Derek Ingram

20th June 1925 - 17th June 2018

On Thursday, 8th November, 2018, at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of Derek Ingram was held at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street.
Download Order of Service (pdf)


The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce delivered the opening:

It is our great privilege as the Journalists’ Church, to hold thanksgiving services for some of the most outstanding figures from the industry. And Derek Ingram, whose memory we honour today, is unquestionably within their ranks.

Journalism was Derek’s life. He was a consummate professional in his reporting of political and international affairs, with a knowledge and understanding of the Commonwealth that was simply unsurpassed; indeed, he changed the face of journalism in that region.

Derek was a man of principle and integrity, but also a man of modesty and kindness. And he was an inspiration to many: the fact that so many of you are here today, some from as far afield as Canada, testifies to the person that he was, and the warmth, affection and respect with which he is, and will continue to be, remembered. So, as we remember him here today, we have much for which we can be thankful, and we have much to celebrate.

We begin now with an opening prayer.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father
We are here to give thanks for the life and work of Derek Ingram,
whom we love but see no longer, and to honour his memory.
Grant him your peace; let light perpetual shine upon him,
And in your loving wisdom work in him
the good purpose of your perfect will, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Chief Emeka Anyaoku

Derek Ingram who died on June 17 2018 just three days before his 93rd birthday lived a fulfilled life. This memorial service is therefore an occasion to celebrate his life and his remarkable achievements.

Derek was a journalist of undisputed distinction. He practiced his journalism with undeviating adherence to the core purpose of a good journalist which “is to research, document, write and present news in an honest, ethical and unbiased way”.

I first met Derek Ingram in 1967 just after he had left the Daily Mail newspaper where he had worked for 17 years and risen to the post of Deputy Editor. This was the year in which he with his friend, Oliver Carruthers, founded the Gemini News Service, as a pioneering news agency with specialization in international and development journalism. That naturally brought him into close association with Marlborough House the headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the first Commonwealth Secretary-General, Arnold Smith.

Although he dealt on a more regular basis with my colleagues such as Patsy Robertson in the then Information Division, we in the International Affairs Division also interacted with him from time to time because of his special interest in the Commonwealth which was then being transformed by Arnold Smith from being a shadow of the erstwhile British Empire to becoming an independent organization of sovereign nations.

As editor of the Gemini News Service from its founding in 1967 to 1993, Derek came to be widely regarded as a most prominent and knowledgeable writer on issues related to the Commonwealth of Nations.

Because of time constraint, I would like in remembering Derek to mention only three memorable recollections of my close association with him.

The first was in May 1990 when he, along with David Martin Africa Correspondent of the Observer newspaper, and the Canadian author Phyllis Johnson who subsequently wrote and published my biography titled Eye of Fire, visited and stayed with my wife and me in my ancestral home at Obosi, a village in South East of Nigeria. I was there on a retreat to contemplate on what would be my main mission on assuming the office of Commonwealth Secretary-General later in July of that year.

We talked extensively at Obosi against the background of the seemingly justifiable charge, especially in the conservative media, of hypocrisy against Commonwealth Governments for their relentless campaign against white minority regimes in Southern Africa, while at the same time tolerating no less than ten Commonwealth member countries, including my own country Nigeria, which were then under either military rule or one-party government. Derek reinforced my determination to have among my priorities as Secretary-General, to work for the Commonwealth to become a potent force for promoting its fundamental values including especially, democracy, good governance and human rights.

The second was in 1994 when I appointed Derek as a member of the Commonwealth group which went to observe the elections that ushered in democracy in South Africa with Nelson Mandela as the country’s first democratically elected President. I remember well in our conversation on that occasion, his enthusiastic satisfaction as he reminded me that he had in 1967 resigned as Deputy Editor of the Daily Mail because of what he saw as the paper’s “colonial attitude” towards apartheid.

My third memorable interaction with Derek was in 1997 when I commissioned him to advise the Secretariat on how the Commonwealth could enhance its image and operations. It was a task that took him to several Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean. I believe that the Commonwealth still stands to gain from the implementation of many of the recommendations he put forward in his report.

