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Longest-serving lensman to retire after 50 years

Stockport Express photographer Derek Martin is to retire later this month after half a century in regional newspapers.

The chief photographer, who turns 65 next week, is Guardian Media Group’s longest continuously serving employee – with a total of 50 years – and has taken more than a million pictures during that time.

He has pictured street parties, eclipses, Christmas babies, war heroes, golden, diamond and platinum weddings, millionaires, marathons, magic moments, politicians, princes and paupers, mere mortals, the Pope and Princess Diana… though not together.

Derek (pictured) said: “I always make time for people – I talk to everyone, whether they are road sweepers or mayors. It is people that make life interesting.

“No two days have been the same. The years were the same because so many jobs were annual events, but the days were different.”

Derek – or D to his many friends – has an unending catalogue of press stories.

He said: “In the sixties we had a competition for teenagers and the winners got to meet Gerry and the Pacemakers in Ipswich and the Beatles in London and I had to take them in my Morris 1000.

“We went to Ipswich and Gerry was charming. I then took the girls to Finsbury Park to see the Beatles at night.

“It was all arranged we meet them. I got in the dressing room with the two girls and the Beatles were sitting there. I was taking pictures and another photographer came in taking pictures.

“I thought he was from a daily paper and he would have ruined my exclusive by publishing the pictures the next day. So a scuffle broke out between us. As we fought, the Beatles loved it and shouted ‘bloody give him one – go on crack him’.

“It turned out he was from an American magazine so he wouldn’t have been a threat anyway.”

  • Peter Sellers filming The Pink Panther at Manchester Airport, June 1976
  • Derek’s job has also brought him face to face with far more life-threatening situations when he has been to Belfast with Stockport soldiers on tours of duty with the Cheshire Regiment.

    On one occassion he missed being the victim of a bombing by minutes after leaving the Europa Hotel, and on another he was threatened while researching the background to a Stockport woman with IRA links.

    Derek said: “I was in a railway station bar with the reporter. We were approached by a stranger who thought we were Special Branch officers. He told us we would be shot.

    “There was no doubt he meant it. It didn’t happen but it was terrifying because the threat was so real.”

  • An armed robbery in Disley leads to an intensive search of the streets of Offerton, after the criminals were traced to the area, April 1999
  • Derek got his first job as an office boy at the former City News in Ducie Street, Manchester on a wage of £1 6s 0d (130p in today’s equivalent). His next job was to make tea and get chips for photographers.

    His first published picture – on a glass plate camera – was taken at Harpurhey Dogs Home for a lost dog feature.

    Derek said: “People thought it was glamorous working for a newspaper but it was seven-days-a-week.

    “I was based at the Wythenshawe office and when I asked where the dark room was I was told to make one – it was an old house then. I had to paint the window black.

    “The prints had to be washed in the bath and hung on a line with an electrical fire beneath it to dry them out.”

    During his 36 years at the Stockport Express Derek has seen the transition from plate cameras through to today’s high tech digital units, and has worked for 16 editors.

    Current editor Mandy Leigh said: “I have only worked with Derek for a few months but in that time I have seen the great respect and regard in which he is held by the public and by his peers.

    “After 50 years of work he has not lost either his sense of humour or his enthusiasm for picturing people in their everyday lives – and that is something that is truly amazing.”

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