Peter Donovan

1934 - 2023

We are sad to report the death of Peter Donovan, the bridge columnist for the Daily Mail. Peter wrote his first article in it on 31st January 1966, with his weekday column eventually surpassing the existing Guinness Book of world records for longest-serving daily newspaper columnist. In 2020 he was given the Tony Priday award for his outstanding contribution to bridge and enhancing the game in all its aspects.

Peter was a member of the EBU Board (1979-1982), was involved in publishing the first-ever EBU diary and initiated the Schools’ Cup. Aside from writing, he pursued several worthy causes to the benefit of the game, which was his lifelong passion. His priority was to help others improve, and he was always available for guidance and advice on bridge-related matters. He hosted popular seminars at top hotels around the country. We extend our sympathy to Peter's family and friends.

John Clarke wrote the following kind words about Peter:

I first met Peter Donovan in 1967 when he came over to Eton to our bridge club, following the school winning the inaugural EBU Schools Cup the previous year. He lived nearby at the time. He already had boundless enthusiasm for promoting bridge among the young when bridge was widely regarded as an activity strictly for the over-60's. Slough school had a club at the time and was one of the original Cup entrants; I think this inspired him to persuade the Daily Mail to take over the sponsorship of the Schools Cup thereafter. Over much of the next 50 years. I also played regularly with Peter in various bridge teams; my first experience of partnering him was qualifying for the National Pairs at the Slough club heat; we won comfortably despite him leaving me in a cue-bid which he misinterpreted as exposing a psyche. (I spent the night at his then family home in Datchet).

His emphasis on the social aspect of bridge meant he never sought the major UK trophies or national representation at the highest level, But he was a regular winner of national events with partners who abilities ranged from experts to enthusiastic but inexperienced players. He was runner-up in the Spring Foursomes in the early 1980's, and also won the old London Trophy on a few occasions. He was also passionate about keeping bridge simple; a philosophy that ran through his daily column in the Daily Mail that he wrote for nearly 60 years, and which inspired him to update Iain Macleod's Bridge is an Easy Game in 1988, originally written in 1952 and arguably the most authoritative work ever written on the Acol system. He played in my team, which for reasons lost in the midst of time was known as the Barrels, on numerous occasions for over 30 years and was a valuable coach and discusser of hands, regularly administering harsh sentences. In the last year the EBU awarded him the Tony Priday award, for lifetime achievement and service to bridge. I can think of no more worthy recipient.

Outside bridge he regularly attended regimental occasions and maintained an active interested in Army charities, being a Sandhurst trained officer. He was a regular at any Lord's Test match or major one-day occasion, always sitting in the pavilion so as to be close to the entrance/exit - typically he found the energy to revive and re-establish the MCC bridge club: for the outsider, playing at Lords was a special thrill. His career was in direct mail advertising which he pioneered in the 1970's; he established his own business venture in the field. For the last 25 years of his life he lived in a large flat in Kensington referred to as Toad Hall, partly because his devoted French wife Michele was often called Frog.

He will be greatly missed by an enormous number of pubs and bridge players, but much more importantly by Michele and a very wide variety of friends.

JOHN CLARKE (EBU member since 1966)