Derek was a true believer in the Commonwealth and its yet-to-be-fully-tapped potential in the service of humanity. He often said “My view remains that the Commonwealth is ….still historically in its early days”. His belief in the Commonwealth was rooted in a deep knowledge of the organization’s consultative and practical activities having attended many of its conferences including no less than 20 meetings of Commonwealth Heads of Government.

If I may conclude by mentioning just three of his accomplishments:

Derek Ingram through the Gemini News Service mentored and inspired very many young journalists in several developing Commonwealth countries and Canada:

  • in 1978, he along with some other journalists at a conference in Dalhousie, Canada, played a leading role in setting up the Commonwealth Journalists Association which went on to provide training opportunities for journalists across the developing world;
  • and in 1987, he in the words of Richard Bourne, “was a key player in the establishment of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, now with offices in Delhi, Accra, and London”.

In sum, I believe that Derek Ingram will long be remembered as a conscientious journalist and a towering and indefatigable champion of the Commonwealth and its fundamental principles.

Lindsey Hilsum

The other day I went round to Derek’s mews house to see how Nick, his godson, was getting along with sorting through his stuff. Oh dear. Derek was a squirrel. I wonder if he ever threw anything away. There were books, of course. And postcards. And theatre programmes – he loved the the theatre.

Posters from his visit to Mao’s China in 1972. And above all newspapers. A first edition of the Sunday Times from 1822 that he must have bought from another collector. The News Chronicle and Picture Post from VE Day which I presume he bought on the street the very day they came out. There were piles of notebooks in which, as a teenager, in neat fountain pen, he had summarised what happened every day of World War Two, illustrated with photos cut out of the papers. Nick told me that during the war they tried to evacuate Derek from London to Westward Ho in Devon, but he only lasted a few days because he couldn’t find a newspaper – so he put himself on the train and headed back to London where you might get bombed but at least you could find out what was going on.

Derek never wanted to anything but be a journalist. And that was what he was, to the very depths of his being and all his life.

Derek started his career in 1942, aged 17, on the Daily Sketch, and after a year in the Royal Navy – oh yes, we found his signalman’s notes and a key to enseigns in a box in his house – he joined the Daily Express. From there he went onto the Daily Mail where he rose to become Deputy Editor, and he might well have become Editor, but his principles got in the way. One Sunday Lord Rothermere handed Derek an editorial he had written supporting Ian Smith, the Rhodesian Prime Minister, who had declared UDI, Universal Declaration of Independence so the white minority could continue to hold power. Derek was naturally shy, but this was too much. “You can’t say that!” he said. He was a great believer in anti-racism and democracy and independence for African countries. It was 1966. There was no going back. He refused Rothermere’s offer of a job in personnel – I mean, really – and left to found what became his life’s work: Gemini News.

Gemini was ahead of its time in that it was an exchange between developing countries. A newspaper in, say, Tanzania, would subscribe and get stories plus graphics and maps from reporters in, say, Malaysia, India, Peru and beyond. Derek gave young reporters a chance when others didn’t. I was lucky enough to be one of them. I can still remember the thrill of opening my copy of the Standard in Nairobi and seeing my own byline next to the words “Gemini News Service.” It seems quaint now, but the bundle of stories was sent out twice a week – by post. So we weren’t reporting hot news but longer-term more reflective stories. It gave an opportunity to many African, Asian and Latin American journalists who later became important media figures in their own countries.

Derek’s friend, Oliver Carruthers, funded Gemini but the economics of it never quite worked. Reporters didn’t get paid much. If we asked for more, Derek would squeak – he had a way of half squeaking, half barking – that no-one else was asking. Daniel Nelson, who eventually took over as Editor, remembers coming across a pile of letters from impoverished journalists asking for more money, all of whom had, presumably, been told they were the only one being so demanding.

Derek’s other great love was, of course – as we have heard – the Commonwealth. His friendships with great Commonwealth leaders are legendary. His copy of Kenneth Kaunda’s memoirs is personally inscribed. Leaders trusted him and sought his counsel. In that way, he was he was more than a journalist.

To the end of his days, Derek would get the newspapers every day. And I am honoured that until almost the last week of his life, he would watch Channel 4 News at 7 o’clock every night, glass of wine in hand. He was, I’m told, especially pleased if I was on. That makes me want to cry. I’m happy if, as one of his many protegés from Gemini News, I made him proud.

