Jenni and I were saddened to hear of the death on 19th September 2017 of our walking friend Derek Orton.
We first met Derek and Barbie soon after we joined the National Trust in 2005. From the start they made us feel most welcome and we soon realised what lovely people they were.
We learned from Barbie that our walking group was started “many” years ago by Leslie Womersley (Torquay Town Clerk) and Derek Marsden to raise funds for local National Trust centres. Sometime afterwards, Leslie was no longer able to organise the walks so the group was taken over by Barbie and Derek.
Derek will be remembered with affection by all who came to know him over the years. Though always ready to pass on his reminiscences and wide knowledge of all subjects under the sun, gained during time spent in Africa and other foreign lands, we never got to know the full extent of his working life.
Barbie has allowed me to quote an email she sent to Dennis Coote in August 2015, (kindly copied to me at the time). The email gives a useful insight into the characters of Barbie and Derek and their contribution to the lives of the less fortunate people on our planet.
Derek and I have spent thirty years of our life overseas, working in undeveloped countries – teaching and nursing – and yes, largely paid for by overseas aid, so we are able to see things from a different perspective. Helping people less fortunate than ourselves has been our life’s work – and we make no apologies for that.
All people have 3 most basic needs:- food, water and shelter.
Because their civilization hasn’t advanced as much as ours, largely due to lack of education, many, many people don’t even have these basic necessities.
Whilst our “proper” jobs were teaching and nursing, we also saw the need for help in other ways:-
There were a lot of boys begging on the streets – we collected them together and taught them wood-work skills, so that they could make tables and chairs and thus earn a living.
We helped to build a polio clinic because there wasn’t one.
The local church held its services under a tree – so we built them a basic church.
We started the very first multi-racial primary school in Kenya, when everything else was segregated.
I started a flying medical service in Botswana.
We have used our lives to help other people – and yes! it did sometimes take tax-payers money via the British Aid Overseas programme. But we were glad to help. We have a state pension. Help with heating. A free bus pass. Free healthcare.
We can’t have everything we would like. But we have a lot!
I am sure Dennis would also have wanted to share this email with us all.