- "He who dares wins."
- ―Del's most famous quote
Del is a lively character, most noted for his happy-go-lucky, confident persona. Whilst not always being successful, his general confidence and often forcefulness often convinces people to believe in him. Starting with the sixth season, Del Boy became a stereotypical yuppy of the late 1980s, pretending to be a lot more financially successful than he really is, which fit in well with him always trying to associate with the higher classes of society but clearly being rooted as working class.
Del also has a rather sensitive side to his personality, particularly for his family. He is not always so keen to express his love his family and loved ones, but in numerous episodes this side is bought out, such as in "Diamonds Are For Heather", Strained Relations", "Dates" and "Time On Our Hands".
Del's mother Joan died in 1964 after an apparently long string of illnesses. Two months afterwards, his lazy father Reg left, taking most of their money and even Del's birthday cake, leaving a teenage Derek as the sole breadwinner of the abandoned Trotter family. Del's grandfather was not up to taking the lead, his best efforts having failed, so Del was left to look after him and Rodney, his younger brother, who was born fifteen years after him in 1960.
Del lives with his brother Rodney, his "significant other" Raquel, and their son Damien on the 13th floor of the fictional Nelson Mandela House in Peckham, London.
Relationship with other characters
Del has had many girlfriends over the course of the series and his friends include Trigger, Denzil, Boycie, Marlene and Mike. His greatest enemy is Roy Slater. Derek is optimistic but although not intellectual he is quick witted, and frequently gets Rodney into trouble. In "Wanted", when a mentally unstable woman accuses Rodney of attacking her, Del makes a joke of it and says that the police have named Rodney "The Peckham Pouncer". Del is afraid of doctors and dentists. His favourite song is "Old Shep", as heard in "Diamonds Are For Heather". He believes he is fluent in French when in fact is hopeless at it (he gets bonjour and au revoir mixed up). Del can't swim (he has a certificate, but it doesn't belong to him) as revealed in "Miami Twice", or fly a hang glider very well as seen in "Tea for Three". Despite being not very bright, a prime example of this is the lettering on his van which reads the Trotters Independent Traders Co but the van should read Trotter's Independent Traders Co., with the apostrophe and the full stop after a shortened word. Though Del does have a heart of gold at times, such as when he tried to help Rodney get over his wife Cassandra's miscarriage, which resulted in the loss of their first attempt to have a baby. He never hesitates to remind people about how he practically brought Rodney up on his own after their mother died and their father left, often using this fact against Rodney to gain the moral high ground whenever the two of them have an argument about anything.
Del works as a market trader, running his own company — Trotters Independent Traders (T.I.T.Co) - either from out of a suitcase or out of the back of his bright yellow Reliant Regal. With a never-ending supply of get-rich-quick schemes and an inner belief in his ability to sell anything to anyone, Del embroils 'the firm' (as he calls the family business) in all sorts of improbable situations. It is this unwavering confidence that led to his oft-proclaimed but rarely realised ambition "This time next year, we'll be millionaires!" Del's business acumen is probably best described by Rodney in the episode "Mother Nature's Son". During a time when Del is feeling depressed about his financial situation, Rodney states that "The old Derek Trotter could smell a fiver in a force 9 gale. They used to say that if Del Boy fell into a Viper's Pit, he'd come up wearing snake skin shoes."
Although he maintains a tough exterior, family means a lot to Del. He still mourns the death of his mother and runs T.I.T.Co with his younger brother, Rodney. Del takes great pride in having raised Rodney after their mother's premature death and has never forgiven his father for running away when Rodney was just an infant. Despite their often minimal income, Del insists on caring for his elderly Grandad. When Grandad died, his role in the family trio is taken up by his younger brother Albert, who received the same level of respect (and light-hearted abuse).
John Sullivan's inspiration for Del's daft foreign phrases comes from source bottle to clothes's label, says John. "Del would read things, think that they were impressive and then he'd start to use them, very inappropriately." Other words, like cushty - which means great or smashing - is an old London saying which comes from Britain's colonial days when posting to Custibar in India was considered to be easy. Lovely jubbly comes from an ice lolly called Jubbly, popular in the 1950s, which was advertised with the slogan "Lovely Jubbly".
Here are some of the best of the rest, and what Del means when he uses them:
- Fabrique Belgique: I agree.
- Plume de ma tente: to be used when he's exasperated, used instead of Gordon Bennett.
- Bonjour: Used to mean goodbye.
- Au revoir: used to mean hello.
- Twonk, Dipstick, Plonker, Pranny, Div and wally: All mean idiot.
- Allemagne dix points: Such is life.
- Noofter or Woofter: A gay man.
- Pucker (pukka): Perfect.
- Grand: £1000, Monkey: £500, Century: £100, Pony: £25, Score: £20,Dounce in bunce: £2000 in cash.
Confusion over age
Del's year of birth is contradicted in several episodes. In "Sleepless in Peckham" (2003), Rodney shows Cassandra a photo of the 1960 Jolly Boys' Outing, and says Del was aged 15, making his year of birth around 1945 (although this is acting on information given to him by Sid who was only estimating Del's age). In "Go West Young Man" (series 1, 1981), Del claims to be 35, giving him a birth date of 1946. In "A Losing Streak" (Series 2, 1982) and "Thicker than Water" (Series 3, 1983), Del claims their father left in 1965 on his 16th birthday, making his birth date 1949, which would have made Del 32 around the time of series 1. In "Tea for Three" (Series 5, 1986), Rodney tells Trigger's niece Lisa that Del's 46th birthday is coming up, making Del's year of birth 1940 (in real life David Jason's year of birth), however the context in which the scene was acted gave the impression Rodney was lying to give the impression Del was older than he actually was. The episode "The Class of '62" (Series 7, 1991) sees Del and friends attending a class reunion, suggesting a birth year of 1946 or 1947.
The prequel drama Rock & Chips set in 1960 shows Del at 15 years of age, this is confirmed in the dialogue between the P.E. teacher and Del's gang. The teacher complains about the boys having to stay on another year due to a change in the law, this is in reference to the change in school leaving age of 1960 when it was raised to 16. This, however, is at odds with "Big Brother" (Series 1, 1981) in which Del states to Rodney that there is thirteen years age difference between the two. If this had been the case, then Del should have been 12 or 13 in Rock & Chips, suggesting a birth year of 1947 or 1948, as opposed to 15. A further dispute is that Boycie, Trigger, Denzil, Roy Slater, Jumbo Mills, and Albie Littlewood are all the same age as Del at the time Rock & Chips was set, making their birth years 1945 instead of 1948. On several occasions Del refers to them as his old classmates at the old Dockside Secondary Modern when clearly he would have been 2 or 3 years above them in school [if he was born in 1945]; and Slater's mother Ruby even informs Albert in the episode "To Hull and Back" that Del and Roy sat next to each other in class.
In the original Only Fools and Horses series (1981-2003), Del was played by David Jason in all episodes. At the time of his casting, Jason was best known for his role as Granville in Roy Clarke's popular sitcom Open All Hours, opposite Ronnie Barker. Ray Butt was the only crew member sold on Jason being Del, as he saw Jason playing Granville in a repeat of Open All Hours. Jim Broadbent and Enn Reitel had both turned down the part. Jason was cast after a read through with Lennard Pearce and Nicholas Lyndhurst. Jason retired as Del aged 63