Off To Work and National Service

Derek James Thomas Kennedy

25th May 1935 – 17th December 2015

As mentioned his extended family was very extensive but he was close to one of his aunts in particular – Ivy – who became something of a mentor to him at that time and showed him around “her London”. When he became interested in the idea of becoming a journalist it was Ivy who kitted him out for his first interview for the post of junior reporter, and sent him off looking very dapper. It must have worked because he got the job and that was the beginning of a long and very interesting career in journalism. He swiftly moved from junior reporter to reporter’s assistant and then finally reporter and he felt he’d found his niche in life.

Whist working in his first reporting job, Derek lived at home with his parents and Molly in the very appropriately named Kennedy Close in Plaistow.

However, his budding journalistic career was interrupted quite early on when Derek got called up to join the big boys’ Scouts Group – the Royal Air Force, being conscripted in 1953 and posted to RAF Oaklington in Cambridgeshire, becoming Cadet Kennedy 270421. Throughout his service, however he was known as Ken….Ken Kennedy of Kennedy Close!

He enjoyed his two years of national service but upon his release he returned to Plaistow to resume his life and career.

In 1960, Derek married Betty Halford who he’d been “courting”, since he was in his late teens, and become a father, to Alyson in 1961 and to Ivan two years later.

Over the years he worked for a series of different publications, some of them local newspapers others industry or in-house magazines: men’s fashion, architecture, news agencies, working men’s clubs, Derek wrote about almost everything, including producing a limited edition manual for large ships and a compendium of printers’ terms, which was used by many in the industry. All of these jobs, with publishing deadlines, required long hours and many necessitated travel throughout the UK and Europe and, on one occasion to the United States.

On his only trip across the Atlantic to visit a Caterpillar plant in Illinois in the early 1960’s there was a problem with the undercarriage of the plane and it was diverted to a small town where fire trucks, awaiting them on the runway raced after them and sprayed foam all over the plane. After an experience like that I’m surprised that Derek ever flew again!

But he did; a lot…..indeed very often on his way back from one job in Spain or Italy he would be rerouted to France or Germany. This meant of course that he was away for long periods; he loved his work but, over the years it took its toll on his health and on his family life.

Perhaps the job which Derek enjoyed most was the one which saw him travelling to vineyards, breweries and trade shows to review what they had to offer! Obviously the experience he’d had all those years ago as a little drayman had given him a taste for the industry!

Derek’s job also gave him the chance to meet several celebrities of the day and on one occasion he even became a minor celebrity himself. After the aeroplane incident in the States, when they landed in the little backwater town, they finally reached their destination of Peoria, Illinois, in the heart of mid-America. Senator Goldwater was there campaigning for the Presidency and Derek got interviewed on local radio about his trip and what the ‘Brits’ thought of the campaign. I bet for a lot of them he was the first Brit they’d ever met!

[Early Years]-[Back To London]-[Work and National Service]-[Onwards]-[The Next Generation]-[And Finally…]-[Photo Gallery]