An appreciation of Derek Austin by Maggie Smith

Derek Austin was a member of the Thurrock Local History Society for over 50 years from being a member to Vice- Chair. He was also Chair of the Website committee of which he was a founder member.

Derek was born in Richmond Surrey and moved to Grays in the late sixties with his wife Hazel. They both joined the Society and were very active members. Derek worked on both the archaeological digs at Mucking and at Gun Hill. He wrote articles for the Societies publication Panorama including Brasses of Essex and collaborated with his wife on the Orsett Parish guide produced by the Society. He was also a keen amateur photographer and his photos were printed in several Italian magazines in collaboration with his friend Enio who was a journalist.

Derek spent his working life as an Analytical Chemist where he was the Head of Department in the food analyst laboratory and he always had a fund of stories on what went into various food products. He was an avid fan of war films and had a huge knowledge of aeroplanes both war time and present day. He had learnt to identify aeroplanes from their sound from spending his early years in hospital as a child during the war and listening to the planes overhead. He also loved films by Fellini and had a huge classical music collection.

Derek was a great supporter of the Society and on becoming Vice Chair was always ready with advice and support to the members of the committee and was also noted at committee meetings for his amazing artistic doodles on the agenda sheet.

After retirement he was very active in local schools where his passion for good education for all children was very much appreciated. He loved reading with the boys and trying to instil in them a love of reading, the sessions often ended with discussions on planes and cars!. Herringham School where he was on the board of governors has dedicated their wildlife garden in his memory.

Derek was a family man who loved his late wife, twin daughters, his granddaughter, his garden and latterly sailing on cruise liners.