A fond farewell
by Mark Lankshear
Ken and his wife Mary have been at the
heart of our community since the 60s, serving our daily papers,
fruit and veg and cutting the hair of whole generations.
As Ken gives up his daily routine, with its
4am starts, so he can spend more time with his three grandchildren,
he says he’ll miss his many regulars and would like
to thank the community for all the support they’ve shown
him over the years.
Ken was a pit worker at a Swallownest colliery
until he moved into a flat above the shops on Ellesmere Road
with his new wife in 1966, the year England won the Word Cup
and Sheffield Wednesday lost 3–2 to Everton in the Cup
Final at Wembley. When the paper shop under his flat became
vacant he took on the lease and started selling papers to
the thousands of steel workers as they walked from their homes
in the densely-packed terraces around Ellesmere to the huge
steel works around Carlisle Street.
There have been many changes on Ellesmere Road
during the decades. He told me about the demolition of the
Wicker Congregational Church that used to stand on what is
now Ellesmere Green. “They took the insides of the building
out first and then collapsed it in on itself. It was like
Hiroshima, there was a huge mushroom cloud and hundreds of
mice came running out, sending all the women screaming.”
Ken says he gets on famously with all his regulars.
“We always have a laugh and a joke and I feel protected
here, I supply people with a service and they look out for
me.” He’s never been robbed of more than a few
packets of fags, but does admit to feeling safer in the dark
mornings since the New Deal have paid for automatic shutters
for the shop front. “Things are starting to look good
for the area again.”
Another of Ken’s passions was running
the team of paper boys, at one time there were 14 of them.
It provided steady work for young lads and they learnt a lot
from it. “I always asked, never told them what to do
and they all did their job well, even some who were in trouble
in other parts of their lives. It really brought home how
long I’d been here when the sons of my old delivery
boys were asking me for a job!”
Mary ran her hairdressing business from the
rooms at the back of the shop, as well as visiting some of
the many residential homes in the area. Ken told me how she
was heartbroken to leave. After nearly forty years she’s
been cutting people’s hair for most of their lives and
has been receiving cards, flowers and glass crystal as leaving
presents. “I used to pay all the rent and rates so Mary
could keep her prices low for the older customers, it’s
come as a real shock that she’s leaving.”
Ken and Mary now live in Beighton and have family
as far away as Portsmouth. Ken works everyday from 4am until
6pm. “As you get older you just don’t want it.
My grandchildren keep asking me when I’ll retire and
one said that I’ll be able to come and see her everyday.
It feels like I’ve been here forever, and I’ll
miss the area, but I’m looking forward to not having
to plan ahead. Mary can’t bear to leave and is still
going to do her round at Jasmine Court.”
The shop has been sold to another local family
who will keep it going as a newsagent. The Messenger
would like to wish Ken and Mary a long and happy retirement,
and on behalf of everyone in Burngreave, we’d like to
thank them both for all their years of work and service, we’ll
miss you too.