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Peter Costigan (1935–2002)

from Age

It is not far from Preston to St Patrick's Cathedral as the magpie flies, but Peter Costigan took the long, scenic route.

The chirpy Catholic kid from the wrong side of Bell Street took 67 years and many detours but when he made his final exit at the cathedral yesterday it was everything he could have wished for — except that he could not have a drink at the wake afterwards.

Costigan always aspired to the finer things, and rarely disappointed himself, but nothing he did in a colourful life eclipsed the way he left it.

His funeral was probably the biggest — and most public — at the cathedral since that of television and sports legend Ron Casey two years ago.

Peter Costigan was at that one, too, as lord mayor. Yesterday, it was his turn to be the main event, and they did him proud. The Vienna Boys Choir was apparently engaged, so the Melbourne Philharmonic Choir and the Australian Boys Choir filled in. Just in case the choristers did not know Good Old Collingwood Forever, Mike Brady was there to sing it. More than 600 people came to farewell a man for all seasons — though his favourite, of course, was always Melbourne in winter when Collingwood was firing.

His son Gerry, eyes brimming, told the congregation: "I was a bit overwhelmed by the cathedral, by the scale of all this, because to me he was just my dad, but then I realised he was so many things to so many people." An apt phrase. Apart from the extended Costigan clan — Peter was one of eight children — the big gathering represented the different worlds in which he had moved with ease until he died on Monday.

Costigan had been, foremost, a journalist; dozens of former colleagues from the heyday of the Herald were there. So were people from television (he was once a political commentator for Channel 10), from radio and from football. And, in the case of Eddie McGuire, all three. All sides of politics were there. Liberal powerbroker Tony Staley and former Kennett stalwart Mark Birrell sat near one-time Labor maverick Pete Steedman, an old Canberra drinking buddy of Costigan's. Bruce Ruxton was there, too. And a little bloke wearing a Collingwood scarf.

There were local government people, marking his surprise election as lord mayor in 2000. Others he and his partner Susie Norton knew from horse racing — one of many passions of a passionate man, a raconteur, wit, sports-car fancier and reporter who did his finest creative writing, according to legend, on expense sheets.

Stories revealed the larrikin behind the commentator. Peter Gillooley said his old friend had coined the sobriquet "Tricky Dicky" Nixon for the US President while he was the Herald's Washington correspondent in the Watergate years.

One of Costigan's proudest possessions, he said, was a White House letter asking him to stop using "Tricky Dickie".

Costigan had the last laugh. On a table next to his coffin (next to a model sports car, a miniature martini bottle, and a Magpies scarf) was a book of famous front pages of the 20th century.

There it was, dated August 9, 1972, 28 years ago today: NIXON RESIGNS. And underneath, Peter Costigan's byline.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Peter Costigan

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Costigan, Peter (1935–2002)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


21 June, 1935
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


5 August, 2002 (aged 67)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations