Well-known city character dies

PUBLISHED: 12:08 14 February 2008 | UPDATED: 12:57 06 May 2010

Ginger Mills - his more normal headgear was a leather trimmed hat

Ginger Mills - his more normal headgear was a leather trimmed hat

WELL-KNOWN character and eccentric Ginger Mills, who frequented St Albans for many years, died of a heart attack on Friday aged 70. Ginger – heavily tattooed and sporting massive leather belts studded with brasses – lived in an old camper van in the form

WELL-KNOWN character and eccentric Ginger Mills, who frequented St Albans for many years, died of a heart attack on Friday aged 70.

Ginger - heavily tattooed and sporting massive leather belts studded with brasses - lived in an old camper van in the former Gentle's Yard for many years until he was famously "bought out" by the developers of the Christopher Place shopping centre which now stands on the site.

The Wilson family, who befriended Ginger down the years, had many happy memories of the character dating back to when he was aged 16.

Abandoned in London when he only nine-years-old, Ginger was sent to an orphanage in Pershore, Worcestershire, run by nuns.

When he left there he was sent to Harperbury Hospital near Radlett because he could neither read nor write and had nowhere else to go.

It was there that charge nurse Jock Wilson first met the young man who had been dumped in a hospital for the mentally retarded. He felt sorry for Ginger and used to have him visit his family at their home in Shenleybury Cottages near London Colney.

Jock died several years ago but his daughter Jenny Robinson carried on the family tradition of caring for Ginger.

Grandmother Jenny, aged 61, of Sandridge Road, St Albans, said: "He used to come and have cups of tea and play cards with us after Dad died and my son Carl was very fond of him. He had had a very hard life but always kept cheerful and never moaned about his lot.

"I know the nuns were cruel to him and he actually ran away and joined the circus at one point helping to look after the elephants. I don't think he ever claimed benefits but managed to support himself with odd jobs."

Ginger divided his time between St Albans and Pershore over the years living in the camper van bought with the developers' money. He spent most of his time in Worcestershire towards the end of his life when his health started to fail and he got a council flat there.

Rose Hitchman, who lives in Pershore, had known Ginger for the last 15 years and helped care for him with another friend Gerald.

She said: "He suffered from Parkinsons and had several mini-strokes. He'd lost the use of his legs in the last few months so it was good that he went so suddenly with a heart attack because he was an active man who wouldn't like to have been so dependent."

His funeral will be held at Pershore Abbey at 1pm next Tuesday to be followed by cremation. A wake will be held at his favourite pub, The Talbot in Pershore, afterwards.

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