Ipswich: So long, Spearo – Tributes paid to barge master after he charts his final voyage

IPSWICH: Tributes have been paid today to a colourful Suffolk character who was best known for his work as a barge master at Ipswich dock.

Derek Ling – known to many by his nickname of Spearo – died on August 18 following a long illness. He was 83.

The former barge master was one of the oldest surviving barge masters in England whose family had three generations of barge masters serving Ipswich and associated companies.

Mr Ling’s father Frederick served R.W. Pauls of Ipswich for 50 years and Derek served R.W. Pauls and Cranfields for many years carrying cargos to and from London and during the Blitz returning with brick rubble used to build runways at RAF Bentwaters and other wartime airfields.

The last 20 years of his working life was spent working for Taylor Woodrow skippering the Lady Daphne for private charter, based at St Katherine’s yacht haven in London, where he met several members of the Royal family including the Queen, Queen Mother and Prince Charles.


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Mr Ling’s daughter Sue Rudland said her father, who was born in the Stoke area of Ipswich, was a talented story teller who lived life to the full.

Mrs Rudland said: “Dad was a gentle man, very traditional in his approach, he was very much head of the household and provided for his wife and 11 children admirably. Dad adored mum and loved his family dearly. Growing up in such a large household was never dull. My sister likened it to The Darling Buds of May.”

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A Freeman of the City of London and a Freeman of the Waterways, Mr Ling also supported Operation Drake, a charity which helps teach disadvantaged teenagers team work through sailing.

Mrs Rudland added: “Dad was Suffolk born and bred, a character true to his roots, most of our childhood was spent on the water. Dad had an incredible sense of humour that stayed with him till the end. As a family we have been overwhelmed by the tributes that have been paid and so many heartfelt messages at his loss. We were blessed to call him Dad and so very proud of him.”

Mr Ling leaves behind his widow Doreen as well as 27 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren.

The funeral will be held tomorrow at 11am at St Mary Stoke, Stoke Street, Ipswich.

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