For an entire day, a candle burned outside Winston Derrick’s office. It shared a tray with a cup of black coffee – which we all knew would never be drunk – until it burnt all the way down to the wick.
On Saturday, a light was extinguished. Not just for OBSERVER Media Group but for the nation.
From 4 am that morning, as the dreadful news of his passing spread, our staff gathered one by one in our newsroom. Instead of the light percussion of keyboards and the good-humoured banter that usually sets the ambience, we sat stunned, muted, in disbelief.
Journalists lined the floor, leaned against walls, and against each other in a gentle embrace. That morning we saw each other as our families do; in our ‘civvies’, hair unkempt, slightly dishevelled. The sheer numbers were a solid testimony – as if any were needed – that to each and every one he was much more than a boss. A role model. A pioneer. To many, a faithful friend; for some, like a father.
The indelible legacy Winston has left is not one which can be fully encapsulated in words. And we will not attempt to do so.
His death has left a void which can never be filled. His presence in the office was constant, his dedication to our work infallible, his quest for truth and justice infinite.
His candid tongue was not for the faint-hearted. His guileless oration may have occasionally stung but his heart was as big as an ox. For each blunt summation, each of us can similarly relate a moment of spontaneous generosity, a proffer of unexpected benevolence.
Forthright in his convictions, he didn’t pull any punches. Retort in the same vein and he’d be unblinking. Bump into him in a bar that night and he’d hug you.
It goes without saying that Winston commanded respect wherever he went. Not least by us. He made no secret of his lack of formal training. But that was no barrier to the dyed-in-the-wool journalist he would become, reporting without fear, and without favour. He loathed those who thought they could buy us – and anyone who allowed themselves bought.
It’s undeniable that his absence has knocked us. But this week we have pledged to carry on. So, as we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, we are determined to continue what he started. His wish for us to do just that, when the time eventually came, is well documented within OBSERVER walls.
Now, more than ever before, we pledge to pull together, to unite, to support each other and to fight on, just as he wanted.
OBSERVER has been through challenges before and we will battle through them now, as we seek to further his legacy as the voice of the people, a champion for justice, a crusader for the common man.
It’s times like these that define us; both individually and as an organisation. As momentous a task as it may be, we will be doing our utmost to do him justice – on the airwaves, online and in the newspaper.
The empire he built – as a man, a revolutionary, a national icon, a local hero – we will strive to keep alive.
So sleep well Mr D, you’ve earned it. No one will ever replace you, and we have no intention of trying.
Our final gift to you is simply to make you proud.