Obituary: Derek “Crusty” Woodley

Derek had a rare satisfaction with his position in life – alongside a wry sense of humour that is only found in a good old Suffolk boy.

Derek had a rare satisfaction with his position in life – alongside a wry sense of humour that is only found in a good old Suffolk boy. When he knew you to be interested in the old culture, he would put the word “bor” on the end of everything.
Crusty, as his friends knew him, spent virtually his whole life working for one farmer in Camps. Born the middle of five children when times were very hard, he got permission from his school to have time off looking after the horses at Park Farm – allowing him to give his mother a shilling toward the housekeeping. Yet despite a lack of schooling, Derek was as literate as he needed to be in all things. He yearned for life on the land, and –a month after leaving school – he accepted a job at Lordships Farm at which he stayed until his 79th year.
On a trip to the cinema in 1954, Derek met Violet. She described him as handsome and gorgeous, but soon discovered his wicked sense of humour, winding people up for the fun of it. He was nevertheless generous and kind. He never lost his temper at home, and he loved animals – particularly his dog Jesse.
Derek and Violet’s only child Jackalyn blessed him with three grandchildren. Derek would tell them stories of his own making, about an imaginary boy called Derek who played with their toys when they weren’t there. This was Derek’s way of keeping the tradition of passing wisdom through story.
It was in The Three Horse Shoes that Derek’s inherited culture really came to the fore. He told how in the old days “the old ‘uns” sat round the table proliferating stories new and old, while the young would lean against the walls listening. He began “editing” the Stone Pickers Weekly, which was his name for the gossip and social news. He claimed to have got the title from the local post-war tradition of women earning good money by picking stones up at Castle Camps Aerodrome. At these meetings, gossip was expounded and exaggerated. Derek took great delight in his unofficial position as the editor of this imaginary newspaper. Such an imagination can only come with a whole vision.
Derek’s sense of home and belonging gave him a wholesome enjoyment of life. His life was remarkable for its enviable simplicity, whole life involvement, and everyday enjoyment.