Derek James Thomas Kennedy
25th May 1935 – 17th December 2015
Originally Derek was an East End boy, in the days when that was a label to be proud of, in the days when the opportunities were still there for a bright young working class lad to make something of himself.
Born in May 1935 he was the first child and only son of Charlie and Daisy Kennedy and his mother, being one of seven, ensured that he had a never ending supply of aunts, uncles and cousins around him. So it must have come as a shock when, at the age of four, he found himself alone in a strange country far from home.
His childhood, like that of so many east end children, had been rudely interrupted by the outbreak of war and Derek, joined the throngs of little evacuees dragging their suitcases along railway platforms. He was destined for another country, albeit not too far away, for Wales – for a place called Six Bells in Abertillery. It was a mining town in which Derek, within months of his arrival, had been rehoused at least twice, on one occasion on a farm where he got to collect the eggs from the hen-house.
For a long time Derek’s mother had no idea where he was! She spent the good part of a year going to and from Wales, sometimes with her own ailing mother, and later with Derek’s baby sister, Molly, in the quest to find her four year old!
Fortunately she did, and she and Molly settled in Wales with Derek for the duration of the war. At one stage they lived at a drayman’s cottage, Daisy kept house, in order to cover their board, and Derek, little Derek, helped the drayman with his deliveries. Could this have been a portent to what Derek did later in life when one of his jobs also required him to travel around vineyards and breweries?
In the autumn of 1943 Derek’s father, Charlie, got posted to a job in a munitions factory not far from Abertillery and, thereafter, apart from the occasional visit to London the family were able to see out the rest of the war together in the relative safety of the Welsh countryside