Memories of my grandad, an Iron Man footballer and Post Office mailman

GRANDAD! Harry Carrier in his footballing heyday.

GRANDAD! Harry Carrier in his footballing heyday. - Credit: Archant

LOOK! That’s my grandad!

FROZEN OUT? A Birds Eye Foods lorry, before the company abandoned its Yarmouth operation.

FROZEN OUT? A Birds Eye Foods lorry, before the company abandoned its Yarmouth operation. - Credit: Archant

That was the likely reaction when Peter Carrier turned to a recent column and saw a photograph of his forebear in a local football team dubbed “the Iron Men.”

REMINDER OF YESTERYEAR: A Cooper & Co van probably between the wars. The company ended its Yarmouth

REMINDER OF YESTERYEAR: A Cooper & Co van probably between the wars. The company ended its Yarmouth operations last December. - Credit: Archant

They got that name because nine decades ago they played three league matches consecutively in one day – and won them all decisively.

“What a great surprise to open the Mercury and see my grandfather Harry as one of the Yarmouth Post Office team in 1921,” writes 57-year-old Peter from his home in Lound Road, Blundeston. “Harry was captain and is the one holding the ball in your picture.

“In addition he played for Great Yarmouth Town and was known as a quiet, courteous man. As well as football, he was keen cricketer.

“He entered the Post Office in October 1909 as a messenger boy and was appointed a postman in 1914.

“In 1957 he received the Imperial Service Medal, receiving letters from the Director-General and the local MP. He held 27 years’ safe driving awards, of which I hold some certificates, and we have the medals.

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“John Carrier, my father, was Harry’s first son and was manager of the Empire Cinema. My brothers and I all grew up working the summer season in the Empire in the heyday of cinema, and later at the bingo sessions.

“The Empire was my play den as a young lad and I knew every nook and corner. Dad would be a little glum seeing the state of the place now, but cinema was his world – even while serving as a young man in Persia and Iraq in 1943 he still managed to show films to the troops.”

I assume Grandad Carrier played in that one-day soccer marathon, for it was only three years after the league-winning team picture was taken with him holding the cup.

Peter Carrier sent me the photograph of Harry and fellow postal workers lined up with mail vans on Hall Quay outside the National Provincial Bank, Star Hotel and telephone exchange (then part of the GPO) next to the head post office.

From vintage vans to a long-ago vehicle owned by general merchant Cooper & Co, of 35/36 Market Place, premises currently occupied by the Halifax, which succeeded Purdy’s bakery and coffee bar.

The old snapshot was sent by Robin Hambling, of Lawn Avenue, Yarmouth.

Cooper & Co was probably the original name of the enterprise that developed from about 1860 until it became simply Coopers – prominent hardware dealer, ironmonger, DIY shop and builders merchant – latterly in North Market Road and on the Harfrey’s estate. The town centre shop closed in 2010, the Bessemer Way premises ceased trading at the end of 2013. Coopers continues to have shops in four market towns in Norfolk and Suffolk.

According to an illustration in historian Colin Tooke’s 2003 book Great Yarmouth Town Centre Past & Present, in 1897 merchant ironmonger A S Cooper occupied 32/33 Market Place (now Hughes TV, which moved in perhaps in the 1980s), while next door (the present Halifax) was its other shop, not only retailing stationery, haberdashery, fancy goods, portmanteaus and travelling bags but also operating a post office and savings bank.

Colin reports: “In 1912, 32 and 33 Market Place were occupied by Cooper & Cunningham, ironmongers, while next door at 35 and 36 were Cooper & Co, stationers and post office. By 1927 the “Cunningham” had disappeared. Both Coopers still there in 1931 but by 1934 numbers 35 and 36 were listed as Purdys.”

I was intrigued to learn that the “Cunningham” half of Cooper and Cunningham had been removed by 1927 because, until well after the war, my family still always referred to “Cooper and Cunningham”.

Robin Hambling adds: “I’m not really sure why I have this Cooper van picture, but my dad did work for George Cooper in his early days. That was the garage on Northgate Street. Could there be some connection?”

Sorry, Robin. I cannot help you.

Talking of delivery vehicles, I was sad to read recently of the death of Kenny Saunders, of Burgh Castle, on the eve of his 90th birthday. In my boyhood in Gorleston, cheery Kenny and his dad came weekly in their old car, towing a trailer laden with fresh market garden produce from which housewives took their pick.

Another trade vehicle pictured today was once familiar on our roads: a Birds Eye Foods refrigerated lorry backed up at the South Denes cold store of that major employer which decamped to Lowestoft in 1986.

The sender is Chris Hopkins, of Laburnum Close, Bradwell, who snapped it in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The streamlined vehicle appears to have the Birds Eye logo on its front grille.

My annual look at the first names of babies whose births have been announced in the Mercury family notices columns resulted in a letter from Mrs B B Wakefield, of Long Beach in Hemsby, who rightly predicted that I would be amused by the content.

Her son, born in the early 1950s, was named Philip, after the Duke of Edinburgh, and she continues: “This brought the comment from my mother-in-law: ‘Trust her to pick a posh name!’

“We lived in the east end of London then, so the usual names were Charlie, Jack or Fred. Later we moved to Hertfordshire where he started school when he was five years old...and in his class were four other lads with the same name, so there were five of them named Philip!”

Finally, from regular Mercury correspondent Miss Rita Farmer, of Marine Parade, Gorleston, comes a flashback to the famous Alfred Yallop photograph of the public bullock roast in Gorleston in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.

She says that in Kensington Palace a display about national events that day includes a poster of “Exceptional and Eccentric Events” that proclaims: “From Gorleston, Norfolk, to Batley Carr in Yorkshire, oxen were roasted for everyone to enjoy.”