Family, football and fun: The Peter Darke story

Torbay Weekly

The Devon community sadly lost one of our own recently, with the passing of Peter Darke mourned by everyone in the local football community and all who met the fun-loving family man.

Peter had the rare distinction of representing all three professional clubs in Devon, starting with over 100 appearances as an excellent full-back at Plymouth Argyle in the 1970s. He then enjoyed a loan stint at Exeter City before two years with Torquay United and spells in the local non-league scene.

After retirement, Peter stayed involved in football, as well as cricket and golf, but far beyond his sporting exploits, he was a devoted husband to Jo, the proud father of three daughters and a doting grandfather.

“Peter was born in Exeter in 1953 and has an older brother called Bill,” said Jo Darke. “He joined Plymouth Argyle as an apprentice at the age of 15. He had played schoolboy football and scouts from Plymouth had spotted his potential.

“In recent years, he played a lot of golf at Torquay Golf Club and the friends he made through that would often ask questions about his career but he never really talked about his football. He was quite modest about his career.

“Even with his own family, Pete wasn’t the sort of person to get out the old books and clippings to talk about the things he had done. The only thing would be if he saw something about someone he had played with or against, he would quietly mention it.

“When he finished professional football, he played locally with Minehead, Saltash and Liskeard. He came back to Torbay and managed Chelston Football Club for a few years, where a lot of the old pro friends came and played for him, people like Mark Smith, who works at Paignton Community College now.

“He never really finished with football, he always stayed involved in the game, whether it was coaching or watching. We also used to play mixed pairs darts on a Sunday evening, we did that as a hobby.

“Peter played a lot of cricket with St Marychurch and Babbacombe before taking up golf around ten years ago. He fell in love with the game and played at Torquay but only if the weather was good.”

Aside from his amazing sporting achievements, Peter Darke was an incredibly generous and loving family man, known for his love of fun and laughter.

Devotion to his family unit was what mattered most to Pete, as he and Jo proudly welcomed three daughters and three grandchildren.

“We were married in 1984 and together for 41 years,” said Jo. “We had our first daughter Kate in 1986, then Lucy born in 1989 and our third daughter Becky in 1992.

“We had three beautiful girls but sadly lost Kate to cancer five years ago this September, which was a devastating time for us all. Kate had a little boy called Freddie, who was only three at the time and he was the apple of our eye.

“Just recently, in lockdown, our daughter Lucy gave us two more grandchildren, Finley and Charlie. Finley is 15 months old and Charlie is four months.

“Pete was a joker, he loved to have a good time but top of the list was a complete and utter devoted family man. He was a very caring man and a real good friend to people, which will probably be reflected at his funeral.

“We have been inundated with cards and messages. Pete was a general nice guy and greatly loved by all of us.

“The funeral is taking place on Wednesday, October 20 at 4.15pm at Torquay Crematorium and I would imagine it is going to be absolutely rammed. If anyone would like to make a donation, please send them to Rowcroft Hospice.

“We are expecting an amazing response and the send-off Pete deserves.”