PUBLISHED: 11:49 28 February 2008 | UPDATED: 15:40 21 February 2013
SIR, — From time to time I used to received copies of the Herts Advertiser from family living in St Albans and was interested to read, some years ago now, of an exhibition staged by the St Albans Museums which included certain artefacts which at one time
SIR, - From time to time I used to received copies of the Herts Advertiser from family living in St Albans and was interested to read, some years ago now, of an exhibition staged by the St Albans Museums which included certain artefacts which at one time belonged to the so-called "City eccentric and hard man" Ginger Mills. I must say that I was somewhat bemused by the fact that the city's "hierarchy" eventually considered Ginger Mills to have attained the status of "local folk hero" when in the 1960s he was considered one of the "untouchables". Love him or loathe him, Ginger Mills was one of the city's most colourful characters during my teenage years.
To mention the name of Ginger Mills during mealtimes around the dining-table in my middle-class family home would send my parents into paroxysms for they, like many parents of teenage girls at the time, considered him most undesirable to know, as he seemed regularly to feature in the columns of the Herts Advertiser following some misdemeanour.
His occupation at that time seemed mostly to be described as grave digger, and in later years when I asked some friends, a father and daughter who follow this profession, why they should want to do this particular type of work they told me: "Because it's the last thing that we can do for someone."
Did Ginger Mills share this view? I don't suppose anyone ever took the trouble to find out.
I was not considered a friend of this man although I would occasionally meet him at the Pioneer Youth Club when it re-opened from the former premises in Alma Road as The Barbara Tanner Youth Centre in Harpenden Road, as my home was next door.
Barbara Tanner was affectionately known by all Club members as "Ma" and she was the only adult I knew at the time who considered Ginger Mills to have human status. I remember as a timid 14-year-old approaching him to offer him a cigarette, for which I faced the certainty of my parents' wrath should they discover how I spent the majority of my pocket-money. When he accepted and often returned the offer I began to realise that he probably wasn't the fearsome individual that he liked to portray.
It was never of particular interest to me where Ginger Mills lived until I began working in an office above Simmonds Bakers in French Row during the summer of 1969. The window of my office overlooked Gentle's Yard long before it was redeveloped as the Christopher Place shopping precinct, and here was his battered old motor coach. Did he live here by choice or did the powers that be decide that he was not eligible for council accommodation? Did anyone care?
I left St Albans as a permanent resident in 1971 but often returned to visit with my children when they were small. I last saw Ginger during a mid-1980s' summer striding across Verulamium Park looking mean, moody and magnificent as ever in his familiar garb, Davy Crockett hat, leather waistcoat, jeans and famous leather studded belt. My companion on that occasion, who did not know who he was, remarked: "There's an interesting-looking man" - a view not shared by many.
Now sadly I hear that this enigmatic figure has died (Herts Advertiser, February 14). Social misfit I suppose he was. Charismatic he certainly was. Whatever one thought of Ginger Mills I hope that he will always be remembered for the way in which he enlivened the city of St Albans with his colourful character and indomitable spirit.
LINDSAY SEAGRIM-TRINDER (nee Pratt),
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