CJA Newsletter special – Remembering Derek Ingram
The Commonwealth Journalists’ Association (CJA) is proud to present a special edition of its newsletter to remember the contribution to Commonwealth journalism made by Derek Ingram. Derek Ingram (20th June 1925- 17th June 2018) was one of the co-founders of the CJA in 1978.
The CJA thought it fitting to produce a special edition bringing together memories of Derek from across the world.
* Part one includes reflections on Derek from the post-war period to the early Gemini News years
* Part two looks at the 1960s, 70s and 1980s
* Part three reflects on Derek’s influence and legacy across the modern Commonwealth
The tributes will be from journalists who knew Derek and wished in 2018 to pay tribute to his legacy.
Derek Ingram was a modest man who resisted frequent urgings to write his autobiography. But he did make a start on his memoirs. This extract describes his first foreign travel in 1944 – on wartime service with the Royal Navy – and his love of newspapers and becoming a journalist:
“Stumble down the gangway from the troopship Orontes. Kitbag on right shoulder. Hammock in left hand. Bare white knees below new white shorts. Pipe poking out of sock top. Paybook hanging round neck in a chamois leather bag sewn together by my mother in Muswell Hill. Mid-June Maltese sun furnacing down.
Now hundreds of us are lined up on the vast dusty square of Verdala Castle barracks, like a scene from a film about the Foreign Legion. Of course we have been strictly lectured, service-style, on the slow voyage south from Gourock to beware of sunburn, to cover our legs and arms etc; of course we find ourselves standing for hours in the merciless heat remote from any vestige of shelter.
As the sun begins to drop in the sky and the bells of Valletta start their argumentative evening chorus we are at last, paper work done, loaded into open trucks and driven off to town. Halfway we stop for forty minutes, as a long carborne Catholic procession snakes through a narrow crossing. It is Sunday and, as usual, some saints day or other.
So this was abroad.
On my 19th birthday I was out of England for the first time; my feet on foreign soil. I was excited.
I had no plan for my life except for the fact that I was sure even before I reached my teens that I was going to be a journalist. Absolutely nothing else interested me. Even at ten years old I ran each morning down to the street door of our modest first floor flat (over a newsagents shop) at 7 o’clock – before my parents were up – and grabbed The Daily Mail as it plopped through the letter box.
Less than 20 years later I found myself having a major hand in what would appear in columns of the Daily Mail. (Derek was to become deputy editor by 1963 after 17 years with the paper)
For a journalist I was always an innately shy person. By chance and fortunately for me, I never was a staff reporter. Indeed, I would have been a poor one and may have failed early as a journalist simply because I would never have had enough nerve to doorstep and ask the tough questions.
In a way my career was back to front, starting as a sub-editor and ending up more writer than editor – and then mainly as a reporter of political and international affairs. To this day I can be shy of asking questions at press conferences, although from time to time I have posed my share of tough ones to top politicians. To this day I retain, in the presence of a person in authority, a certain timidity and awe that a journalist should never feel.
That is why I am more surprised than proud of what little I may have done or achieved. I have never lost the feeling when I find myself at a major event or in the presence of a major figure, be it Jawarharlal Nehru, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher or Mammar Gaddafy, that I need to pinch myself and ask “Am I really here?” and “How did I get all the way here from the small house in Leigh-on-Sea where I was born? Is this really me here?”
[Thanks to Derek’s godson, Nick Hall, for this contribution.]
Nick Hall writes:
Derek was a communicator, a dedicated journalist and very cultured gentleman. On being called up to serve in the Navy when he turned 18, Derek was already a senior sub-editor on Fleet Street, responsible for laying out the front page. Soon at sea en route for Malta, he produced and edited and wrote most of the ship’s newsletter. In Rome, he joined Hugh Cudlipp writing for the allied forces newspaper, and between times he never missed a chance to go to the opera. By the time he left Italy in 1946 to return to journalism in England he had become an expert on Rome’s historic sites and visited Venice, Naples and Ischia. Like any good journalist, he kept copious notes and meticulous files throughout his life; his records of his time in Italy are echoed in the quality of the extensive archive of papers he has left to the University of London library at Senate House.
