Derek's final round

TO his customers in Capel St Mary Derek Manning is the cream of the crop.For 27 years Mr Manning has been a milkman in the area but now he has delivered his last pint.

TO his customers in Capel St Mary Derek Manning is the cream of the crop.

For 27 years Mr Manning has been a milkman in the area but now he has delivered his last pint.

Mr Manning, 60, said: "I do not want to keep working forever but I have really enjoyed it while I have been there."

He has worked for Ipswich and Norwich Co-op Dairy since April 1976 despite originally describing the job as 'a stop gap'.

"There have been loads of good points and I have met a lot of friends," said Mr Manning. "I have been to funerals, weddings and birthday parties just because I was their milkman.

"There is a lot of people still there from the time I started so we have all grown up together."

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Carol Vellacott is one of his customers. She said: "He has been brilliant and was always on time. Derek has been a good friend to a lot of people."

Mr Manning, from Yeoman Way, Hadleigh, used to wake up at 4am before delivering milk to 450 homes. He was always determined to finish his round, even in poor conditions.

He said: "Sometimes I had trouble in the snow but I usually got there somehow. One time we got stuck and the Co-op could not get a van out. We had to reload onto a bread van and every time I started the van the wheels spun and some of the milk fell off. I did not get back home until 5pm."

He got to know the customers well and twice spotted something wrong. He said: "You get to see the signs and you know if it is not right. One incident was six ago and the other one was ten years ago. Both people used to get up early in the morning but the papers were still in their doors and the curtains closed up. The first thought I had was something was wrong and we found that the people had died."

Staff at The Paper Shop, in Capel St Mary have got him a membership for Essex County Cricket Club as a retirement present. A party is due to be held for Mr Manning at 6.30pm at Capel Village Hall, today .

Mick Andrews, area distribution manager for Ipswich and Norwich Co-op Dairy, said: "Derek has been absolutely brilliant and is a hard act to follow.

"People can take it for granted that their milk will be there every morning. It is not an easy job but Derek has always delivered."

Factfile (to go with milkman retiring)

Since 1976, when Derek Manning started his milk round, the following events have happened.

1978: Ipswich Town won the FA Cup.

1979: Margaret Thatcher became British Prime Minister.

1980: John Lennon was shot dead in New York

1981: Ipswich Town won the UEFA Cup.

1982: The Falklands War.

1986: Space shuttle Challenger exploded after launch at Cape Canaveral.

1988: Pan-Am 747 exploded from terrorist bomb and crashes in Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 aboard and 11 people on the ground.

1990: South Africa freed Nelson Mandela. He had been imprisoned for more than 27 years.

1997: Princess Diana died in a Paris car crash.

2001: More than 3,000 people died as terrorists attack the United States. Hijackers smash jetliners into twin towers of New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.