Burngreave Messenger.
Issue 39 March 2004

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.


Ken in his shop on Ellesmere Road.

Copyright © Carl Rose   

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