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Sir Richard Fitzherbert meets Prof. Peter Young

PUBLISHED: 12:26 18 March 2011 | UPDATED: 15:00 20 February 2013

Professor Peter Young

Professor Peter Young

I poke my nose into anything' - the Professor grins as he sits with me in the drawing room of his comfortable cottage in Parwich opposite the primary school.

I know the Professor as the ubiquitous editor of our local Parish magazine and can vouch only too well that his knowledge and the extensive reference library he carries in his head is second to none in our group of five parishes. His observations and the quotes he cites in his monthly editorial make me feel my own inadequacies and never cease to astound me.

The Professor was actually born in Boston, Lincolnshire, of Scottish parents and, with no siblings to distract him, was soon intrigued by all things mechanical. 'It was a little seaport and I used to wander around the docks and was fascinated by all the boats, pulleys and equipment that was stored there.' During the holidays he used to take the boat from Boston to Holland and then bicycle around the country staying in youth hostels while he sought out and examined all sorts of contraptions.

Aged 17 he left school and joined the Navy in the war, starting as an engineer cadet and moving up the ranks from midshipman to sub-Lieutenant. Of course he was a 'backroom boy', which he found fascinating and then in 1946 went up to St Catherine's College, Cambridge.

At university he read Natural Sciences, subsequently staying on for a PhD and then continuing further with a Research Fellowship in Extractive Metallurgy. In all he spent 11 years at that hallowed seat of learning. Then followed a distinguished career in industry covering a wide variety of fields which included lead/zinc smelting, nuclear engineering, iron and steel making and slow-release fertilizers. His working life was spent not only in the UK but also in Australia, which I can tell remains close to his heart when he shows me landscapes of the Outback that he and his late wife Margaret obviously loved.

The Professor was lured down to Derbyshire through Robert Shields, Managing Director of local firm Longcliffe Quarries, and at first commuted from his home at Harrogate to Derbyshire. After a while, he and Margaret bought their cottage in Parwich and both settled comfortably into the community. Margaret was herself extremely active, her pursuits ranging from the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) to the North Yorkshire Guides but sadly she died of cancer in 1998. Until the Professor met Margaret he had managed to avoid having a dog but she gave him Snowy (16) and Kirsty (12), his 'two good friends', the trusted West Highland Terriers that reside with him in Parwich.

However, it is his love of music that makes the Professor tick. At 82 he is still going for singing lessons to the Voice Box in Derby and his Sundays are spent in the choir at Wirksworth Church. 'Why Wirksworth?' I enquire. 'I often go to shop in the town on the way from Longcliffe and I was queuing for a loaf of bread once when I met the vicar and he invited me to join,' is the reply. Apparently it is a small choir but he sings at weddings and funerals and also at the annual Festival. While studying he also sang in the Chapel Choir at St Catherine's and was President of the Music Society.

The Professor was once described as 'a scientist in the best (and perhaps now old-fashioned) sense of that word ... there have been few scientists of any description who have been able to initiate and conduct outstanding research in so many diverse fields.' He still continues to live life to the full ... and he still flourishes as the Editor of our parish magazine. Our group of parishes needs him.

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