»  The Virtual Attic — People — My Father's Siblings


Robert and Elizabeth Derbyshire had four children: Polly, John Robert, Thomas Noel, and Elizabeth. Uncle Tommy was killed in a motorcycle accident at age 22 or 23. The other three all lived into old age. Here are brief accounts of them.



Auntie Polly was born August 20, 1895. I recall her as a large, big-boned woman who strongly resembled my father. I saw very little of her through my childhood because there was a falling-out at the time of Grandad's funeral.

Polly married a man named Eddie Jones, who was, or became, underground manager at the Granville colliery in Oakengates, then at the Woodside. "He worked hard and liked a pint," says Noel. They had three daughters: Molly, Betty and Isobel. Molly went off to South Africa, though she came back for Polly's funeral in 1978, where I met her. Later she came back permanently: She was living in Oakengates in July 2003. Betty married a London policeman and took to drink, dying young as a result. Isobel married a man named Ken Jones, and they live together in a pretty bungalow overlooking the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey, in Shropshire. They have no children. Polly and Eddie lived with them in their last years. Eddie died first, Polly in 1978, aged 83.



The second Derbyshire child, John Robert, was my father.



Thomas Noel was killed May 28, 1930 at age 22 or 23, while riding a motorbike. This event devastated the Derbyshire family, most especially my grandmother. ("She never recovered" — Dad.) Tommy was unmarried.

Dad liked to say that I was Uncle Tommy reincarnated, I suppose because he thought our personalities were similar.

After Grandad's death, Polly looked after Uncle Tommy's personal effects. They ultimately passed down to Cousin Isobel (as did Grandad's).



Elizabeth — "Auntie Cissie" — was born in 1910 and married a local man named Fred Derry (leftmost here). Fred worked for a men's clothing firm named George Orme & Son. Sometime before the Second World War he was sent to manage their store in Gold Street, Northampton, next to St. Peter's church. (It seems to have been just coincidence that both Cissie and John Robert ended up in Northampton.) Cissie and Fred lived over the store and had two children, my cousins Janet and Michael. In this picture, taken early 1950s, Cissie is at the right with Michael; Janet is the leftmost of the two young ladies.

Sometime in the 1950s the Derrys bought a new-built house in Glastonbury Road, five minutes walk from our house in Friars Avenue. Fred went on being manager of the store until he retired. I actually worked for him for a few weeks, as a Saturday job in (I think) 1960.

Janet Derry had a brief career as an actress. I remember seeing her on TV commercials in the late 1950s. In 1959 she acted in the West End production (Prince of Wales Theatre) of The World of Suzie Wong. At some later point she married a Fleet Street journalist named Len Sandys (pronounced "Sands") and went to live near East Grinstead, in Surrey. Len and Janet had two daughters, Alison (1964) and Joanne (1967). Alison worked in the travel industry for some years, but in late 2004 was studying for a change of career to Information Technology. In 1989 she married Michael Brown, a manager at Gatwick airport (near London). They live in Hartfield, East Sussex, on the edge of Ashdown forest — Winnie the Pooh country, as Alison points out. Alison and Michael have two daughters, Catherine and Jacqueline. Joanne married Hasan Nasr, an engineer from Jordan. They live in Richmond, Surrey, with their three children: Sarah, Ayman, and Faris.

Len Sandys died of heart disease in September 2013.

Michael was a musical prodigy, and appeared on the TV children's program All Your Own in the early 1950s. (The producer of the program was Huw Wheldon, who later rose to great heights in British TV production and management. Michael remembered him as "unctuous.") We were taken up to Glastonbury Road to watch this performance on the Derrys' TV (we didn't yet have one). Michael became a schoolmaster and married a girl named Lynne. They had two boys, Kristian and Anton. Kristian works in optics, as does his fiancee Vicki. Anton was working for a fashion designer, Antoni & Alison, in late 2004, and also has a T-shirt business of his own. He is married to Amanda; they have two boys, Ben and Luke. (Neither, said Michael, a Star Wars fan). Cousin Michael fell into dementia at last. He died March 26th 2020 aged late-seventies.

Auntie Cissie died November 26, 2001, aged 91. The last remark I have heard attributed to her comes via my sister, Judith, who went to see her in the last months of her life. Cissie to Judith: "Don't live to be 91 if you can possibly avoid it."