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?
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