Derek Ross

Derek was educated at St Olave’s School, Orpington, Kent and moved to Essex as a young man.   He initially spent three seasons playing for Southend RFC before making the decision to switch allegiance and join the Old Westcliffians RFC, as we were then known, in the late seventies, still in our old base at 1008 London Road.

Derek quickly integrated into the B XV of the club, which was something of an institution at the time.   The B Team tours to Milan, Hamburg, Dunkerque, Paris and Amsterdam have all won their places in folk-lore, for a variety of reasons, and maybe let it suffice to state that what goes, or went, on tour, stays on tour!  Equally-memorable were the B Team end-of-season dinners, which became so popular that at one stage it seemed that virtually every senior club member had some claim to have been a member of the side!   The culmination of these soirees had to be “The last Supper” of 1984, when the old clubhouse was finally laid to rest, before our move to the palatial surroundings of Aviation Way.

Derek played as a back row forward, and was never particularly bothered about the offside law.   Those fortunate enough to have been asked to officiate B XV matches in those days would always find Derek an interesting study, and Derek’s ability to concede penalties was something to which Maro Itoje can only aspire.   Derek used also to enjoy the “rough and tumble” that occasionally used to happen in those less politically-correct days, especially against sides from the East end of London.

The Summer of 1984 saw the club move into its new surroundings, and Derek became increasingly-involved in the management of the club.   At that time, squash was a very popular community sport, and the club saw the installation of two squash courts as a potential money-spinner.   Derek was a keen and, it must be said, accomplished squash player and he became the club’s inaugural Squash Secretary.   The courts were in almost constant use and membership leagues were created.   The first accounts of the new premises saw Squash income in excess of seven thousand pounds, which represented a very significant sum in those days.

The euphoria of the move slowly wore off, and by the early nineties the club was in serious trouble financially, with fortunes both on and off the pitch giving cause for increased concern.   Those on the Executive Committee in those days had many sleepless nights, wondering how the great new dream could have gone so sour.   It was at this time that Derek’s grip of business proved invaluable, as creditors were held at bay sufficiently for fund-raising projects to secure our future.  This period coincided with the development of a particularly strong youth section, who were the forerunners of the county-beating youth squads that were to follow over the next twenty years.   The darkest hour was indeed before a new dawn, and Derek’s role as chairman was hugely significant.

Derek seemed to enjoy controversy and provocation – the sobriquets “Del-Boy” and “Del the stitch” seemed hugely apposite at times.   However, his brash exterior disguised a man gentle at heart, hugely-generous and truly loyal to his friends, of which he had very many.

Derek moved to Spain in the early years of the millennium anticipating an enjoyable retirement.   Sadly, markets conspired against him and he returned dejected to Essex mulling on what might have been.   Shortly afterwards, dementia visited him and his last ten years were spent quietly in the company of his wife Jill, before a move to a nursing home became inevitable last year.

Derek was 78 at the time of his death, and can look back on a very full life in which he was influential in many walks of life.   In particular, Westcliff RFC owes him a huge debt, and will forget neither him nor some of the notable if unrepeatable escapades which surrounded him.