Broadcaster Derek Cooper dies aged 88

The outstanding modern chronicler of Skye, Derek Cooper, has died at the age of 88 in a London nursing home. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for the past decade.

Derek Cooper’s classic book ‘Skye’ has remained in print since it was first published in the late 1960s. He also wrote  books which reflected his travels in the West Highlands and Islands including ‘Hebridean Connection’ and ‘The Road to Mingulay’.

The Free Press published a book of old photographs, ‘Skye Remembered’, for which he wrote the text. For many years, Derek was a contributor to the paper as well as a great supporter. Until poor health prevented him from travelling, he and his wife Janet — who died in 2010 — owned Seafield House in Portree.

Their son Nicholas told the Free Press this week:  “From his childhood, Dad became infatuated with Skye. For a child growing up in New Malden, it must have seemed a magical place. His mother was Jessie MacDonald and they stayed with her aunt, Ma (Peggy) Thompson who was born on Lewis and had married the local barber in Portree.

“He was evacuated at the beginning of the war and spent the winter of 1939-40 attending Portree High School. Skye was undoubtedly the place closest to his heart and which he regarded as his spiritual home.”

Nationally, Derek Cooper was best known as a writer and broadcaster on food and drink. One obituary said this week that he had “done more for British food than anyone since Elizabeth David”. He campaigned relentlessly through BBC Radio Four’s ‘The Food Programme’, which he presented for more than 20 years, against malpractices in the food industry and was first to highlight the dangers of BSE.

Derek is survived by his son Nicholas, daughter Penny and two grandchildren in the United States, to whom sympathy is extended.