Tributes for 'giant of Burnley industry' and former Burnley FC managing director

A well-known and highly respected former businessman and managing director of Burnley Football Club has died at the age of 87.

Tuesday, 20th October 2020, 7:00 am
Derek and Kathleen Gill

Derek Gill was born in Burnley in 1933, the older of two boys born to William and Elizabeth Gill. His only brother Kenneth died in 1966.

Derek attended Hargher Clough and then on to Burnley Grammar School and left at the age of 15 to begin a career in accountancy with the local firm Proctor and Proctor.

Derek’s early life was difficult as his mother died when he was only 17 and shortly afterwards he spent two years National Service with the RAF.

At a hospital dance in 1954, Derek met Kathleen; a young woman who had left her home in rural County Limerick, Ireland to pursue a career in nursing, and from that moment on his love for her and her homeland was sealed. They married in 1956 and lived in Burnley throughout their 64 years of married life.

Derek’s working career developed from accountancy to industry whereupon he successfully applied for several jobs in the manufacturing sector to eventually become in 1973 the managing director of Tetrosyl Ltd, the largest manufacturer of Car Care products in Europe.

It was in 1977 when he re-mortgaged his house and purchased Lupton and Place Ltd at Trafalgar Street in Burnley, at the time a run-down foundry and engineering works.

He successfully transformed the company to then allow him to acquire Thorn EMI Diecastings Ltd in 1985, and so consolidated the two sites to Athletic Street in Burnley where Lupton and Place Ltd employs 130 today.

It was during this period that Derek was invited to examine the accounts of Burnley Football Club soon after Bob Lord’s death in 1981. This he did and became a director of the Club in 1982. He was so proud and privileged to be a director of the club he worshipped since childhood.

He left the club in 1985 with huge regret and feelings of emptiness even though he felt that he acted for the greater good of the club and not for personal gratification.

Apart from his business and football links, Derek was a proud and former President of the Catenian Association, a brotherhood of men who practise the catholic faith. He had a passion for music from a very early age.

He was a chorister at St. John’s Church, Gannow, where he represented the church at the Festival of Britain in 1951. He sang at festivals all over the North West and the Isle of Man.

He won the prestigious Rose Bowl at Burnley Festival in 1966 and in 1970 became the first person ever to win it twice. He regularly sang at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool and the National Eisteddfod of Wales. For several decades he was one of the most sought-after tenor soloists in the region.

His other pleasures included cricket, bridge, bowls, cruising and many other holidays, especially in Australia with his devoted wife Kathleen always by his side.

Tributes to Derek have been pouring in from throughout the area, being described as a “giant of industry, a colossus in the town and a quite exceptional character all round and never afraid to speak out forcefully often in challenging circumstances”.

The family take enormous comfort from the knowledge that their father was known, loved and respected by so many. “He touched the lives of so many people and left his incredible thumbprint on this earth and we will forever be so proud to have had a father who did so much in his life, all for the benefit of his family.”

He leaves his wife Kathleen, seven children including his late beloved son, Michael, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

A Requiem Mass will take place at St. Mary’s RC Church, Yorkshire Street, Burnley at 10-15 am on Thursday, October 22nd. Burial is at Burnley Cemetery at 11-30 am.