Salt of the Earth: Meet Derek Bratton - Scarborough's knight in red armour

A Scarborough man is making a real difference to people’s lives during the lockdown, collecting shopping, delivering prescriptions, making meals and even taking one lady to the emergency dentist.

When North Yorkshire County Council and The Scarborough News launched the Salt of the Earth campaign, we were looking to celebrate random acts of kindness in the community.

We knew that the people of North Yorkshire are amazing, and often go out of their way to help each other and do amazing things.

What we could never have foreseen, however, was the events of the last few months, none of us have ever lived through a period where we were unable to leave our houses to the extent in which the lockdown restrictions keep us pegged down now.

Salt of the Earth Derek Bratton

Yet still, people have risen to the challenge, showing the amazing unbreakable spirit and true Yorkshire grit which is getting us all through.

Some people are going above and beyond the call of duty, running food banks, operating prescription collection services and creating after school activities online for children.

Others are checking on neighbours and doing small jobs to help them get through.

Then there are people like Derek Bratton. He is certainly not the only person helping the people of Scarborough, but he truly is exceptional.

Derek Bratton with Karen Vasey

Derek, 57, of Rydal Crescent, Crossgates, is no stranger to bringing things to people’s houses, before Christmas, the father of two worked as a milkman.

Deciding it was time to make a change, and with a love of motorbikes, Derek invested in a large red van and started a motorcycle recovery and delivery service. He could never have imagined at the time the uses that his van would be put to.

Friend Vicki Oliver, who was one of many people to nominate Derek as a candidate for Salt of the Earth, said: “Since the outbreak of coronavirus he has undertaken helping the elderly and vulnerable people of Scarborough and the surrounding areas with shopping trips, prescription collections and any small DIY jobs that need urgent attention.

“He helped a lady whose washing machine had flooded her flat and he took the wet washing home and got it dry.

Loading the van

“All of this is done by Derek free of charge to give a little back to the community of Scarborough.”

Another nomination came from Luke Kingston, who said: “Last week whilst looking through Facebook Derek came across a plea from a lady to find a wheelchair for a gentleman with one leg, whose chair was about to collapse on him, after she had tried everywhere to locate him one but to no avail.

“Derek found one in Hull and drove through to buy and collect this out of his own pocket.

“Derek is a true local hero and if you look at his Facebook page you'll see all the good work and many thanks from some very grateful people.”

Quiches a speciality!

One project Derek has become involved with was the refurbishment of Scarborough Hospital Garden. Staff Nurse Shan Unsworth, who spearheaded the project, said: “He’s an absolute legend with a pure heart of gold - 24 carat.

“He’s helped with his big red van by collecting all the plants and other stuff for us.

“He’s placing plants, he’s cooking you a flan - it’s like he’s from another planet - he just doesn’t stop”

Derek, who moved to Scarborough with his family when he was just 15, said that when lockdown began, daughter Tia, 19, who normally lives with him, went to stay with her boyfriend in Leeds.

He said: “She knew that If I could do something while all this is going on I’d be doing it and I have been since day one.

“I’m out early every morning and back late every night. I don’t stop till I’m done. I collect shopping for the nurses. Some don’t finish until 8.30. I just keep going to keep going for as long as I’m needed.

“I’m sure that when all of this has finished there will still be a call for people like me.”

Derek says that he is doing roughly 14 shopping trips a day for those who are vulnerable or self-isolating. He reckons that he has done roughly 550 so far.

He said he’s aware that there are a lot of people who need his help but won’t ask for it. He said often they are recommended to find him via Facebook and he gains another person to help.

Derek said there is never a dull moment. He collects one lady who needs to visit Scarborough Hospital twice a week for treatment. Derek said the first time he picked her up she wanted to sit in the back of the van to maintain social distancing. But once she realised there were no proper seats, she decided to sit up front with him.

Derek also took her to the emergency dentist after a particular troublesome wisdom tooth needed urgent attention

Derek says he has been overwhelmed by the support of the local community. One lady, in Eastfield, donated a box of masks, a box of gloves and a box of aprons to ensure he kept himself safe.

Once a week, Derek also makes a meal for those who need one; cooking a stew one week and baking up to five quiches the next.

Friend Karen Vasey, who has known Derek for over 30 years, said “He brings me something every Friday. What he’s doing is really good for everybody, he’s put some hours in, that’s for sure. He does work very long days.”

Neighbour Andrea Quinn paid tribute to Derek. She said: “Throughout the pandemic and lockdown he has put others before himself working all day, collecting items, delivering to people who are in isolation (social distancing at all times).

“He has done their shopping and even advertised that he had a free slot for anyone who was stuck.

“All of this has been done at no cost to anyone, all at his own expense wear and tear on his van

“He is such a wonderful guy and deserves the recognition.

“He’s a knight in red armour.”

If you have a friend or neighbour who has made a difference in your life during the coronavirus outbreak we’d love to hear about them. Why not let us know by emailing [email protected]

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