Programme output departments in the BBC are like fiefdoms, and the barons who control them are not famous for their generosity. And Derrick had a reputation for being acerbic.
I approached him in the corridor that leads to the canteen and said, 'I was thinking of starting a news programme for children.' His immediate reaction was 'What an interesting idea - come and see me at four o'clock.'
I found Derrick engrossed in a playback of the previous night's Nine O'Clock News. After a minute he switched off the television, sat behind the desk, and said,
He listened to the first few sentences, got up, walked to the window and closed the Venetian blinds. 'That's so the bosses can't see us drinking,' he said, and poured out two enormous gins topped up with a smidgeon of flat warm tonic.
Before I left he had made several razor-like suggestions, and committed himself to allowing Children's Programmes to use the mighty News machine with complete editorial freedom. This was the beginning of Newsround, the world's first daily news bulletin for children, now in its 21st year. Television organisations everywhere have tried to emulate it, but nowhere else has there been an Editor of Television News with the breadth of mind to ensure its success. I doubt if any other head of department in the BBC's history would have shown such foresight, generosity and objectivity. He was a maverick: he put programmes first and rubbished anything or anyone who stood in their way.