Derrick Holden, who has died aged 91, was an accomplished journalist who devoted his life to a single local newspaper.
Derrick was the backbone of the Northampton Chronicle & Echo from 1953, as senior reporter, specialising in courts and councils, and then as assistant editor, overseeing the news side. For nearly 20 years he also wrote a weekly column under the pseudonym John Grosvenor, drawing on his matchless local knowledge and contacts.
Even after he formally retired in the early 1990s, Derrick popped up at once as a freelance court reporter and kept doing that until he was 79.
He was born in Bedford, son of Patrick, an electrician, and Dorothy (nee Trasler), a kitchen worker. At 14, Derrick was plucked from class at Bedford Modern school by the editor of the weekly Bedfordshire Times, who sensed a likely lad and was desperate due to wartime staff shortages. He started the next day; other than two years’ national service (his brilliant shorthand got him a cushy number at the War Office), that would be his life, and he adored it.
At heart, he was always a just-the-facts newsman. Derrick covered major court cases in Bedford (including a capital murder trial) from an early stage. He then moved to ”the Chron” in Northampton, a well-staffed daily with a 50,000 circulation, where he reported courts and councils in the best traditions of local journalism: no frills, but accurate, clear and balanced.
He had another attribute: a lovely nature. Derrick made no enemies. And, when he moved into the hierarchy and imparted his values to others, he did it always with a light touch and a kindly manner. “He dealt fairly with his colleagues and everyone else,” recalled Ian Mayes, features editor of the Chron before joining the Guardian.“He was very considerate and concerned with everyone’s welfare.”
Generations of Chron youngsters moved on or dropped out but, like a journalistic Mr Chips, Derrick stayed in Northampton and took pride in those who thrived elsewhere.
To his infinite sadness, the newspaper he loved for 67 years shrivelled into a small-circulation weekly. But he read it every week to the end, wielding an imaginary pencil and sighing when he spotted mistakes.
In 1965 he married a colleague, Glenys Rowe. She survives him, as do their two sons, James and Matthew, and four grandchildren.