Andrew Wilmingot was born Andrew Wilson at St. Mary’s Hospital (ironically now a retirement home), Kedleston Road, Derby, in 1938. The son of Anne Ashby and local builder Frank Wilson, (who became very wealthy during Wilmingot’s childhood,) he was educated first at Ashgate Primary School in a working class environment, and later, as the family fortunes changed, sent to board at Repton.
Wilmingot excelled at the classics, though trouble with grammar (which may well have been due to dyslexia, as many of his manuscripts reveal consistent mistakes that remain in the publication) held him back from the kind of grades his comprehension and imagination promised.
His large stature saw to it that he was enrolled in the school’s first rugby team, though his juvenilia reveals a hatred for the sport. ”Big hurts big, I say, and I hate hurting and hurting others. It’s a game, so why is the head shouting in my face, sir? What’s the matter with you boy? No spunk! It’s a shambles! And it is, but I don’t care a jot. You can take your ruddy leather egg, your rub of cold ears and your gangs of bloody knees and stuff them, that’s what I say.”
Raised in the Church of England, his reading of Greek and Roman classics - mythology and drama (the Aeneid, the Odyssey, theLysistrata, The Clouds, etc.) as well as the Histories of Thucydides and Herodotus, the philosophy of Plato and Socrates - led him to question his faith and ultimately abandon it altogether. In his eyes the mythology of these ancient races was as potent to him as his own Judeo Christian mythology, and just as likely to be right or wrong. It set him on a life-long mission to understand the origins of mythology, and in his last years he wrote several letters to Gladys Wilkinson that illustrated his deep anger at what he called “the guile-less unquestioning blinkers that turn the heads of men, like a rag and bone man’s mare, driven on in a straight forward line by the pull of greasy straps in grubby fingers, hauling all the detritus of mankind in a pestilent heap behind…”
In 1958 The Wilson’s fell on hard times when the building firm went into bankruptcy. Frank Wilson tried to commit suicide, but he failed and was institutionalized at Kingsway Hospital, where he remained for the rest of his life, eventually outliving his only son, Andrew. Anne was to die of pneumonia at her home in Darley Abbey less than two years after Frank’s incarceration. Andrew Wilson changed his name to Wilmingot, an act he never explained, and opted not to take an offered place at Durham University to read Classics, choosing instead to work as a foreman at Rolls Royce in Derby, a job he retained for the remainder of his short life.
Passionate about the arts, Wilmingot discovered the Beardists by chance when he met Gerard Pointon in the Malt Shovel Inn inShardlow in 1962. The public house was most likely his model for ‘The Shovel’ as featured in ‘Paradise Rex Press, Inc.’ The two hit it off very quickly, and Wilmingot was soon regularly visiting Pointon’s studio in Ashbourne, and sending the painter and poet early drafts of his novella. Pointon intoduced Wilmingot to a local printer, inadvertently adding another level to the novella, as well as providing the means to publication in 1963.
Wilmingot never published another novella, though he often talked to Pointon of publishing a magnus opus he called “Steel Wings and Prayers”, and epic of man’s industriosophical journey, at once Homeric, spiritual and industrial, it was to be his ‘Ulysses’. Very little of this remains, but that which is alluded to in letters to Pointon and Wilkinson.
Wilmingot died in 1977 in an industrial accident at Rolls Royce. An only child, he never married and sired no children of his own. His one publication, ‘Paradise Rex Press, Inc.’ remains his sole legacy.