A WELL known Irvine journalist legend has passed away having tested positive for coronavirus.

Derek Masterton, 66, battled lung cancer and sepsis in recent years but had improved before COVID-19 hit and he had to shield.

Just over two weeks ago he was diagnosed with the virus. His condition deteriorated in hospital and he died on Friday, November 13.

Derek began his journalistic career at the Irvine Times in 1973, having grown up in the town attending Ravenspark Academy - where he met his future wife Nanette at 16-years-old.

He then became the Daily Record’s Ayrshire district reporter before moving to the paper’s head office in Glasgow.

He spent three decades at the Record, becoming assistant news editor as well as being an active official for the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

He was chairman of the Record’s NUJ chapel for years and wrote candidly of his experience with depression as part of the union’s guidance for reporting on mental health.

He covered major news stories as a reporter, including the Lockerbie bombing, and then oversaw reporting as part of the executive News Desk team.

Neil Smith, sub-editor at Ayrshire Weekly Press, said: “Derek was a great reporter, whether he was covering huge stories for national titles or keeping everyone in Irvine up to date with what was happening in town.

“He always had an eye for the best news stories. I worked with him at the Daily Record and also dealt with him when he was Red Cross press officer in more recent years.

“He never failed to be kind and helpful and I, like many others, will miss his keen sense of humour. He’ll be much missed and my thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Derek left the Record in 2009 and joined the Red Cross as a media relations officer, before being promoted to senior.

During his time there he dealt with ‘pantogate’ - when a production at the Pavillion used the Geneva Convention protected Red Cross symbol as part of a costume.

He also dealt with conflict, especially when it came to the closure of Red Cross House in Irvine where he found himself torn between his role as a press officer and what was best for the residents and staff of his own community.

Pasca Lane, Director of Media at British Red Cross, said: “Derek brought so much from his time as a journalist to his role in the British Red Cross. His news sense was invaluable in how we communicated our work to a wider audience.

“He was much loved and it was only a few months ago that we wished him well for a long retirement with his family and friends. We are all the sadder without his guidance and his presence.”

Even having left the Record, Derek remained a passionate defender of the tabloid press.

Writing in All Media Scotland in 2013, Derek said: “I was proud to be a tabloid journalist, working for a paper that defended the ‘wee man’ against the bullies of business and bureaucracy.

“I was proud to be part of a paper that fought hard for Scotland and its people; a paper that stood up for their values and welfare.”

Derek is survived by Nanette, children Beth, Craig and Heather and grand-daughter Isla.

His funeral is expected to be held on Wednesday, November 25.