Derek’s uncle was a journalist with the Press Association. His father was a publisher. The media and printing was in his DNA. On returning to England, Derek worked first as a sub-editor in Manchester for a year before getting back to Fleet Street. Seventeen years later he had worked his way up to become deputy editor of the Daily Mail, then a rather more balanced paper than it has become. He may well have become editor, but his interest in foreign affairs whilst the British Empire was starting to crumble, kindled by his time in the Mediterranean, together with an innate sense of justice and deep-felt humanity meant that he eventually fell out with Lord Rothermere.
Derek’s lifelong friend and colleague Richard (Dick) Hall joined him on the Mail in 1950. They wrote a play together about a serviceman in Italy jilted after the war, but it wasn’t quite edgy enough in the days when Kenneth Tynon was becoming provocatively popular on the London stage. Derek enjoyed theatre and music and the finer side of London life throughout his life. There’s hardly a performance of a Shakespeare play he didn’t see during the past 70 years; he kept all the programmes.
When Dick Hall left London in 1955 to edit a paper on the Copperbelt in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia, since 1964 ), Derek became connected closely to decolonisation in Africa. Their private correspondence over the next ten years has only just emerged from Derek’s private papers. They are evidence of Derek’s insistence on equality, multi-culturalism and a fair approach to ending colonial exploitation. Derek was in Cyprus on holiday when the Suez crisis blew up. With Mike Randall as editor alongside Derek, the Mail was an enlightened voice. He knew how Britain should behave, but his words fell on deaf ears in Whitehall.
Meanwhile Dick Hall wrote home with news of unrest on the Copperbelt as African miners were laid off because the price of copper fell dramatically, in large part because of Suez. The mine mangers – all white then – also suffered, a bit, as their annual bonus was also cut. Derek visited the Hall family in Mufulira and toured central Africa, meeting both the white government and upcoming African politicians in 1958. From then on he kept a close eye and was very well informed as the federal government of northern and southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland collapsed. His increasing seniority at the Daily Mail, and frequent overseas trips – to India, Ghana and East and Central Africa – ensured that the Mail adopted a positive and non-racist approach to decolonisation across Africa. Derek wrote his first book, about the Commonwealth (1). But he was sidelined in the mid ‘60s and felt obliged to resign when Lord Rothermere insisted on an editorial supporting a soft approach to Ian Smith’s Declaration of Independence in 1965. His colleague on the paper recalls the moment late on a Sunday evening when Derek was in charge of seeing the paper to bed. “We can’t say that!” He resigned soon after on being offered a managerial role to found Gemini News Service.
Lifetime friend, Richard Bourne, writes: Few British journalists could anticipate obituaries in such widely separated papers as the Ottawa Citizen in Canada and The Cable in Nigeria. But it is a measure of the affection and respect for Derek Ingram, who died three days short of his 93rd birthday, that his death was marked by fellow journalists throughout the Commonwealth, as well as former Secretaries-General.
Derek had a precocious career in wartime and post-war Fleet Street. He was subediting front pages on the Daily Sketch at the age of 17. By the 1960s he was deputy editor of the Daily Mail, then going through a relatively liberal phase under William Hardcastle and Mike Randall, which had “For Queen and Commonwealth” on its masthead. But he left after he told Esmond Rothermere, the proprietor, that he could not write a leader supporting apartheid South Africa, and Lord Rothermere said that as he owned the paper he could write what he liked!
I got to know Derek not as a fellow journalist, but from 1982 when he was on the board of the then Commonwealth Institute in Kensington, and I was its deputy director. As editor of Gemini, the news service he had set up, he was in the thick of the anti-apartheid campaign. It was tough running a financially-stretched service, working with and for developing countries, and that was the year it stopped. James Porter, director of the Institute, helped him refloat it with Canadian funding, and a fresh purpose, to promote development education and development journalism.
Gemini gave many young journalists a break, such as Trevor McDonald, then in Trinidad. It was amazing to see Derek producing nonstop copy when covering Commonwealth summits, and mentoring other journalists who did not understand what was going on. His mews house in
Marylebone became a sanctuary for those passing through London. With Patrick Keatley he set up the CJA – Pat used to describe its small office satirically as “the global headquarters” – and it was an endless worry for Derek as President to raise money for the triennial CJA conferences.
Many of us remember Derek for his kindliness, hospitality and sense of humour. An ambassador for and expert on the Commonwealth, he was not uncritical, seeing a want of ambition in officials, a penny-pinching approach by leading governments, and a failure to fight for human rights. A tall tree has fallen in the forest.
