Obituary Derek Palmer

Derek Palmer was a unique individual and had taken a deep interest in Derby for much of his life. Working for the Council gave Derek opportunities to rescue important items, photographs and documents so that they would be available for everyone. A working life in drainage, contracting and most of all, demolition, meant Derek had many a story to tell and he became a popular speaker to history groups, community groups and schools. Derek was active in his community particularly through well dressing and he was sought after by many groups in Derby and Derbyshire. His well dressing skills became the basis for his own unique art work which relied on fabric as well as wood and seeds to produce life-like images of Derby scenes. As far as I know he was the only artist to use this medium.

My friendship with Derek began around thirty years ago when I met him at the Derby Heritage Centre in St Peter’s Church Yard. Because of Derek I was to meet other local historians and the small group that formed around Derek became the foundation for the Derby Heritage Forum. Derek had a knowledge of Derby that no one else could have. Through the demolition of buildings to the digging of trenches Derek had acquired a ‘hands on’ knowledge of the very fabric of the town which was unavailable to anyone else. Derek’s special knowledge underpinned most of my own investigations and he could always be relied upon to find a photograph to illustrate a report.

Derek was the author of numerous books all of which sold out when published. His best known works were his West End books followed by ‘Derby Beneath Your Feet’. A full list is given below.

Derby Beneath Your Feet’
Demolition of Derby
Old West End Pictures
West End Best End
100 Years of the West End
West End Stories by West End People

Sit in on a talk by Derek Palmer. 'Derby Beneath Your Feet' at St Edmunds Church Hall at Allestree.

I say that I met Derek thirty years ago but I was to find out that I knew him many years before that. One day when he was relating his army experiences he mentioned that he had continued his army interests serving as a Sergeant for the cadet force of The Leicestershire and Derbyshire Yeomanry. When I was thirteen I had joined the same cadets meaning that I had met Sergeant Palmer in 1959 and I remembered he was a stickler for properly polished and presented uniform.

Derek will be sadly missed by his family, friends and all who knew him.

Ron McKeown

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