Derrick Mills

    Derrick was born on 1st February 1932 at the Middlesex Hospital in the centre of London - so technically he was a cockney! although by this time his parents lived in Stanmore. His grandfather had owned a steam laundry in Hampstead - so steam was in his genes.

    Derrick attended Harrow Weald Grammar School and his schooling was very interrupted by the war years.

    When he left school he wanted to be a boat builder but they would only pay him 50 pence per week and he could not afford to live away from home. So he turned to his next love and joined a photographic studio in London where apart from learning his photographic skills he also learnt to know London like the back of his hand.

    When he was 18 he went into the RAF for 3 years and served his time at A1 Adam in Libya.

    In 1956 he joined GEC research laboratories and was there for 13 years. This was his happiest time at work, combining engineering research and photography. While there he went away one christmas on a Holiday Fellowship Walking Holiday with his sister and met Janet who was just 14, but as they lived quite near to each other they kept in touch for a short while.

    Six years later, when Janet had just qualified in Radiotherapy and he was recovering from a severe attack of glandular fever (as he always said,’she caught me in a weak moment’) he took her to Silverstone in his 1934 two seater Riley Lincock. From that moment they never really stopped talking. After a week he asked her to marry him, they got engaged a month later and were married within the year.

    Kev and Ali followed shortly afterwards, 18 months apart and when they were 4 and 5 the family moved to Alderley Edge in Cheshire where Derrick became head of department at ICI Pharmaceutical Research Laboratories.

    Also about that time steam and wooden boats started coming to the fore. Fortunately for Derrick, Janet had always loved boating. In 1971 the Steam Boat Association was formed, and they bought their first steamboat, Oxbird, towing it to rallies all over the country and also abroad to Denmark and Holland.

    Derrick was a very clever craftsman and if he wanted to make something, nothing would stop him, be it restoring a boat, knocking down walls and re-designing houses, or even restoring a steam car. He would do a lot of research, become an expert on the subject and then put his knowledge to good use and make a perfect job. Derrick spent 12 years restoring Kariat, a 100 year old, 35 foot steam launch which is now often used at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

  

    It had always been his dream to own a steam car and this became possible when his two false hips made it difficult to jump in and out of boats. He never thought he would actually own a White steam car but as you all know spent 7 years tirelessly restoring it in his perfectionist way.

Derrick’s friends were most important to him and he loved discussing their projects, was always enthusiastic and helped them if he possibly could. The support they all gave him during his illness was second tonne and Janet will be eternally grateful for the wonderful visits, letters and phone calls which helped him bear his illness and most of all the help in finishing his steam car so that he could have a ride in it.

    Kevin, Ali and his 5 grandchildren, Hollie, Abbey, Jamie, Harry and Kate were the pride of his life and he loved it when they all met up together at Ships View.

    Janet had to learn to live with an individual, eccentric man and although they had different interests, they made a good team.

River Thames

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© Elliott Hopkins