Trevor Grundy writes on the life of the journalist who came to be known as “Mr Commonwealth” [This obit appeared on 25 June 2018]:
Derek Ingram, the doyen of Commonwealth journalists and a man awarded the MBE for his efforts to dismantle white rule in Rhodesia and apartheid in South Africa, has died at his home in London two days before his 93rd birthday.
Commenting on Ingram’s contribution to a better understanding of the role played by members of the 53 nations “club” whose head is Queen Elizabeth 11 (at her death her son Charles, Prince of Wales will succeed her in that role) the Guyanese Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Shridath Ramphal said that there was no more stalwart friend of the Commonwealth than Ingram. “I came to regard him as a member of the extended family of the (Commonwealth) Secretariat, though he never lost his journalistic independence or his ability to question.”
Ingram attended all of the bi-annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM) since the first one started in Singapore in 1971. He was unable to attend the Malta CHOGM in 2015 because of back and leg problems which grew worse over the years; leaving him at the end, bed ridden at his home in North West London. He was one of the best respected commentators on Commonwealth affairs, a regular contributor to many of the English-speaking world’s best known papers, magazines, radio and TV stations and an analyst for the “bible” of the Club, the Round Table magazine.
Derek Ingram was born at Westcliff-on-Sea, a small coastal town in Essex, Eastern England on 20th June 1925.
He left school at the age of 16 to pursue a career in journalism and at 17 was earning the then substantial sum for a beginner of six pounds and six shillings a week and laying out and sub-editing the front page of the once best-selling daily tabloid, the Daily Sketch.
During the Second World War Ingram was based in Malta with the Royal Navy.
In 1949 he joined Lord Beaverbrook’s Empire-crusading Daily Express before moving to Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail.
He moved up the ladder, becoming the paper’s chief sub-editor, then night editor and finally assistant editor before exchanging verbal blows with the proprietor over editorial matters.
His great friend and colleague Richard Hall (first editor of the Times of Zambia) believed that had Ingram not been quite so outspoken, he would have become one of Fleets Street’s great newspaper editors.
But what Fleet Street lost, the Commonwealth gained.
Deeply concerned that the British Government lacked knowledge about the kinds of problems freshly independent countries in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world were facing, he left mainstream journalism and founded the Gemini News Service with his friend and business partner, Oliver Carruthers.
Ingram had the ideas: Carruthers, the money.
With a small team of wannabe Africanists, Gemini churned out excellent features that emphasised the positive role played by Commonwealth members.
He and his team saw the agency as a bridge between English-speaking industrial countries and English-language media in the Third World.
At its height, Gemini New Service supplied well-illustrated and editorially balanced features to over 160 countries.
He was awarded the MBE (Member of the British Empire) for his role in helping to end white rule in Rhodesia.
But the human factor intervened again and internal disputes – mainly about money – ended Gemini. Attempts to revive it or replace it with another news/feature service met with no success.
Ingram was a prominent opponent of UDI in Rhodesia in 1965 and delighted in being appointed a Commonwealth election observer during the first democratic elections in Zimbabwe, as it then was, in 1980.
He was also an observer in the 1994 elections in South Africa when the ANC won its overwhelming victory after almost half a century of apartheid.
As a fairly young man, he regretted the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth (he knew why it had to go following the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960) but he rejoiced in June 1994 when that country returned to the Club.
One of his better known achievements was his role as founder of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA).
He was familiar with almost all of the Commonwealth’s movers and shakers from the late 1960s almost up to the time of his death.
His vast library included books signed by world leaders and men he called “Commonwealth giants” – Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia.
Patsy Robertson writes: The end of the British Empire and the emergence of a new Commonwealth of old and newly independent countries provided a news bonanza for the media worldwide. In Britain, coverage was mainly a mixture of pride in the decolonisation process, coupled with a measure of regret at what was widely seen Britain’s loss of power and prestige.
For leading journalists on every paper, this continuing source of news stories which made their reputations and brought them into relatively close contact with leaders from the emerging member states. By 1960, the Commonwealth Writers of Britain was formed with a membership of journalists who specialized in Commonwealth affairs and diplomats from High Commissions and other pre-independence offices in London. They gave lunches for leaders and delegations and provided them with a platform to speak directly to the British people. In fact, the excellent relationship between journalists and leaders, was encapsulated by the Zambian leader Kenneth Kaunda who often took time off from independence negotiations to have a round of golf with the legendary Seaghan Maynes of Reuter’s News Agency.
