Obituary: Derek Maggs
Monday 07 December 1992
DEREK MAGGS, known at Bush House as a first-class radio journalist, unflappable in a crisis, who made an important contribution to the life of the newsroom in an individual and team capacity over many years, was a 'double-lifer' - like so many in the World Service. On his days off he worked in his garden shed as an artisan printer.
Maggs was not, and never claimed to be, a printer in the league of Christopher Skelton or Bernard Roberts (whose beautiful work he admired greatly) - he had neither the technology nor the ambition. What he did do as well as anybody was to hand-set, print and bind small, unembellished yet elegant books and pamphlets for several small-press publishers, including the Enitharmon Press, Poetical Histories in Cambridge, the Big Little Poem Series in Grimsby, and myself, at the Menard Press. He printed, too, more than 100 'MenCards' for me over 20 years. These were postcard poems often marking a Menard author's new book, visit to England, round-number birthday or death. He was the perfect jobbing printer of wedding invitations, church bazaar programmes etc for many colleagues in Bush House, where he worked for more than 30 years, finishing as a senior duty editor.
Surely the cheapest printer in the UK (basically he worked at cost price because he enjoyed the labour as a hobby), he printed for me at times when subsidies were not forthcoming. It was not even that he printed things more cheaply than anybody else, so much as he made books and cards possible which would otherwise never have seen the light of day. He always did exactly what one requested, though he could be affectionately irascible if the customer was unclear with instructions or asked too much of his rudimentary technology.
We lived at opposite ends of London, and would meet half- way, at Bush House (on more than one occasion at 2am), for a drink or two and the handing over of the latest book or card. Although he enjoyed the company of close friends and colleagues in the BBC Club, he was an intensely shy and private individual who would never come to the publishing parties for which he had printed the invitations.
His death from a galloping cancer - less than two weeks before he died he wrote me from hospital that he'd be home in time to finish my latest job before Christmas, and on the phone he was even able to joke that since he was already bald at least one symptom did not affect him - removes a friend and colleague from the small-press scene who was, the words are correct for once, literally irreplaceable.
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