Doug Mullins

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked about this plaque, found on a modest little plinth in the small garden on the corner of Burney Street and Royal Hill.

So I finally decided to find out. Jayne, Dave,  Alan, OldCodger and anyone else who ever asked this and I promised to look it up (one day) this is for you.

Doug was the son of Bill Mullins, one of the ‘old school’ of dairymen. He had started out in Hampshire but moved up to Greenwich in 1926. His dairy was on the spot that the garden now occupies, and he and his red and white handcart was a familiar sight around Greenwich streets for fifty four years.

Bill was joined by his son Doug, who eventually took over the business. Although he finally caved in to modern technology and got himself one of those little electric milk floats that were all the rage, it remained red and white and he remained true to the old dairy traditions.

Bill collapsed outside his shop in 1980, and died shortly afterwards. Greenwich went into mourning. At his funeral the streets were lined with customers, neighbours and friends, little knowing that just eleven years later his son ‘Dougie’ would be found outside the shop after collapsing himself, finally passing away in Greenwich District Hospital on November 29, 1991 at the age of just 59. His funeral was every bit as well-attended as his father’s. The Mercury even¬†carried a photo of a milk bottle-shaped wreath.

Doug, it seems, was the last of London’s ‘true dairymen,’ and it’s clear he was much missed. His widow, Ellen, told the Mercury at the time “People have so many memories,” going on to talk about life-long customers who remembered Dougie as a boy, up to his elbows in suds, washing milk bottles, or his getting his first delivery cart aged around 14.

All this makes it even sadder that now this is one of my most frequently-asked of all frequently asked questions. It’s only twenty years this year since Greenwich lost one of its true characters, but Doug Mullins is getting lost. I believe that this post is all there is on the internet about a man that was so loved his friends gave him a memorial plaque and even this paltry bit of information is incomplete and took some hefty tracking down.

I’d love to add to this post. Does anyone out there remember Doug? Anyone got a photo of the old dairy? Or even him?

the attachments to this post:

burney street garden
burney street garden

burney street garden 2
burney street garden 2

doug mullins jpg
doug mullins jpg

6 Comments to “Doug Mullins”

  1. Chris says:

    Good old fashioned research lives on!

    Thanks for your work on this fascinating story.

    But to bring up a bigger issue, your comment that there was nothing on the internet about Doug is a little worrying. Were it not for your reserch there still wouldn’t be, and — whether we like it or not — most of today’s kids have the wiew “If it aint on the net, it didn’t happen.”

    I find that rather sad.

  2. Well, to be fair, just because I can’t find anything on the internet doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t there. I’m not the world’s greatest internet researcher.

    But frankly, very few things of the flavour I’m ever searching for tend to have much about them on the net. If I look something up and I’m the first result, I get very depressed indeed.

  3. Ebspig says:

    Doug was a lovely chap (the whole family were/are)- very attractive looking, too, with curly dark hair – and a crucial part of the Greenwich community as it was then.

  4. HA! Someone who knew. Quick. More info please, Ebspig!

  5. Ebspig says:

    In those days (which really wasn’t that long ago) people either went to the amazing Wendy Mead – lower down Royal Hill nearer Greenwich High Road – or the Mullinses. When the buildings were demolished Ellen opened up higher up Royal Hill, but Doug’s death and the loss of the milk round, and the competition from chain groceries (please do try to shop at independent emporia…) meant it didn’t last that long in the new premises. There’s a whole volume to be written about those years in Greenwich!

  6. Jack Cross says:

    I loved the old Dairy shop with proper Cheddar, ham sliced off the bone, and pretty well the entire range of Tiptree jams and marmalades. Service with proper old-fashioned friendliness and courtesy, as opposed to “have a nice day” insincerity.
    There is so little of Old Greenwich left now.