This genuine media interest in the emergence of the new Commonwealth inspired Derek Ingram, then Deputy Editor of the Daily Mail to stroll into Marlborough House one sunny day in 1966. He had come to discuss with the then Secretary General Arnold Smith his big idea of developing a news service dedicated to reporting on the Commonwealth for dissemination worldwide. I was in attendance as the Secretariat’s Press Officer and we pledged our full support.
The Secretariat then began encouraging the then 15-member Governments to take advantage of the British media’s interest in the Commonwealth’s resolve to end overt racism in Southern Africa. In the years following its establishment in 1965, the Secretariat placed papers on this issue at the two meetings of Prime Ministers in Lagos and London in 1966.
While the big news highly political, the establishment of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (CFTC), ensured that there was a wealth of information about development projects. There was a wide range of developing countries to report as well as on the key donors, mainly from the old Commonwealth.
Derek established the Gemini News Service in 1967 and, from then on, we worked closely to disseminate information about the Commonwealth worldwide. The Secretariat established its Information Division in 1971, and one of the first tasks was to arrange funding so that Gemini, now with a stable of eager journalists, was able to cover in depth these and other meetings and projects which were now established in many new member states. Derek and Gemini was at the centre of this expansion and through the Secretariat’s Media Development Fund, it was able to sponsor media training in a great number of developing countries as well as sponsor fellowships for journalists from developed countries such as Canada to take up internships in its London office. The highpoint of this collaboration was in 1981 when the then Prime Minister of Australia of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, donated a substantial sum to the Media Development Fund which through Gemini, enabled the Secretariat to bring a large contingent of journalists from developing countries to visit Australia for the CHOGM meeting.
In the 35 years of its existence, Derek ensured that coverage of the Commonwealth and its activities flowed from its small London office to newspapers throughout the world. I remember when the newly elected Shridath Ramphal , the second Secretary General, went to a meeting in Dubai and was astonished that a Gemini article about Commonwealth action in Southern Africa was the front-page headline story. This encapsulated the Gemini mission, led by the kindest, most talented, reasonable and knowledgeable journalist that I have ever known. In my 30-year career with the Commonwealth, Derek was my friend, mentor and confidant and this relationship was the rock on which my career was based.
Chris Cobb: Visionary editor Derek Ingram helped journalists all over the developing world – and in Canada too [an excerpt from the Ottawa Citizen]:
Derek Ingram had the appearance of a stereotypical English gentleman – tall, posh-sounding, unfailingly courteous, and always slightly rumpled. Hardly the image of a radical, futuristic thinker – which, in a low-key and determined manner, he most surely was.
He was also a legend among many Canadian journalists who, thanks to his vision, travelled the world as young reporters and developed a sense of the issues and challenges facing developing countries. Ingram died recently in London, just shy of his 93rd birthday.
Ingram, who also travelled the world, was deputy editor of the London-based Daily Mail – an influential position in British journalism – when he clashed with its owners over the newspaper’s colonial attitude, especially its coverage of South Africa during the apartheid era. A passionate human rights advocate, he loathed the racist South African regime, which at the time was wholeheartedly supported and defended by much of the British establishment.
In the subsequent 35 years [after parting with the Mail], Gemini gave worldwide exposure to dozens of journalists, most notably from developing Commonwealth countries. It paid them for their stories in a way that allowed many to sustain careers even in relatively poor countries. Many of today’s leading journalists across the developing world owe their start to Ingram.
Many Canadian journalists also praise him for their own early development. Gemini quickly forged a special relationship with Canada through a yearly IDRC fellowship that enabled young Canadian journalists to work at the tiny Gemini office in London before moving on to also report for it from developing countries. Canadian “Gemini fellows” reported from nations as diverse as India, Ethiopia, and Botswana.
“A couple of dozen Canadian journalists had their eyes opened to the developing world through Gemini,” said former Toronto Star reporter Allan Thompson, now a Carleton University journalism professor. “For me, as a reporter, it was a fantastic experience.
“Gemini pioneered the concept of journalists living and working in the countries they were writing about, and the service was reasonably priced, so it gave mid-size news outlets in the developing world a wire service written by their own journalists.”
The agency was also at the forefront of science and environmental reporting for and from developing nations.
