A STEAM engine enthusiast who spent the past five years volunteering at Hereford Waterworks Museum has passed away at the age of 75.

John Depledge was born in 1943 and started his working life in Sheffield, where he met his wife Cally.

The pair then moved to Hereford, where John lived and worked locally before retiring and getting involved with the museum.

Paying tribute to John, Cally said in school he managed to get out of PE lesson by swapping to metalwork and woodwork classes instead.

Despite wanting to be a cabinet maker, John, like other boys, followed his father into Hadfields Steel Works in Sheffield.

Then, after a spell at sea, John returned to dry land and in 1969 met his future wife Cally, proposing at Christmas. When trouble hit the steel industry and the site closed, John was one of 1,800 workers to be made redundant.

Devastated, he took his bright orange plastic safety helmet and drilled holes in it, put compost and nasturtiums in it and hung it on the garage in the back yard.

A move to Hereford a few years down the line saw John and Cally live closed to her parents in Grosmont.

His first job in the county was at Sun Valley, where the engineering was lighter but there were still plenty of challenges. He later worked for Paragon Laundry, first in Ross and then in Kington.

Cally said John “scrubbed up well” for daughter Jane’s wedding to Matt in 2011, and was incredibly proud.

In 2013, when granddaughter Jessica was about to arrive, he confessed to Cally that he wasn’t sure about becoming a grandfather, but was told he had to grin and bear it.

“Of course, the moment he saw Jessica, only hours after she was born, he fell in love,” Cally added.

“As Jessica grew and loved him back, he became granddad John, and granddad John could mend anything.”

After retiring aged 70, he joined the volunteers at Hereford Waterworks Museum. It was a return to steam and engineering, his first love.

“He rose rapidly and became deputy chief engineer, a trustee, a director and vice chairman of the board. He always wanted to achieve a directorship,” Cally said.

“He was proud of all the volunteers and the standards of the work done by them, including the ladies in the tea-and-bun department.”

She said John used to say: “Very important people, keeping volunteers and visitors alike well fed and watered. After all, the world revolves around tea, doesn’t it?”

He even had his own special big mug for tea at the museum.

“He had three pints of tea before breakfast each morning and a few more afterwards.”

John, who died on June 5, was a member of several choirs, including the Fire Choir, Ledbury Community Choir and the Garrick and Kindle Choirs. “He loved steam engines and steam locomotives and was a member of several steam railway societies,” his wife added. “Engineering, steam, singing, family and friends, always on the go. That was John.”