Derek's Story


It may not seem important but having no photographs of your childhood
can leave a big gap in a person's life. 

 

 

Derek spent his childhood in the Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage in Woking from when he was a few month's old.

 

The Southern Railway Servants' Orphanage opened in Woking in 1909 to accommodate children whose fathers had died while working on the railways. By the time Derek went there in 1954, the purpose of the orphanage was much broader with children going in for many different reasons and from a broad range of family circumstances.

 

 

 

As was the case in most orphanages and children's homes, children the Woking Orphanage left with few or no photographs of themselves or any photographs relating to their childhood. Sadly, many left with no records at all of their life before or during their time in care. 

 

Sometimes, however, members of staff took photographs and some of these have survived the passage of time.

 

A few years ago, a member of staff at the nursery of the orphanage sadly died. Her sister had the unenviable task of going through her possessions.

 

She found a large number of black and white photographs and some other materials about the Orphanage. All of these dated from the mid-1950s when her sister worked at the Orphanage. Some of the photos had the names of the children written on the back, others were anonymous.

 

Not wanting to see these thrown away, she sent them to me to see if I could find the people pictured.

 

Rachel then got in touch to ask if her father, Derek, was in the photos as he was there at the time.

 

“My daughter Rachel got some photos from you thank you very much it was very emotional to see them"

 

Having gone through the photographs, there were actually four photographs of Derek as a baby. The one above is captioned 'Derek's first birthday'. As Derek is now 66, he's had to wait some years to see that birthday cake again.

 

I sent the photos straight over to the family and here's how Rachel, Derek's daughter, describes seeing them:

"I showed the photos to my Mum and Dad last night, they really enjoyed seeing them after all these years and we can't thank you enough. Dad said he remembers  being in the garden where the photos were taken and there was a shed where all the toys were kept. It's so lovely to see them. Mum said it's amazing to see them, we have never seen these before."