The life and times of legendary Burnley Football Club fan Derek 'Rocky' Mills

The family of legendary Clarets fan Derek ‘Rocky’ Mills have paid moving tributes after he died last week aged 78.

By Dominic Collis
Tuesday, 5th July 2022, 3:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 11:54 am

Mr Mills, known by fellow Burnley fans as well as opposition fans the length and breadth of the country, was a familiar face – and voice – on the terraces of Turf Moor for decades.

One of 11 siblings, Rocky was born and bred in Burnley where he lived in Helena Street with his large family and worked as a spinner in various mills including Jewel Mill in the town and John Butterworth’s in Rossendale. He later went on to work at United Utilities for many years.

It was his unceasing love of Burnley Football Club for which he was best known, however, following his beloved Clarets home and away for many decades. A bright and colourful personality, with equally colourful language, Rocky was also known farther afield as his step-daughter from his second marriage, Nyree Jones, explained.

Legendary Clarets fan Derek 'Rocky' Mills

"Everyone knew Rocky, even opposition fans. Only recently, we bumped into Liverpool and Wolves fans who knew him. You couldn’t take him anywhere without someone knowing him. He had the biggest heart.

"Rocky was married to my late mum Jean for more than 20 years and they followed Burnley together throughout this time, they never left each other’s side,” she said.

"In fact, the only match I can think of them missing was when they were both in Royal Blackburn Hospital on Boxing Day, 2020, when they were ill. He made sure he wore his Burnley shirt in the hospital.

"Mum died last year and Derek actually died this year on the date of her funeral, June 20th. They met while they were on holday in Tunisia where they had a two week romance.

Popular Clarets fan Derek 'Rocky' Mills

"Mum lived in Shrewsbury and he visited straight after the holiday for a week. The following week she came up to Burnley and six months later they were married at his beloved Turf Moor.”

The couple lived on a small-holding at Woodend, near Barden Lane, but Derek had developed early dementia in recent years. He moved to Kibble Bank before spending a short time at Barnes Court sheltered accommodation before moving in with Nyree at Clarence Street.

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Tributes to legendary Burnley Football Club fan Derek 'Rocky' Mills

Derek’s brother Russel, one of only two surviving siblings including Thelma, revealed that Derek enjoyed riding horses with his first wife Kathy, and where he came by his famous nickname.

Russel said: “Derek was a great dancer and that’s how he came to be known as ‘Rocky’, after rock n roll. He enjoyed dancing in Accrington, the old Mecca in Burnley, the Astoria in Rawtenstall and the Nelson Imp. He was superb and everyone seemed to like him. He was also a very dedciated bodybuilder and loved showing off his muscles in his early years.”

Rocky’s funeral will be held, not surprisingly, at the Longside Lounge in Turf Moor on July 14th at 11am where Nyree has paid for pie and peas for 150 people. He will be cremated at Burnley at 12-15pm followed by the wake and food back at Turf Moor.

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