SISSONS, Peter George   [1942 - 2019]

Unusually the picture of Peter Sissons which has probably appeared more often than any other is one taken when he was nine years old. Splashing about in the sea at the Isle of Man on a school trip he stands alongside a young John Lennon and Jimmy Tarbuck, his contemporaries at Dovedale Road primary school.

Peter Sisson was born in Liverpool on 17th July 1942, the son of merchant navy officer George Robert Percival Sissons and his wife Elsie Emma (née Evans). The family home was 4 Ingleton Road L18, which Sissons described in his autobiography as “tiny” but it was the standard 3-bedroom terraced house which can be found in abundance around Mossley Hill and Wavertree. He was the third of four boys, two of his brothers born before the war, one after. Sissons saw little of his father during the war and in his autobiography he recalls the vivid memory of their first day together. In the evening, relaxing with his family for the first time in more than three years he responded to some cheekiness on Peter’s part by giving the three-year-old a thrashing. From that point on, Sissons wrote “I felt not a shred of affection for my father”.

Sissons attended Dovedale Road Primary School and after success in the 11+, the Liverpool Institute. He started at the Institute on the same day as Paul McCartney and was a contemporary of the younger George Harrison. He enjoyed his time at the Institute, citing the grounding in Latin and Greek it gave him as a precious component of his journalistic abilities. An important influence on the young Sissons was the English teacher and leading figure in Merseyside dramatics, Alan Durband. After the Institute he read politics, philosophy and economics at University College, Oxford.

His journalistic career began at Independent Television News (ITN), his initial path of war correspondent taking him to Israel at the time of the Six Day War. In Nigeria at the time of the Biafran rebellion, in 1968, he was shot and suffered severe nerve damage to his left leg requiring  extensive surgery and skin grafts. Clearly no longer fit enough for the role of a war correspondent he became ITN’s Industrial Editor, covering the many disputes of the turbulent 1970’s. He later began presenting news programmes and in 1982 was one of the first presenters of Channel 4 News, staying there for seven years until ‘poached’ by the BBC in 1989, where one of his first roles was to take over presentation of Question Time from Sir Robin Day. He retired from the BBC in 2009 and was subsequently quite scathing about the organisation in his autobiography. He argued that the organisation had a left-wing mindset "in its very DNA" and that BBC News had a bias towards New Labour,  the United Nations, the European Union, environmental groups, Islam, ethnic minorities, and women. He wrote, "I am in no doubt that the majority of BBC staff vote for political parties of the Left”.

He died from leukaemia on 1st October 2019 in Maidstone. He married Sylvia Bennett in 1965, whom he had met at St Peter's Church youth club in Woolton. They had three children, Jonathan, Michael and Kate.

4 Ingleton Road L18

The  family home during the war when Peter Sissons was born

113 Hunts Cross Avenue L25

The Sissons family got a 'house swap' moving to this council house in Woolton.

The 'famous' picture of Dovedale pupils at the Isle of Man in 1951. Sissons is on the left, with John Lennon centre and Jimmy Tarbuck left in pugilistic stance.


The most comprehensive source is Sisson's autobiography When One Door Closes [Biteback 2010]. There is a reasonably thorough Wikipedia entry. Also worth a read are the obituaries in the Guardian The Scotsman and Daily Mail. There are many video clips of Peter Sissons on YouTube, including a lightning survey of his career by The Daily Telegraph.