Carruthers had been a “dilettante” journalist in the former Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and funded the Gemini project with inherited money; Ingram was the journalistic driving force. Gemini was a trailblazer with an eventual network of more than 100 correspondents across the world. But as a business venture, it was on chronically shaky ground. Neither Ingram nor Carruthers had business brains.
“We had a newspaper client in Tanzania who didn’t pay our bill for seven years,” recalled Daniel Nelson, who succeeded Ingram as Gemini editor in 1993. “But Derek resisted cutting them off.
“Derek was tremendously loyal and liked the newspapers and journalists with whom we were dealing,” added Nelson. “He wasn’t simply making calculated commercial decisions. He always expected the best and most honourable outcomes from other people, so best to believe and trust people in the hope that they would deliver – which they generally did.”
Gemini teetered on the financial edge and at one point was taken over by the Guardian newspaper, then closed for a year in early 1982 before being resuscitated again in 1983 by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) which re-modelled the agency as an educational trust focused on development journalism. It closed permanently in 2002.
Ingram was a fierce advocate for media freedom and passionate about the Commonwealth, an organization of which Canada is a key member. He was key to creating the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and at a 1978 conference at Dalhousie University, he formed the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) with Canadian broadcaster Patrick Keatley and a group of other Commonwealth journalists.
The CJA provided journalism training across the developing world and created a network of local branches.
Ingram attended 20 Commonwealth summits and was considered a leading expert on the organization. Well into his 70s, he travelled the Commonwealth on behalf of the group’s Secretariat, gathering material for a report on how to enhance the organization and its image. Click here to read Chris Cobb’s full article https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/obituary-visionary-editor-derek-ingram-helped-journalists-all-over-the-developing-world-and-in-canada-too
Kayode Soyinka, founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Africa Today Magazine, writes:
Gemini [News Service] became so popular in newsrooms across the Commonwealth and the developing world in general that its base in London became the starting point for several budding Commonwealth journalists just starting a career in London. Such Commonwealth journalists like Cameron Duodu from Ghana, and Trevor McDonald, from Trinidad and Tobago, used the Gemini News Feature Service to launch themselves into mainstream media and journalism in the UK. As
London Correspondent of the Concord Press of Nigeria, I made it possible for the Concord to subscribe to Gemini News Feature Service. The subscription was still ongoing until I left in October 1983.
When I arrived in the UK in August 1978 to represent the Sketch newspapers of Nigeria as London Correspondent, Derek helped me to settle down by introducing me to the everyday 12:30 press briefing at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, where the UK’s view and position on key events happening around the world on the day were first made known to diplomatic and foreign correspondents by government officials. He introduced me to his close friend and colleague, the Canadian broadcaster, Patrick Keatley, who was then the Diplomatic Editor of the UK Guardian newspaper. It was through Derek and Patrick that I was introduced to Chatham House. They recommended me for membership and I became a member of the institute of international affairs. They also, with another ex-Guardian Education Editor, Richard Bourne, introduced me to the Round Table Moot – the editorial board of the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, membership of which I have retained for about 25 years now.
Derek travelled extensively in Africa as a journalist and for the Commonwealth. He related on a first-name basis with most pre-independence African leaders and politicians. He was a frequent visitor to Obosi, a village in eastern Nigeria, where he would visit Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the Nigerian diplomat who later became Commonwealth Secretary-General. During Chief Anyaoku’s tenure as S-G, Derek was given the responsibility of travelling around the Commonwealth to sound out opinions on how to rebrand, move the Commonwealth forward and make it more attractive, relevant, and effective especially in a post-apartheid and modern world. He was a most reliable repository of African and Commonwealth history, and confidante to several Secretaries-General of the Commonwealth. Until old age caught up with him and he could no longer travel, he had attended almost all Commonwealth Heads of Government Summits – he attended 20 in all.
Derek co-founded the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) in 1978 with Patrick Keatley. He served as the pioneer President of the CJA from 1980 to 1990. His tenure as CJA president was remarkable for establishing the CJA in most countries of the Commonwealth and making sure that journalists across member-countries could rely on the CJA for support, especially in their incessant struggles against pressures on the press from dictators, and that Commonwealth journalists received adequate training. When he left as CJA president, he handed over to a distinguished Nigerian editor Ray Ekpu. Derek became President Emeritus of the CJA after his retirement in 1990.
Derek was also partly instrumental to the establishment of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). In a quiet but remarkable manner, he used both platforms of the CJA and CHRI to provide support for pro-democracy campaigners in Nigeria during the political crisis in the country in the mid-90s. He supported international opposition to both the Babangida and Abacha regimes that had trampled upon the democratic will of the Nigerian people by the annulment of the result of the June 12, 1993, general election, which had been adjudged to be the freest, fairest and most credible in Nigeria’s history.
Throughout the period Abacha remained in power in Nigeria, and despite the fact that a Nigerian had been elected and was now his successor as CJA president, Derek and the CJA refused to take the international conference of the association to Nigeria. This was in order not to be seen to be providing credibility and recognition to the brutal Abacha regime, which had led to Nigeria’s
expulsion from the Commonwealth over the execution of the Ogoni rights activist Ken Saro Wiwa and eight others. Immediately democracy returned to Nigeria 29 May 1999, Derek made sure that Nigeria hosted the next CJA international conference, which took place in the capital Abuja in 2000 in honour of the country’s return to democratic rule. Besides, when Dele Giwa, the campaigning Nigerian editor was assassinated with a letter bomb on 19 October 1986, and Newswatch magazine that he edited was proscribed by the Babangida military junta, Derek was able to rally support of both the CJA and the CHRI and joined by the Commonwealth Press Union (CPU) to pressure Babangida to find Dele Giwa’s killers and re-open Newswatch.
Born in 1925, he will be remembered as a distinguished Commonwealth writer, journalist and editor, a passionate believer in and fighter for freedom of the press, most especially, using his preferred phrase, the “independence of the journalist”. He fought tirelessly for this to be the norm across the Commonwealth. Perhaps it is to his credit and honour that the Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance put together by the CJA, was launched last April in London to coincide with the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, which was hosted by the UK.
He will be sorely missed.
Mohamed Hamaludin, writing for Guyanese Online: I was among the journalists who had an opportunity to write for Gemini, starting in the 1970s, through a colleague and good friend Hubert Williams, when we both worked at the Guyana Chronicle in Georgetown. (Williams, who was Gemini’s Guyana correspondent, went on to become Information Officer of the Caribbean Development Bank, from which he retired several years ago.)
Asked to explain how I saw Gemini, I said in comments that were published in News on a Knife-edge, “I never rose to any great heights as a journalist but whatever abilities I was able to develop came largely through the work I did for Gemini.”
Through Ingram and Gemini, I was able, I hoped, to broaden the knowledge of the outside world as to what was going on in Guyana, especially with features outside of the routine news. During my career, I also worked in the Cayman Islands and in the Turks and Caicos Islands before I settled in South Florida. Gemini published features from me from those places.
I came to know Ingram very well over the years, though distance did not allow for as many meetings as I wanted. It was a joy to host him for even a couple of hours at my home in the Miami area several years ago when he was in transit on one of his numerous trips and made it a point to get together with me.
But perhaps the highpoint of my relationship with Gemini and Ingram came in October 1992 when I was invited to attend a four-day seminar sponsored by the news service and the University of Regina School of Journalism and Communications in Saskatchewan, Canada. The topic was, “Reporting the Developing World after the Cold War,” which is just the sort of topic that Gemini and Ingram would want to be discussed. The book News on a Knife-edge came out of the seminar.
Ingram and Gemini came into journalism at a time much different from today when the Internet and social media dominate the flow of news. But it was suited for he moment and played its role well.
Many of the Gemini journalists have no doubt long gone on to other endeavours following the closure of the service but I am sure that, like me, they have fond memories of the little news service that could – and did.
MODERN COMMONWEALTH, Former CJA President and Treasurer, Murray Burt, writes from Winnipeg, Canada: Derek Ingram, The universal journalist who made the Commonwealth matter:
No other individual had a greater positive influence on my life in journalism and geography than my dearest friend for years, Derek Ingram. My relationship with him began in the 1990s and buzzed around the world for a quarter century. He was the fuel that encouraged me, a wandering Kiwi, to appreciate spreading the international merit and news of the Commonwealth.
His enthusiasm for advancing our profession took my wife Betsy and me all over the world — starting with CJA international meetings in Barbados, then London, then Namibia and so through Bangladesh (for the silver jubilee), Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Namibia, India, Trinidad, Malta, Malaysia, and there must have been more, lost in my muddled addled memory.
His drive and encouragement, plus help from good friends in Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver got a CJA branch rolling in Canada. The Winnipeg activity progressed quite encouragingly with about 50 members at its zenith but sadly faded as young members’ interests were robbed of Commonwealth appreciation. Other Canadian branches didn’t shape up.
It is also sad that the CJA’s expanding interest that I was involved with in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada faded from the scene. Only the goodwill of London branch, and friends in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, keeps me connected, but more and more remote in the fading memory of an 85-year-old.
Derek Ingram was a great do-er, a great enthusiast, a great and charming speaker and a brilliant political negotiator for CJA.
His unparalleled drive advancing journalism, broadcasting and fellowship in the Commonwealth, delivered a wealth of understanding and appreciation.
Tribute to Derek Ingram by CJA-UK President, Rita Payne: My abiding memory of Derek will be of him sitting in his charming mews house with the TV remote in his hand intently watching the news, surrounded by newspapers and books. If one visited him in the evening he would most probably have a glass of wine beside him. Derek retained his keen interest in world affairs and news about the Commonwealth even when his health steadily declined and he became immobile. He never complained about his health, welcomed visitors and was always keen to hear about what was happening in the world outside.
Derek’s long-standing friend and colleague, Richard Bourne, who on hearing about Derek’s death in June this year, wrote: “A tall tree has fallen in the forest.”
Derek was indeed a towering figure in journalism, a pioneer, who ended the practice of the ‘developing world’ being presented through the eyes of mainly middle-aged, middle class, white
men. Through Gemini News Service, of which he was a founder, Derek provided, for the first time, a platform for journalists to report on their own countries. Derek was probably among the first to create development-journalism.
It was this spirit that led Derek to set up, with like-minded colleagues, the Commonwealth Journalists Association in 1978. He persuaded distinguished journalists he met during his travels around the Commonwealth to open branches in their respective countries. Several subsequently followed Derek in becoming Presidents of the CJA. Among them were Murray Burt in Canada, Hassan Shahriar in Bangladesh and Ray Ekpu in Nigeria. Another journalist he recruited is Mahendra Ved who is the CJA’s current president.
I first met Derek when I arrived in the UK in the early seventies as a struggling young journalist. I wrote my first report for Gemini News Service. We kept in touch over subsequent years after I joined the BBC. It was Derek who invited me to join the CJA when I retired from the BBC in 2008.
As the author of a number of books on the Commonwealth, Derek was an acknowledged authority on the organisation. In my role as Asia Editor at BBC World, I used to call on Derek to comment on Commonwealth affairs. While he was passionate in his support for the Commonwealth he was forthright in speaking out against its shortcomings. His views were valued because they were based on his personal relationship with successive Secretaries General including Sir Shridath Ramphal, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Don McKinnon. Derek was ferocious in condemning the killing and targeting of journalists and defending freedom of speech.
The flood of tributes which poured in after news of his death are testament to the profound influence he has had on journalists across the Commonwealth. Derek was always modest about his own achievements and experiences, the many heads of state he had met and his coverage of key moments in the history of the Commonwealth.
Derek embodied the best of journalism with an enduring interest in the Commonwealth and the world, high standards and integrity. Although Derek is no longer with us his influence will live on through the CJA.
Derek Ingram – Our founder, our mentor by Mahendra Ved, CJA International President: It is deeply saddening to learn that Mr Derek Ingram, our founding president and mentor has passed away. Many journalists and English language readers grew up reading articles and features released by Gemini that he founded and edited for long years.
I met him at the Sarawak conference long after getting to know him by reading his Gemini pieces. Derek embodied the purpose and the spirit that went into the founding and nurturing of the CJA. We shall miss him, as he left us at a time when not just CJA but the Commonwealth as a body needs greater and deeper nurturing. In a sense, we feel orphaned.
But we have Derek’s spirit, wisdom and the ideas that he has left us with to pursue with greater vigour and diligence. Farewell, Derek. CJA dips its flag in deep gratitude. May You find peace in the great newsroom up above.
Stephen Cutts writes: I am so saddened to hear this news – I spent many hours in this wonderful man’s company…most recently when he relayed his recollections of London in the Blitz. Derek was perhaps the best possible ambassador for the Commonwealth – both through his steadfast support for the association, but also through his robust and incisive criticism of its failings in recent years. We should mourn his passing but celebrate a wonderful life. Rest In peace.
Ian Gillham writes: When I started work as Executive Director of the CJA in the early years of this century, Derek was very much a mystery figure to me. There I was in the small first-floor office off Marylebone High Street in London. There was the charming, redoubtable and hard working Edna Tweedie who with Lawrie Breen, my predecessor, had held the CJA together administratively for many years. But of Derek, founder and progenitor with Patrick Keatley of the whole shoot, there was no sign. And it remained like that for several weeks. Actually I think he was on holiday but Derek was – using the term in its most positive sense – an eminence grise, a grey eminence of not only the CJA, but as I was later to find out, of the Commonwealth as a whole. He was someone, who contrary to my first experience, was in fact always there, behind the scenes but often also in front of them, always working for the CJA, the CHRI, Gemini, and his beloved Commonwealth.
As I grew to know him over the years, I realised his apparent gentle diffidence and politeness covered a frightening work ethic – you only had to look for sitting space in his Wyndham Mews house where chairs, tables, floor were covered with work in progress, cuttings, books for review. He also had an unshakeable sense that everything would be alright. Neither of the big conferences with which I was concerned – Nigeria and Bangladesh – was easy to organise or fund. But Derek was always insistent that each would work and he was an antidote to my occasional bouts of despair. And work they did, with help from Derek’s contacts – and in the case of Bangladesh a prodigious effort from the local CJA.
Derek put in so much physical and intellectual legwork for the Commonwealth. He was kind in introducing me to so many Commonwealth figures and events. He liked nothing better than to be tucked away at a modest lunch in some small Marylebone restaurant and to be chewing over Commonwealth ideas as well as the tandoori chicken. He hosted generous parties at Wyndham Mews, wall to wall people served from a miniscule kitchen. For me, he was at his peak at his 80th birthday party in the upper room of a gastro-pub, enjoying in a modest way the celebration of a lifetime of remarkable achievements. The CJA, and the Commonwealth, will never know how much effort he put in on their behalf. We all miss him. Thank you Derek.
CJA executive member and newsletter editor, Debbie Ransome, writes: My generation were the beneficiaries of Derek’s legacy. As a stringer in Trinidad & Tobago and later managing a team of stringers across the Caribbean as Head of the BBC’s Caribbean Service, we reaped the benefits of a model of respecting on-the-ground reporting which Derek and the team at Gemini had placed on the global news agenda in the 1960s and 70s. Derek also personally helped many of us to join the dots in understanding the complicated network that is the Commonwealth and its associated organisations. When I started to visit his home where the CJA-UK executive had been invited to hold our meetings as Derek became less mobile, he continued to keep us on track in terms of CJA principles and aims. His sharp mind, touched with a sense of humour and glint in his eye, kept the CJA focused as we
looked to deal with the challenges facing journalists today in the digital era. We kept him up-to-date on the latest CJA and Commonwealth gossip which he loved.
To keep that focus of merging the best principles of journalism and the Commonwealth which Derek pushed for, will be the best tribute we could pay to him.
PLEASE NOTE: There will be a Service of Thanksgiving for Derek Ingram. It takes place on Thursday November 8th 2018 at 1130 at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London EC4.
Derek Ingram – Partners in Adventure: A new look at the Commonwealth Today (1960) https://www.amazon.com/Partners-Adventure-Look-Commonwealth-Today/dp/B0000CKRNO
Records of Gemini News Service –Guardian News http://guardian.calmview.eu/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=GEM
Gemini’s news legacy and development journalism https://www.commonwealthroundtable.co.uk/commonwealth/geminis-news-legacy-development-journalism/
CJA gives outstanding award to Derek Ingram http://commonwealthjournalists.org/derek-ingram-given-outstanding-contribution-to-commonwealth-award/
Gemini’s 70th anniversary https://www.commonwealthroundtable.co.uk/general/media/an-anniversary-to-commemorate/
Derek Ingram on Julius Nyerere https://www.juliusnyerere.org/uploads/nyerere_lifetime_legacy_derek_ingram.pdf
Gemini: News on a Knife Edge https://www.amazon.co.uk/News-Knife-Edge-Gemini-Journalism/dp/1860205240
This special edition of the CJA newsletter was compiled and edited by Debbie Ransome. Thanks to editorial consulting team Rita Payne, Nick Hall, Richard Bourne and Martin Lumb. Formatting by Athira Suresh. You can catch up with back issues of the regular quarterly CJA newsletter which informs members about journalism across the Commonwealth and keep up with Commonwealth journalism news on our website.