About Derek Leach
Born in 1938 and brought up in Chatham, Derek attended Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School in Rochester. After National Service he joined Customs and Excise as an Officer of Customs and Excise, serving mainly in London until promoted in 1974 as Training Officer for the Dover Collection. He and his family moved to River and fell in love with Dover and its history. In 1978 he became a Surveyor in the Eastern Docks, managing the staff controlling the rapidly increasing number of freight vehicles. The competing demands of the port's need for rapid clearance of freight in such a confined area and necessary Customs controls led to a close working relationship with Dover Harbour Board, which resulted in a successful joint project to computerise the Customs clearance of freight. Promoted to HQ, Derek returned to Dover in 1989 as Assistant Collector (a senior manager) with overall responsibility for import and export freight control in the area, resuming his close relationship with the Harbour Board. Awarded the OBE in 1995, Derek retired in 1998.
Retirement allowed Derek to give more time to his lifelong passion for history. An aim was to write and publish a book about some aspect of Dover's fascinating history. His first effort, "The Life and Times of a Dovorian - Lillian Kay"
, was a great success and he followed this with "My Dover - Joe Harman"
, "Greetings, Dover from Jack Hewitt"
, "Bombs Gone, the story of an Elvington lad's war"
, and "Our town Dover 1945-2000"
which was a joint effort with Terry Sutton. To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the granting of the royal charter to Dover Harbour Board, Derek was commissioned to produce a commemorative book, "Dover Harbour, Royal Gateway"
, a copy of which was presented to the Queen when she visited the port in 2005. "Caring for Dover's Poor"
was followed by the autobiography of Terry Sutton, "Mr. Dover Reporting"
. "Streets of Dover"
came next followed by another collaboration with Terry Sutton, "Dover in the Second World War"
(published by Phillimore). The latest book explores Dover's underground heritage, "Dover's Caves and Tunnels"
. Derek has also helped produce and publish three similar books for The Dover Society under the Triangle Publications banner.
This absorbing hobby has to be fitted around his many other interests. Derek was elected to River Parish Council when it was formed in 1987 and has been its chairman since 1995. He is a member of River Methodist Church and of River Originals Tennis Club where he still plays. In Dover he is Chairman of The Dover Society, a committee member of the Friends of Dover Museum and a member of the Dover and Thanet Rights of Way Society. Derek enjoys an obsessive daily dip in Dover harbour throughout the summer and autumn. As well as walking the footpaths of the Kent countryside, he has also set himself the target of visiting every village in the county. All these commitments and interests have to be balanced with making time for his family - his long-suffering wife, Linda, their three children and grandchildren.