Derrick Worton (1933-date)

Early Life

Derrick Worton was born on the 18 June 1933 at Stourbridge, Worcestershire, on the edge of the Black Country. At four years old his main requirement was a drawing board, paper and pencil. He was, however, underweight and suffered from anaemia. So he was prescribed two six-month periods in 1939 and 1943 at Malvern Open Air School. Derrick’s father took him on many long walks in the open countryside around their home and was fascinated by nature in general.

At 14 Derrick passed the Art College exam – he was three years younger than the normal minimum age. He won a Worcestershire County scholarship and attended Stourbridge College of Art for 3 years. It was during these teenage years that his interest in butterflies and moths began and he started a small collection.

Derrick standing in front of some of his landscape paintings.

National Service and the RAF

Conscription meant Derrick serving his two years of National Service in Signals in the RAF, based at Hednesford, Staffordshire, only about 25 miles from his home. On leave at alternate weekends he was able to draw and paint in the countryside. It was just after his RAF days that his butterfly collection succumbed to museum beetle and had to be discarded – a lesson learned, perhaps. This resulted in a pause in butterfly collecting partly due to his becoming busy forwarding his career, soon becoming the manager of a graphic studio.

Back to butterflies

At the studio a student happened to bring in a setting board which, together with the student taking him to meet an entomological in Birmingham, set him collecting again from 1958. Then there was a move to a studio in London and accommodation in Tunbridge Wells and then later a move to Bromley. On his marriage in 1962 he moved to Beckenham.

The dual and compatible hobbies of watercolour painting – often in the footsteps of Constable and Turner –  and of butterfly collecting continued. Derrick is, of course, an early member of Butterfly Conservation.

In 1973 Derrick retired from graphic design and moved to Looe, Cornwall. he ran guest house until 1979 and later an art restoration business. In 1978, Derrick was elected to be a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts for high achievement in graphic art.

Worton and RAMM

In 2015 Derrick transferred his collection to RAMM. It dates from about 1958 to 2009 but also includes older specimens bought at auctions or from dealers or breeders or exchanged with other enthusiasts. There are some that Derrick bred from pupae or eggs.

There are around 6000 specimens of more than 70 different species. Many are now endangered or extinct in Britain. The collection is still to be individually catalogued but you can browse photographs of the drawers below. One specimen is published in scientific literature and is available online.

The care and attention to detail Derrick took over this collection is clear. Two beautifully made wooden cabinets house specimens. One is camphor wood which naturally repels insects that may damage the fragile collection within. All sit in their neat rows held on stainless steel pins. The pins will not rust or corrode thus extending their longevity. Modern materials (plastazote rather than cork) line the drawers for safe handling of fragile specimens. The butterflies are rich in data detailing who collected or bred them, where and when.

RAMM is grateful to Barry Carrick-White for writing this biography of his friend and for facilitating the transfer of this incredibly significant collection.

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