its printing operations to Wapping.

After seven years at The Times, David was promoted to deputy managing editor, and he continued to work at the paper after his official retirement in 1995 as consultant to the managing editor and as the newspaper’s representative in its dealings with the Press Complaints Commission.

David married Patricia Eaton, a secretary at the Birmingham Post, who died in 2014. He is survived by their daughter and son and a stepson. He also had three sons and a daughter from an earlier marriage.

Paying tribute to Hoppy, Ian Mean, who was chief news editor on the Birmingham Evening Mail from 1975 until 1984, said:

“There are lots of editors but not too many great editors. I have worked for a few of them but one really stands out in my mind—David Hopkinson, or “Hoppy” as he was known.

“My wife, Judy, who also worked for him in the 70s-attended his funeral the lovely village of Houghton near Huntingdon on Tuesday (23 October).

“David Hugh Hopkinson was our much loved and respected editor of the Birmingham Evening Mail when we both worked for him.

“I was chief news editor of the Mail from 1975-84 and my wife, Judy, was a news desk assistant on a paper that brings back great memories of the halcyon days of print.

“David led a team of really talented people--like Ian Dowell, a great friend of mine who was chief sub editor and we

had great reporters like Richard Littlejohn and Mike Parry.

“At its height, the Birmingham Mail was selling 375 000 copies a night and I had a team of nearly 50 reporters throughout the West Midlands. This was a big operation and mighty exciting with up to eight editions a day and white-hot competition down the road in Wolverhampton from the Express & Star.

“I loved those great print days when we were able to publish special editions to capture the breaking news—like the Pope being shot and getting out an edition in 20 minutes.

“These were days before the internet. These were days when I would write the splash from the television above the news desk during the Falklands War—dictating it paragraph by paragraph to Judy furiously trying to keep on the old Imperial typewriter and copy girl Jenny speeding that through to the subs and into the compositors on the same floor.

“You could hear those presses start up—an exhilarating feeling.

“Hoppy was astride of this great atmosphere of working—red braces and smoking a big cigar.

“He was the picture of a story book editor.

“It was a picture that one of the really great editors, Harold Evans, put into words so well in his book, Good Times, Bad Times (1983).

“Harry, who took David on as chief night editor of the Times after he left Brum, wrote that David was “ from the school of master sub editors”, adding he was like “Mr Pickwick, large, benign, blossoming, the body threatening at all times to burst free of the wide-striped shirt and the straining leather belt”.

The pinnacle of David’s career was in Sheffield in 1963 as editor of the Sheffield Telegraph when he exposed police brutality in what was known as the rhino whip affair.

He then went to Birmingham where he revitalised the Birmingham Post and then onto the Birmingham Evening Mail.

After seven years as chief night editor of The Times, David became deputy managing editor.

The Times in their page obituary of David on October 17 said that right up to the end of his life, his daily routine included a 500-yard walk through his pretty village to collect The Times.

When he failed to appear one morning last month the store owner contacted a neighbour who found him on the floor of his home having suffered a fall. He died shortly afterwards on September 29 aged 88.