Tributes to Derrick Collier, who worked at Wards of Sherburn for 30 years, and was a village fireman and a devoted family man

Derrick Collier
Derrick Collier

Family and friends have paid tribute to a stalwart of village life in Sherburn, near Scarborough, who worked at Wards factory for more than 30 years and was a member of the village fire brigade.

Derrick Collier died peacefully in York Hospital aged 85 at the end of August, and a thanksgiving service was held at Christ Church, Heworth, York, following private cremation.

The following information was supplied by the family.

Derrick was born at Pickering and after leaving Pickering School at 14 he worked as a porter at Pickering Railway Station. At 18 he was called up for two years’ National Service, training at Oswestry for the Royal Artillery.

For most of the time he was stationed at Greys in Essex and was involved with other young National Servicemen in rescue work in the 1953 Canvey Island floods when 59 people lost their lives and 13,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes.

After demobilisation, Derrick returned to work for British Railways as a porter, then took a job driving one of their road vehicles delivering small goods from Malton Railway Station to surrounding areas.

This is when he met his wife Anne who was a shorthand typist for the steelwork factory founded in 1949 by the late Frank and Wilfred Ward at Sherburn, Malton.

Derrick delivered goods twice a week to Wards Stores and saw Anne through the reception office window and asked the Stores Manager to fix him a date. They married at St Hilda’s Church in 1961 and lived in the village, and had two children, Shirley and Richard.

The 1960s Beeching cuts saw the closure of railway lines and stations so Derrick applied for a job at Wards factory in Sherburn and worked there from 1967as a welder and tacker until his retirement in 1998.

During the 1970s when strikes began to disrupt British industry, Derrick and a life-long friend and work colleague Ray Pickard broke strike action at the factory.

Ray lived a few doors away and one Sunday evening called to tell Derrick pickets were coming from the West Country to stop workers entering Wards factory, so Derrick and Ray decided to go earlier and cross the fields to enter by the back way.

They were ridiculed but gradually the rest of the workers joined them, but for several months, Derrick and Ray were nicknamed grasshoppers.

In 1967 Derrick joined Sherburn’s Fire Brigade and served 15 years as a part-time fireman, reaching the rank of Leading Fireman before his retirement in 1982.

Derrick loved his family and from their birth his children were the apple of his eye and centre of his life, taking them on holiday in the first week in June either camping or caravanning until the children left school.

During the 1980s Derrick and Anne began to enjoy sequence dancing and over the years met many lovely people at various venues between Scarborough, Pickering, Wiggington and York where they often attended the Saturday night sequence dances in Heworth Christ Church Hall, little knowing that one day the church would become their regular place of worship.

When Derrick retired, Wards presented him and Anne with a brand new bike each and they spent many happy hours cycling around country lanes and sharing picnics and also enjoyed bowling.

They also enjoyed travelling and since 1990, as well as Europe, they have visited California and Israel, and more recently Australia and New Zealand. In 2016 Derrick had the pleasure of giving his daughter away in her marriage to Robert in Melbourne.

In 2014, Derrick and Anne moved to the Stockton Lane area of Heworth from Sherburn where Anne was born and where she and Derrick had lived and worked, so they could be near Shirley.

They joined the congregation at Heworth Christ Church nearby, where the people welcomed them and made them feel part of the Church family. Their shared Christian faith has been the mainstay of their life since the mid-1970s.

Seeds of faith were sown in Derrick’s heart when as a young teenager he often attended Pickering Chapel with a few mates on Sunday evenings for something to do!

As a child and for most of her adult life, Anne attended church, then in 1975 Derrick joined her in regular worship at Sherburn Church, and although he wasn’t a member of the Church Council Derrick actively supported Anne throughout her 40 years’ service as church secretary and was especially helpful when the church had a five-year spell without a church warden.

Derrick is survived by his widow Anne, children Shirley and Richard, grandsons Joshua and Daniel, son-in-saw Robert and his brother Keith and sister Jean.

A collection was shared between Heworth Christ Church and Dementia Research UK.