Derrick Humphrey OAM has had a lifetime of musical experience, including being a member of the Band of Scots Guards. The 90-year-old Werribee resident tells his story to Charlene Macaulay, with a little help from wife Joan.
Tell me about your childhood.
I was born in Hackney, London. I lived within walking distance of Lord’s cricket ground. I have a brother 10 years my junior who I used to walk in the pram down to the Paddington railway station to see the trains. We used to turn his pram around and use it as a [cricket] wicket. In September 1939, the outbreak of war, myself, my brother and my mother were evacuated from Dagenham to Norfolk.
How did music become a career for you?
I started playing the saxophone when I was 14. There was nothing for a boy of my age to be doing, so my parents encouraged me to join the army as a boy musician, which I did.
Joan: He joined the band of the East Surrey regiment.
Derrick: I spent 11 years with that band, which included three-and-a-half years in Greece with the occupational forces. After coming back to England, I auditioned for Her Majesty’s band, the Scots Guards and I spent six years with them … during which time I was involved in the coronation and Queen Mary’s funeral and football association cup finals at Wembley, the Edinburgh Tattoo – you name it. Then I joined the Metropolitan Police for six months and transferred to Bedfordshire Police, and I was with them for seven-plus years. In 1964 I auditioned for the band of the Royal Australian Airforce [and got in]. We came over on the RMS Canberra and arrived in Australia in November 1964 and lived in Werribee.
You were also a music teacher at a number of schools.
Yes, Werribee High School to start with, then I was transferred out to Braybrook Secondary College and Westbourne Grammar School. In 1979, myself and my colleague Roy Hamilton, from Braybrook Secondary College, decided to form a band from schools in the western suburbs. I got my OAM for services to music. I was also Citizen of the Year here in Werribee, in 1980, or something like that.
Joan: He also started the Werribee Choral Society, that became known as the Werribee Music Society. They used to put on shows down at Werribee Park.
How did you and Joan meet?
I was with the Scots Guards and we were playing at the Embankment Gardens in London, down near the river Thames, and Joan and her friend who subsequently married my brother, were sitting in the audience listening. We got chatting afterwards and that was it.
We got married in 1957 and have two girls – they’re a bit more than girls now – and a son. There’s eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. We’ve created a dynasty.
What do you like about Werribee?
We like this area because it’s so open, the people in this village are so friendly and we’ve we’ve made a lot of friends. When we came here initially in 1964, there were only about 12,000 people who lived in Werribee.