Brian Austin was born on 22nd of January 1934 in Derby, His mother was Kathleen, known as Effie. His father John, known as Jack, was a Chief Inspector with the Derbyshire County Police and they lived at the Police Station, Lodge Way, Mickleover (which was then in the county, not Derby Borough). He had an older sister, Joan.
In 1945 John Austin transferred to the Chesterfield Force and the family lived in one of the police houses at the top of Brimington Road, property that is still standing.
Brian attended Chesterfield Grammar School and excelled academically as well as enjoying many sports - see Valete attached. He subsequently graduated from Nottingham University with a BA in Industrial Economics, which in those days was seen as a very good way into general industrial management as well as accountancy. He also played competitive bridge at University level
After his National Service in Malaya, Brian met Rita Jackson (from Newbold) in Chesterfield and they married at Holy Trinity Church in September 1959, eventually settling in Northampton in 1969. Brian devoted himself to his job in the British footwear industry. He was extremely well educated and well read, with a voracious interest in current affairs and the world around him. He wasn't afraid to put forward his opinions in a robust manner! He enjoyed get-togethers with friends and a good lively evening - always utilising his ability to hold an audience - often ending up with singing. He thought he sounded like Pat Boone.
In 1982 Brian moved back to Chesterfield to care for Effie after the death of his father, settling in Shirland Street. Effie developed dementia and sadly passed away. This hit Brian hard but fortunately he had already met Barbara who became his second wife.
During this time the history of Chesterfield became his great interest and he joined the Chesterfield Library Victoria County History volunteers' group where his main contribution was to pass on an enormous, if eclectic, collection of extracts he had made from the local newspapers relating to Chesterfield, culled from reading the papers page by page on microfilm in the library, long before it was digitised. He began by looking for references to tanneries (sparked by his lifelong career and interest in shoes and shoemaking) which he found in the paper, but then realised how much more there was in it of possible interest. He was often to be found in the Local Studies department of Chesterfield Library poring over the microfilm copies of the Derbyshire Times. He became friendly with the staff, with one member bringing back some shoes for him from a visit to Azerbaijan!
He was useful as one of the older members of the group who'd grown up in Chesterfield with memories of the town going back to just after the war. He was also active in the local Citizens Advice Bureau and Chesterfield and District Local History Society.
He contributed to six of the above Society’s History papers. All were extracts of articles from the Derbyshire Times, including Chesterfield’s Monster Cakes, the Great Lacemaking Machine of Chesterfield and Chesterfield’s Last Towncrier, all quirky stories which particularly appealed to him. For a time he was a member of the committee and at those meetings he would launch into the telling of other tales he’d discovered in the Derbyshire Times, especially those involving the misdemeanours of Chesterfield citizens and ending with his favourite phrase “I kid you not!” Anyone paying a visit to his home in Shirland Street would be treated to the privilege of viewing some dusty books, an ancient stamp or coin collection or some yellowed newspaper clippings.
Many hours were spent in conversation in BB’s Cafe and the Dolphin Fish Shop! He made new younger friends including Peter Bullock, to whom he acted as advisor and mentor for Peter's footwear business, Peter’s Shoes, on Low Pavement, from which he gained a great deal of satisfaction and the two became firm friends. Another of Brian’s legacies is a hanging sign showing Saint Crispin. Brian encouraged Peter Bullock to commission this sign in honour of the patron saint of shoemakers.
Brian was a regular visitor to the Chesterfield Museum - he went in to share his latest discoveries and had a real nose for a story, the more remarkable and unusual the better. He believed that stories about people were what would hook present-day people and get them interested in history, of course he was right. His delight in quirky stories together with another Chesterfield history veteran’s interest in old photographs (the late Dave Roberts) were what inspired the highly successful ‘Snapshots’ video film made for the museum in the early 2000’s.
Towards the end of his career Brian worked in Ethiopia, Egypt and West Indies on extended business contracts with the United Nations International Labour Organisation. In 1993 he travelled to China to as part of a year long exchange organised between Chesterfield Borough Council and Yangquan, our Chinese twin town. His Chinese associates affectionately gave him the nickname “Professor”. He came back rather thinner (he didn’t get on with the food) and of course bearing Chinese shoes!
In 2007 Brian sold his home in Chesterfield to relocate back to Northampton to be near his two sons. Life had become slower but still rich, and he was able to spend a lot more time with his family.
Brian carried his ferocious wit, fierce intelligence and dark humour to the end. He never forgot the punch line of a joke, the detail of a memory or the lesson in his story. He will be remembered for his kind, giving and generous nature . He was always ready to hand out advice and share his wisdom, often being slightly bemused when others didn’t share his enthusiasm for his latest research project! He was intensely proud of his children and grandchildren, and became a great grandfather in October 2020, with the birth of Jack. Of course he was tickled pink by the name! He would tell anyone and everyone about his grandchildren‘s achievements and activities and always looked forward to their visits.
Brian died from COVID-19 in Northampton General Hospital on 16/1/21.
He was one of Chesterfield’s most dedicated sons. The world will be a less colourful and quieter place without him.
With thanks to many and varied contributors.