Donald Trelford, former editor of The Observer, dies aged 85

The veteran journalist helmed the paper from 1975 to 1993.

Donald Trelford, former editor of The Observer newspaper, has died aged 85 following a long illness.

The journalist, author and academic died on Friday morning in Majorca where he had lived for more than a decade, his wife Claire said.

Mr Trelford was editor of The Observer for 18 years during which time the publication won various press awards including newspaper of the year, while he was commended as international editor of the year in 1984.

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The Observer newspaper in 2006 (Matt Gore/iconphotos/PA)

He was the author of a number of books and helped Russian chess great and anti-Putin political activist Garry Kasparov write his autobiography.

His wife Claire told the PA news agency: “He was a man who loved his sport, his family, and loved being in Majorca.

“He lived life to the full. He was a great storyteller and raconteur. I think all his friends know most of his stories. Friends of all ages wanted to be with him so he could share his life stories.

“And they in the end were the ones who pushed him to write his memoirs.”

Speaking about his career in journalism, she added: “He was tenacious. He didn’t come up the conventional way. Although he had been to Cambridge and it was unusual, he was a working class lad from Coventry.

“He had done national service in the RAF and I think that opened up his eyes.

“But he was able to speak to anybody. He was as much a friend of the guy working in the lift as he was (to those) from journalism.”

Mr Trelford was born in Coventry in November 1937 and educated at Bablake School, where he was head boy.

He studied at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and also undertook National Service in the RAF.

After Cambridge he worked for newspapers in Coventry and Sheffield before being appointed editor of the Nyasaland Times, later the Times of Malawi, at the age of 25.

He joined The Observer in London in 1966 as assistant news editor before rising to succeed David Astor as editor in 1975

After leaving The Observer in 1993, he helped launch a new department of journalism studies at Sheffield University.

In his later years he lived Majorca. He married three times and has six children, one of whom predeceased him.