Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Obituary: Derek Thurgood

DEREK THURGOOD died peacefully in the early hours of October 11 at Huntercombe Hall nursing home

DEREK THURGOOD died peacefully in the early hours of October 11 at Huntercombe Hall nursing home in Nuffield, where he had spent the last year of his life as his health began to fail him.

He was born in Clapton in the East End and ran away at 15 to join the army and fought in Germany and latterly Palestine between 1941 and 1946.

He rose through the ranks to become a captain but refused an officer’s commission at the end of the war and joined a national newspaper as an office boy after being demobbed in 1946.

Derek’s wit, charm and intelligence brought opportunities his way and he became press officer for Fairey Aviation and, through his press contacts, became the go-to man for information about the world’s aircraft. He was made managing director of the company in the mid-Seventies.

He later took on other directorships within the Fairey Group, heading up Fairey Filtration and Fairey Marine. After he retired, Derek worked as a management consultant across the world, helping organisations as diverse as Manpower and the Saudi and Belgian governments.

However, the achievements of which he was most proud were in rowing. He was a working class boy who loved the river and his early discovery of rowing at Poplar Rowing Club in his native East End led later to membership of Twickenham Rowing Club where his love for the sport saw him miss the births of all four of his children!

He married Audrey Glassock, the love of his life, in 1951 and after they moved out of London to Rotherfield Road, Henley, in 1965, Derek soon became a very active member of Upper Thames Rowing Club.

In time, largely in recognition of his association with coaching the crews of the Oxford University crew for the annual Boat Race from the early Seventies to the mid-Eighties, Derek was elected a member of Leander Club.

He was notably instrumental in the long run of Oxford victories from 1976 to 1984 and coached Isis under Hugh “Jumbo” Edwards in 1974 when the Dark Blue boat broke the course record.

Derek was enormously proud of his membership of Leander where his love for, and commitment to, rowing found a natural home.

He was rarely happier or more proud than when entertaining his family and friends over lunch at the club, looking out over his beloved River Thames, telling fantastic tales of his life in the army and how he faced down the union leaders during the industrial unrest of the early Seventies, dissecting and poring over every detail of the latest film he’d seen that week and colouring every story with his infectious laugh, the generosity of his genuine interest in people and, more often than not, a few references to the birds and the bees!

He was devastated by the death of his wife Audrey in 2013 and his consequent frailty brought two years of failing health and his eventual death from heart failure. He is survived by his younger brother Keith, his four devoted children, Toby, Clare, Fiona and Rupert, his grandchildren, Amelia, Oliver, Felix and Noah, and his step-grandchildren Matthew, Sophie, Lauren and Christian.

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