CLaire Lark talks to Derek Eaton, chairman of Fleetwood Chamber of Trade, and a man with a real passion for the town.
Studying 1890 and 1910 maps of Fleetwood and working out how the early development of the town unfolded, it’s clear Derek Eaton has a passion for the place.
The 69-year-old is no stranger to the changing face of the port, and has been at the forefront of promoting Fleetwood and making sure the town has kept its place on the map for four decades.
The bank manager-turned-post master bought Lighthouse Stationery – then North Fylde Post Office – in March 1978.
Derek had made a decision to turn down a managerial job at the Midland Bank in Bolton to build his own business and post office in Fleetwood.
The premises in North Albert Street were, in Derek’s words, ‘a complete wreck’ but with wife Sue by his side, they set about restoring the building and setting the foundations for what is one of the town’s success stories.
It wasn’t all plain sailing however; the couple didn’t take a holiday for eight years.
Originally from Bradford, Derek’s father was also a sorting office manager in Cleveleys, so he had a fair idea how the Post Office trade worked.
He said: “We decided to invest here but it was a wreck, nothing had been done for years.
“We set about sorting it out, which we did, but in 1997 we found a major structural fault in the building.
“That was when we made our biggest investment, we spent £80,000 putting it right and giving the whole building a facelift, including the upstairs, which is now offices.”
The Post Office side of the business closed several years ago, and to keep up with the fast-moving world of technology, Derek decided to invest in computers and a photo reproduction service using two of the highest spec Canon printers.
“We’ve had to constantly reinvent the business, and it was an investment which was well received,” he said.
As chairman of Fleetwood Chamber of Trade and financial director of Fleetwood Festival of Transport, Derek is a huge supporter of getting the best for Fleetwood, and has worked tirelessly to help improve the town.
“I’ve seen lots of changes, the docks, in particular, have completely changed.
“We were the main suppliers of stationery to the dock businesses and to Stena Sealine, but they have all gone now.
“Our shelves used to be full of business stationery, account books and ledgers.
“Things have changed so much that we only specially order for people who still want them.
“Over the years, Fleetwood has had a big smacking.
“The relaying of the tram tracks deeply affected business and now they are digging up the A585.
“Nobody ever looks at the effect these things have on retail, they can’t understand our concerns.
“It’s mind over matter – they don’t mind and we don’t matter.
“However, we have a very proactive Wyre Council and a brilliant MP, who are doing a lot for Fleetwood. With their support, I think Fleetwood will come back.
“It’s the only place left for development now, and there are plenty of spaces for that to happen.
“The fish park is fantastic news – we just need a motorway link now.”
Derek and Sue have two sons, Simon and Andrew, and a granddaughter Emily.
Emily has SOTO’s syndrome and the family organise a 10k run in Fleetwood every year to raise money.
Derek is also a trustee of Fleetwood and Wyre Mencap.
And he’s even busier with sport: “I love cricket, I used to play, but these days I just enjoy watching it. I also really enjoy gardening.”