What a long great life the consumate newspaperman and journalist Derek Ingram led. What a good death he had. How right it feels to celebrate him here at St Brides, the journalists’ church.

Sir Trevor McDonald OBE

Derek Ingram was a giant of the journalistic trade. His vision, his integrity, his dogged persistence and his enormous generosity makes him irreplaceable. His pursuit in what he believed was relentless.

When I first met Derek in the late 60s, I wanted to write for him to help make ends meet. By the time I realised that writing for Gemini did not make you rich – or ever would – I had come under Derek’s spell. I felt a little ashamed that I had not given much thought to the importance of news from the point of view of the developing world. In Trinidad we got the news from the larger metropolitan centres that was deemed fit for our consumption. We were told what others wanted us to know.

Derek’s idea was rooted in the importance of the developing world seeing itself and dealing with what was important to it. And in doing that he set out to cultivate journalists from the developing world. That encouragement was at the heart of the Derek Ingram philosophy.

One of Derek’s passions was the Commonwealth – Chief Emeke Anyaoku will confirm that – I can see him now, spectacles slightly lowered because he was always looking up, walking quickly through the environs of Commonwealth meetings. He knew all the Prime Ministers and he shared the benefit from that.

It was in my early days as ITN Diplomatic Correspondent and we had a busy schedule, with Government meetings in Malaysia, Bahamas and Vancouver. Derek’s warmth meant that he always had a dedicated staff who clung loyally to him. He didn’t always make life easy for them. It was not always easy to get him to spend the time on arcane management matters. I remember being recruited to a kind of board to help regularise this. Derek kept on his path regardless – always the optimist – always totally committed to his view of ground breaking journalism.

There will perhaps never be anyone like him – but his inspiration will never die – and we all will always be pleased we had the enormous pleasure of knowing a great man.


Rurik Ingram read Ecclesiastes 13: 1–13

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

Lauren Hall read from Derek’s writings by Derek Ingram

Derek wrote on a variety of subjects. Here is a piece from his unfinished autobiography:

Everyone in Britain suffers from a bad back. So when the BBC put on Lumbered…. with backache, it was no surprise that the first thing a friend described afterwards was how he had a bad back after gardening and how could he find a new osteopath because his had moved away?

Naturally, I knew someone. Naturally I have a bad back myself and am nervous every time I pick up half a pound of tomatoes.

It was a pity, I said, because the best man who does backs is in Australia. He was marvellous about fixing mine when I couldn’t get out of bed the morning I was due to have lunch with the Governor-General.

There was I, locked in agony under the sheets, wondering how I would ever get a sock on one foot let alone pull up my trousers, when the Governor-General’s Private Secretary rang to ask whether I could drop in half an hour earlier.

“Delighted,” I said, betraying nothing of my misery, and an hour later, having gyrated round the room and writhed about the floor to pull my pants on, I tottered into Government House.

And then the British Embassy came to my rescue by recommending a chiropractor who with a few gentle twists sent me away walking almost on air.

My friend nodded. He had heard it all before.

And, anyway, the chiropractor was rather far away.

Another colleague phoned. “Hello,” he said cheerily. “I’ve got a bad back – And what do you think I’ve been doing? Lying in bed watching a programme all about backs…” Plainly, half Britain had been watching Lumbered.

It had been interesting, but it hadn’t really helped any of us.

Its only real conclusion was that everything would be fine if only we walked on all fours. The trouble started the day we got up on our hind legs. The spine is designed to operate horizontally and as soon as it was made to work vertically it suffered all sorts of strains and stresses. It was like an upright bicycle chain.

So the first person to stand up on two feet must have had a hell of a backache. What on earth made him go on with it?


The choir & organist of St Bride’s performed the following anthems and songs:

Nimrod from Enigma Variations – Elgar

God be in my head – Walford Davies

Gloria from Mass in B minor – J S Bach

Kyrie from Missa Luba – Haazen

Soave sia il vento from Cosi fan tutte – Mozart

La vie en rose – Piaf/Monnot arr. Jones

Art of Fugue BWV 1080 Contrapunctus No. 4 – J S Bach


The Lord’s my Shepherd

I bind unto myself today

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer

Obituaries & Comments

congregation sitting for service


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