In 2016, the British public voted Derek Trotter as the most popular British comedy character of all time. This will not come as a surprise as Only Fools and Horses is the nations’ favourite sitcom with millions of fans still watching the show on a regular basis. It appears that watching repeats of Del Boy and his brother Rodney scheming their way to becoming millionaires will be making people laugh for years to come.
With the show being so popular, can you imagine being that person that the main character was based on? That would be pretty amazing right?
Del Boy was in fact primarily inspired by two characters. Initially, writer John Sullivan used a Londoner by the name of Chicky Stocker to base the character on.
“He was a working-class Londoner and a tough man, but always neatly dressed.He was very genuine and I liked his attitude to life. He was very loyal to his family and I tried to instil that into Del. Other aspects of Del’s character, like buying drinks for people down the pub even when he couldn’t really afford to, came from people I knew in the car trade. Even if they were doing badly, they’d borrow money to flash about, to let everyone think they are doing well.”
The second inspiration came from another Londoner Sir David Jason knew named Derek Hockley. He ran a building firm and David had worked for him during his younger days when he plied his trade as an electrician.
“He had a little goatee beard and was terribly well turned out,” explained Jason. “He always had a clean shirt on that was immaculately pressed, a sharp suit, all the jewellery, high polished shoes and a camel-hair coat – and he just looked the business. He thought he was very smart and what I couldn’t get out my mind was a guy looking at elegantly dressed as he did and yet he spoke like a gorblimey cockney. That really left an impression on me…He was a great character and, as I got to know him, it became clear that he was a real ducker and diver… I decided to use some of Derek Hockley’s attitudes and his dress sense and apply it to Del Boy.”
Derek Hockley was a self-aware and observant man. He was watching his old acquaintance David Jason in Only Fools and Horses and he recognised the man he was portraying. It was of course, himself.
Hockley was thrilled by David’s choice to use him as an inspiration. So much so that he wrote to him to personally thank him. Hockley wrote how he was delighted and proud that he was the man who inspired this great character.
Dereck Hockley is sadly no longer with us but Sir David Jason remained a close friend with him and visited him in hospital during the time he was seriously ill.
Thank you for being an inspiration to the best comedy character of all time. Rest in peace.