Obituary: Patriarch of 'Ginger Clan' dies aged 92

Derrick Edwards (pictured) died on May 15

“He may not have had an exciting career, fame, or wealth but he did the very best for his family" - Derrick Edwards (pictured) died on May 15 - Credit: Edwards family

A beloved family man whose catchphrase “it’s better to be late in this life than early in the next” has died at the age of 92. 

Derrick Spencer Edwards arrived in the world on July 18, 1929, as the son of Alf and Ethel Edwards who lived on a farm in Worlingworth, Suffolk, near Framlingham. 

As a child, he was a keen collector of stamps and cigarette cards and had several complete sets of the latter which he was proud of. 

He upped his game during the Second World War and began collecting bomb debris and shrapnel from shells, several of which dropped on the farm. 

His sister, Jill Cox, said: “He used to take these incendiary bombs to pieces and saved whatever he found inside. He kept this all very secret and private from me. 

“Fortunately, we lived in a large three-storey house with a basement where Derrick had his own very private den or workshop. It was where he could investigate and invent.  

“Maybe he thought he would become a budding scientist - if he didn’t blow us up first.”  

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Although unable to see each other for the last four years, the sibling spoke on the phone every week. 

She added: “Although I can’t remember too much about Derrick's childhood days, I do remember that he suffered some nasty asthma attacks and was very short-sighted. Consequently, he was forever running into things and broke his arm twice. 

“He did not cope well at school but an eye test revealed the problem and he ended up with thick-lensed glasses, which opened up the world to him.”

The head of the family: Derrick Edwards was proud of his "Ginger Clan"

The head of the family: Derrick Edwards was proud of his "Ginger Clan" - Credit: Edwards family

Growing up on a farm throughout the war years made Mr Edwards a resourceful man. He turned his hand to most types of work to support his family and was very careful with money – taking to storing a years-old tin of oak ham “just in case” of emergencies. 

During his youth, he belonged to the Young Farmer’s Club. During one of the social events, he met his first wife, Patricia. 

After the couple married, they lived and worked together all hours on their farm. Soon their family, which became affectionately known as “the ginger clan”, welcomed twins Nigel and Peter (1952) and Simon (1956). 

The couple separated around the mid-1960s, but Mr Edwards continued to provide his boys with many adventures and experiences. 

One example is at their uncle Alec’s farm in Rockland St Mary, between Norwich and Loddon, where they fished, rode old motorbikes and developed a love for motorsports. He would also take them to motocross events and motorcycle racing at Silverstone and Snetterton, where he worked as a chief paddock marshal. 

When Mr Edwards left farming, he ran a village store at Topcroft, near Bungay, selling everything from animal feed and petrol to tinned food and small toys. The shop was open six days a week and remained open even during the Big Freeze of 1962 - one of the coldest winters on record in the UK.  

Following this, he went on to be a door-to-door salesman and worked with his friend Desmond on a fruit and vegetable stall on Norwich Market. He ended his working life as a porter at Norwich’s University of East Anglia (UEA) from 1979 to 1994, a role he thoroughly enjoyed. 

He was committed to supporting the rights of workers and became politically minded while being a union representative at the UEA, fighting hard to improve workers’ lives and pay. 

Eventually, he would go on to find love once again with his wife, Maureen, who he married during the 1970s. 

The couple lived in Hethersett, near Norwich, and enjoyed holidaying in Scotland. It was here they bumped into Paul McCartney and his late wife, Linda, who helped them along a steep path in the Mull of Kintyre. Maureen died in 2010. 

A man who liked the company of others, Mr Edwards, despite being aged in his eighties at the time, met Joy. The couple were described as “two happy peas in a pod” and would often go out for a drive in the countryside with a stop for a pub lunch. 

As he became frailer, Joy's daughter Jane helped her mother to look after Mr Edwards - a "kindness and love” his three sons said they will never forget.

At the celebration of his life, which took place at Earlham Crematorium on June 23, they paid tribute to him. 

“He was the proud leader of his ginger clan," the family said.

“He may not have had an exciting career, fame, or wealth but he did the very best for his family and friends all of his life. 

“He knew hard work but he also knew how to have fun and make people laugh. 

“We can all be proud to have known him and called him our brother, partner, dad, grandad, or friend.”   

Mr Edwards was admitted to hospital following a fall, where he later died in his sleep on May 15. He leaves behind his loved ones including children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.