Record breaking Doncaster railwayman's family backs campaign for memorial to Mallard driver

When Doncaster dad Matt Delaney walks into the National Railway Museum in York, he starts to well up.

By David Kessen
Monday, 15th February 2021, 12:30 pm

For 52-year-old Matt, from Sprotbrough, seeing the famous steam loco Mallard is a moving experience, as it is the closest thing he has to a memorial to the world record holding great grandfather he never met.

Matt’s great grandfather was Joe Duddington – the man who drove the famous steam engine at 126mph when it set the world speed record in 1938.

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Matthew Delaney, Great Grandson of Joe, pictured by the unmarked grave at Hyde Park Cemetery. Picture: NDFP-09-02-21-Duddington 1-NMSY

Joe died in 1953 – and his body lies in an unmarked grave at Hyde Park Cemetery, Doncaster. The Doncaster Free Press is campaigning with Friends of Hyde Park Cemetery for a memorial headstone there to mark his achievement.

Until recently, Matt, a sales manager at a car dealership, did not know where his great grandad was buried. He is grateful to research from the friends group for finding the plot.

"To know where he is buried is massive for me,” he said. “I thought there was nothing to remember him by in Doncaster, the man who was hand picked for the record breaking run.

"If it hadn’t been for the man on the footplate having the guts to do it, the record may not have happened. If it hadn’t been for him, no one would have heard of Mallard.

Jo Duddington campaign

“We have always been proud of him, and it brings a tear to my eye to see Mallard, and to have sat where he sat on the footplate. For me, it’s a very emotional thing.

"He died in 1953, so all I have is stories from my grandmother, The story was that for him, it was just a day at the office – driving trains was his job. There must be other relatives I’m not in touch with who are equally proud. I’m Doncaster born and bred, as was he. I think we should be very proud that he came from Doncaster.”

Former Woodfield primary and Balby Carr comprehensive pupil Matt added: “When I was at school, if ever asked if there was something interesting about myself I could tell the others, it was that my great granddad was a train driver and is in the Guinness Book of Records. People had heard of Mallard.

"But he was the driver. Everyone knows of Donald Campbell and Bluebird. It should be the same with Joseph Duddington and Mallard. I felt he should have some sort of recognition."

3rd June 1938: Fireman T H Bray on the left and next to him Driver R J Duddington who made history by driving the LNER locomotive 'Mallard' at 125mph. They are in the dynamometer car at Kings Cross station, London studying the instruments which recorded the record-breaking feat. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

The Free Press photographed Matt on his first visit to the site of his great grandfather’s grave, which he admits he found moving. His grave was never discussed during his childhood.

He is backing the campaign.

“It means a lot to see the Free Press backing this,” he said. “It is Doncaster’s newspaper, so it is touching.

"My grandfather was never bothered about publicity. But we all should be proud that it’s someone from Doncaster who set that record.”

Date: 9th February 2021. Picture James Hardisty. Matthew Delaney, the Great Grandson of Joseph Duddington, the engine-driver of one of the most famous locomotive LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard. Built by the London & North Eastern Railway at Doncaster Works, England in 1938. The Mallard, is historically significant as the holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives at 126 mph (203 km/h). Matthew, visited Hyde Park Cemetery, in Doncaster, after been contacted by Friends of Hyde Park Cemetery, who informed him that site E303 which has know headstone at the moment is the actual burial site of his late grandad a place that Matthew and his familt didn't know it existed until now. Friends of Hyde Park Cemetery, and Matthew's family are now planning to raises funds for a proper headstone in memory Joseph Duddington. Pictured A photograph of Joseph Duddington along with a handwritten note by Joseph dated 1938 stating they had made a world record of 125mph on the Mallard.

We are looking to help the Friends of Hyde Park Cemetery raise an initial £2,000 to pay for a memorial with stories over the coming weeks. Anything raised beyond that will be used to help further explain what Joe did.

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.