Mike Deane loses his final brave battle

mike deane

OLD FRIENDS: Mike Deane, left, at home in Co Down in 2013 with Mike Steemson


Mike Deane, former Express news sub and later deputy managing editor of the Daily Express, has died shortly after his 70th birthday. He had battled cancer for more than 10 years with extraordinary determination and his last words to me at the end of a long phone call a week ago were: “This thing’s not going to beat me”.

Mike Deane was born in Belfast where he was schooled at the Royal Academy. His father was C Douglas Deane, the distinguished ornithologist and deputy director of the city’s Ulster Museum. Douglas Deane also wrote the nature notes for the Belfast News-letter, the first paper I worked on and where I subbed his copy.

Mike also worked at the News-Letter after a stint in Australia after school, joining the paper from Ulster Television, at that time part-owned by the News-Letter’s holding company. He later worked on the Edinburgh Evening News and The Times. I had left the News-Letter before he joined and we first met when I joined the news subs bench in 1979. Mike was already there having been recruited from PA along with Chris Williams, your esteemed editor and publisher Lord Bingo, and Don Higgs among other stars. He and I were two of three Ulstermen subbing there, the other being the irascible long distance walker and, unlike his compatriots, the teetotal Jack Atkinson.  

After a stint as FoC Mike became deputy managing editor (the management were no fools – former FoC Chris Williams later became Editor, and a very good one at that) until he left the paper in the mid ‘90s, returning to Ireland where he started a society/celebrity magazine and worked for a while back at the News-Letter, by then owned by the Mirror Group. He lived in the Co Down countryside where his wife Christine kept horses and ran an antiques shop.

I would see him regularly when I returned to visit my family and we would eat and drink far too much cogitating over the old times and wondering (as we all do) how the one-time greatest newspaper in the land had fallen so spectacularly from grace. And despite his cancer which he had endured for more than 10 years, he came to London for the First Tuesday Club and most recently, last April, for the funeral of the great Terry Evans.

Mike was a decent man, as passionate as me about Ireland’s rugby successes and, like me also, with a fondness for old cars. He drove a Triumph TR6 and then a Daimler V8-250 (I still have one) while at the Express before selling the Daimler to Barry Gomer.

The end came suddenly on January 13 when pneumonia took him. Christine and son David were there but their other son Richard was in New Zealand and due to see that venerable and permanently cheerful Expressman Mike Steemson, one of Deane’s closest pals. 

When we spoke last week Mike Deane talked about the great Christmas he had enjoyed and was looking forward to seeing through this year, particularly to a visit Terry Manners and I had planned for early next month. Instead we will be going earlier, to his funeral on January 21.

(38) Michael Deane

FLASHBACK: Mike, centre, in the  features department of the Daily Express Fleet Street office in London in the 1980s with, from left, Ross Benson, Tinu the secretary and Alan Frame

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre