Guild member Derek Watson, who died Tuesday, May 14, was a much-respected journalist and PR specialist. He is pictured (right) with David Steers in March 1991, enthusiastically receiving a flask and bottle of Drambuie upon stepping down as Guild treasurer.
Derek’s hospitality as PR host in the Royal Smithfield Show press room was appreciated by all who sampled it.
Farm North East editor, Eddie Gillanders writes: “Derek looked after the Scottish press particularly well, always with a bottle or two of Scotch on hand at what became designated as ‘Scotch corner’ in the press room! Not sure if it was named after the whisky or because the Scottish contingent made the most use of it!”
During his career, Derek Watson worked on Farmer & Stockbreeder, edited The Farmers Club Journal and handled agricultural PR at Agripress with colleagues Max Reader and the late Ray Grater.
He was a Guild Council member and treasurer for many years and was one of the original founding Trustees of the Guild’s Charitable Trust, its secretary and treasurer. Derek remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Trust, organising the fund-raising prize draw at the Harvest Lunch.
“My father received tremendous support from the Charitable Trust and from individual trustees,” says his daughter Tessa Bevin, who kindly supplied the photos used here. “He also received excellent palliative care from St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley, where the staff seemed as concerned for our welfare as for my father’s.”
Derek spent his final years in comfort of the nursing home in Dorking run by the Journalists’ Charity. “I can’t speak highly enough of the care and attention my father received from manager Brian Bostock and his staff at Pickering House,” says Tessa. “He was looked after extraordinarily well.”
Guild members who would like to share their memories of Derek on this page should email them to website editor Peter Hill.
Joe Watson: Very much a character, the life and soul of any party and someone who did so much for the Guild and the Trust. He will be very much missed.
Trevor Hayes: Sorry to hear about the death of Derek Watson. I remember bumping into him plus Max and Ray walking down Fleet Street one morning when I first started taking an interest in agricultural politics while still a news reporter at the Press Association in Fleet Street, before I went to FW.
“Hello, dear boy,” he said. “We’re just off to the xyz watering hole, why don’t you join us.”
Derek was always helpful and endearing. Did not realise he had gone to Charterhouse; I tried to get in there but narrowly failed to do so. Good on you Derek. May you rest in peace.
John Dutton: I first met Derek via Smithfield Show press room when at Farmers Weekly and subsequently worked with him for a number of years as we handled press and editorial for Semex UK. He helped me enormously when I left FW to freelance and I thoroughly enjoyed our weekly trips to Prestwick, Scotland. Another who will be sorely missed. God bless, Derek.
Peter Bullen: Back in the late 1950s, when I wrote the weekly agricultural news in The Surrey Advertiser, I had the pleasure of interviewing Derek (who lived near Godalming in Surrey) when he was runner-up for the annual Fison’s Award for Agricultural Journalism for an article in Farmer and Stockbreeder. He was to move shortly after to the weekly Farming Express, set up by Lord Beaverbrook as part of his campaign against the UK’s membership of the Common Market. I became a colleague of Derek’s on that paper in 1960 and have been privileged to call that kind, cheerful, and industrious journalist, a friend ever since.
Roger Trewhella: Derek provided PR support to NFYFC back in the 1980s. He brought a degree of professionalism to an organisation that was not worldly-wise in such matters. Never flustered, he was particularly good company at the Annual Convention.
Graham Fuller: A truly top bloke who, despite my rudimentary knowledge of all things rural, took a genuine interest in my earliest jottings with Agricultural Machinery Journal (AMJ) and Farmers Weekly. Cheers, mate.
Mary Cherry: I am very sad to hear of Derek’s death, though I know he had been unwell for some years and it is a while since I last saw him. I first got to know him when we both worked for Douglas Fraser on the old Farmer & Stockbreeder back in the 1950s! Then we came together again in the course of various Guild activities and particularly in relation to the Charitable Trust. I am very glad and feel privileged to have known him.
George Macpherson: I remember Derek with great fondness, especially for his patience and generosity to someone changing career and starting from scratch in journalism. He was never too busy to explain; always prepared to answer questions and find out more, if asked. A kind man, reliable and genuine; good humoured and amusing. His presence at a press briefing gave one confidence in the product or concept being launched. He was greatly respected and valued.
Claire Powell: I was saddened to read of Derek Watson’s departure from this earth. He was extremely kind to me, in many ways, and my memories of the lovely Derek can be summarised as a kind, cuddly, spirit lifting, lovely man, great company and a true gentleman.
Max Reader: I first encountered Derek in the early ‘60s when I was working with Ray Grater on Agricultural Machinery Journal. At the time, if my memory serves me correctly, Derek was working with Farmer & Stockbreeder and Farming Express. Over the next few years I enjoyed his company on various machinery related assignments and was greatly impressed by his professionalism, courtesy, patience and above all, kindness.
Later, Derek moved to a new specialist PR company called Agripress to run the company’s news service and was joined not long afterwards by Ray Grater and finally by myself in 1970. Eventually the three of us became partners, a happy and fulfilling time in my working life that I will always remember. In later years, as Editor of the Farmers Club Journal, it was always a pleasure to see him in the Club and many a happy hour was spent reminiscing over a glass or two. Derek, it was a privilege to count you as a colleague and a good friend.
Derek is pictured below (centre) at the Royal Show with fellow Agripress PR, the late Ray Grater (left) and client Mike Still of Ford Tractors.
David Steers: I well remember the occasion pictured at the top of this page along with countless others when I was Guild Chairman. Derek’s greatest wish was to be covered in Drambuie and have it licked off by whichever fair maiden was around at the time!
He worked with me in producing a newspaper for the time Britain hosted the IFAJ Congress held at Solihull and was of great support when I was Guild President, and later IFAJ President. Not only with his knowledge of both the Guild and the agriculture media but also his unfailing sense of humour. We first met when I joined the Sunday and Daily Telegraph in the 1960s and his humour and wit has been in my mind sever since.
Nick Bond: Derek will be remembered for his cheerful smile and wicked sense of humour. I first met him when I was organising maize harvesting demonstrations in the 1980s where, as a partner in Agripress, he was representing several of the participating machinery companies. When I took on the role of Guild treasurer, I greatly appreciated his friendly advice based on years of experience. An enduring memory will be of working with him on the organising committee of the UK-based IFAJ congress in 1997, during which he (and everyone else) enjoyed his lively birthday celebration! His funeral, though a sad occasion, was a celebration of his life; I know he would have approved and even enjoyed it!
Allan Wright: Derek’s good friend spoke of his professional life in a funeral service eulogy that can be read here.