My Mentor: Sir Peregrine Worsthorne on Donald Tyerman

'He convinced me to believe in myself as suitable to be a journalist'
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The Independent Online

"In 1947, when I was out of the army, I wrote out of the blue to Donald Tyerman, deputy editor of The Times, saying that I was anxious to be a journalist.

He asked me to come in and we spoke about my ambitions; he said The Times wouldn't take me on until I'd spent at least two years in the provinces. So off I went to the Glasgow Herald. I made a note to write to him two years later, to the day, and he was impressed when I did, and gave me a job on the paper.

"Donald wasn't a gifted writing journalist, but an academic and a good editor. He had a very strong personality, very commanding. And he was enormously strong physically, despite the fact he walked on sticks because of his polio. It was quite remarkable.

"There was a small group of young journalists who ate lunch with him - he called us his 'babies'.

"He had a very inspiring approach to journalism, particularly with the need for truth and accuracy, and not to be led away by the more spectacular aspects of a story. The Times was very much a paper of record - its readers wanted informed stuff without the thrills, and that's what they got.

"I'm not saying I've always followed his advice, but he set an ideal.

"He sent me on my first serious job in journalism - one of these arranged visits, to Finland. I wrote three turnover articles, which were anonymous in those days.

"He called me into his office and said: 'I think that's a very promising beginning.' You remember that first moment when a senior person in an organisation takes you seriously as a prospective member of that occupation, and is willing to give up their time, and I suppose their friendship, to you.

"He convinced me to believe in myself as suitable to be a journalist. Before then I'd never received any encouragement to continue as a journalist - quite the opposite in fact. Alastair Hetherington, the senior sub at the Herald, was always putting me down. Donald became editor of The Economist but it all ended in tears when he became an alcoholic. He was asked to go on a [television] programme, but he arrived drunk and had to be faded out by the cameras. One of the newspapers the next day ran a cartoon saying 'Econopissed'.

"Nevertheless, he nurtured me during my early years. He gave me my first chance and his encouragement inspired me, gave me that self-belief you need."