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Chips on ex-pats' menus

PUBLISHED: 17:05 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:32 30 June 2010

Chip stalls in Great Yarmouth's busy Market Place just after the war

Chip stalls in Great Yarmouth's busy Market Place just after the war

SURFING the worldwide web has become an international pastime, even an obsession for some computer users. While I can appreciate the pleasure they derive from the almost infinitesimal variety of subjects and information to be discovered out there at the simple click of a mouse, so far I have never been tempted to join their ranks.

SURFING the worldwide web has become an international pastime, even an obsession for some computer users. While I can appreciate the pleasure they derive from the almost infinitesimal variety of subjects and information to be discovered out there at the simple click of a mouse, so far I have never been tempted to join their ranks.

When I go on the internet, either I revisit sites or use a search engine to seek facts on a specific topic. It never fails to amaze me how a couple of words in, say, Google can within a second elicit a wealth of data on even obscure subjects. Occasionally, when hunting for one thing, another presents itself.

That was how I stumbled across Current and Previous Residents of Great Yarmouth Borough, established by Great Yarmouth Web Publishers. A week later, when preparing this column, I had another peek and found an announcement that the guest-book was out of operation due to misuse, but would return soon, apologising for inconvenience.

As an amateur to delving in websites, I refrained from trying to ascertain if that notice was ancient or recent.

On my original unexpected visit to the site, I abandoned what I had been searching for and spent a happy hour in the company of scores of mainly ex-residents of our borough who are now living abroad and hoping that family and friends from hereabouts will spot their message among the host of others on the site, and respond by e-mail.

Australia and the United States appeared to be favourite countries to which Yarmouthians had emigrated. There are no Peggotty prizes on offer for guessing a common theme among these ex-pats' entries from far afield: Yarmouth Market Place chips!

Yes, “coming home” to many means not simply being reunited with family and friends or the familiarity of dear old Yarmouth but heading promptly for the chip stalls to see if their wares still smell and taste as delicious as they did perhaps several decades ago when they last sampled them before heading off to distant shores and climes.

If any of those returnees have been away for a long time, they will notice a marked difference in the Market Place, for part of it is now covered, and the monopoly big-four chip stalls that for decades were lined up in a row at the Burtons-East Anglian Trustee Savings Bank southern end have gone. Instead, the number has been increased, and the stalls are scattered around.

The returned travellers will have to search among them to see if any of the long-serving original quartet of Brewer, Kelly, Nichols and Thompson is still trading.

Heavy snow was falling outside the window of Peggotty's Hut in Gorleston as I scrolled down the long list, noting references to hot and sunny spots like the Virgin Islands, Australia's Perth and America's Florida... “I can't wait to come back,” wrote one home-sick Yarmouthian, contrasting with most others who vowed never to return permanently although a visit would be enjoyable.

Three entries particularly interested me, the first posted by the Friend family who have been in Adelaide, South Australia, since 1983. They were desirous of hearing from anyone remembering them from the years they ran the Anglo Coffee Bar on Middle Market Road, Biddy's Cafe on Blackfriars Road and The Oakwood free-house in Howard Street North.

My interest was because in 1990 I devoted this column to David and Penny Friend whose guests at the luxury James Craig Inn and

Motel - which they helped to build - had included a Gorleston couple, retired traffic police sergeant and Pirelli tyre sales manager Stanley Cox and his wife Pat, of Hill Avenue, Gorleston, who were on their first visit to Australia.

The Coxes had planned to visit relatives Peter and Barbara Leggett, ex-Yarmouth district residents in Adelaide. So the Leggetts, aware of the Yarmouth link at the James Craig, mentioned to David Friend the Coxes' impending visit; he contacted the Gorleston couple who accepted an invitation to spend their second week at the hostelry.

When Mr Friend - who once ran a DIY shop in Belton - delivered the Coxes at his hotel from Adelaide airport, there was a surprise outside their bedroom door: a copy of the Great Yarmouth Mercury, only three days after it was published!

A Mercury was air-mailed weekly to the Friends who then passed it to some regular customers who had also emigrated from east Norfolk. Walls in the Tudor-look inn were decorated with photographs of the Yarmouth area and copies of historical documents from their old home town.

Stanley and Pat Cox brought back from Adelaide not only happy memories but also an invitation from the Friends for any Yarmouthians heading out there to stay at their James Craig Inn and Motel.

The two other entries on the website were from brother-and-sister Keith (“Jack”) Harrison and Susan Bailey. Their father, the late Joe Harrison, was an originator of Through the Porthole in our sister newspaper, the Eastern Evening News, before the war. After demobilisation from the army, he wrote the column six nights a week until retirement as Yarmouth area chief reporter of the EEN and Eastern Daily Press in 1977 when I succeeded him in the post.

Joe began in journalism in 1933 and died in 1988, but is still remembered by many of the borough's older generation.

The column was axed by the EEN in 1984 after I switched to the Mercury, but I revived it in our columns in 1987 and continue to pen it weekly.

According to the on-screen information, the Harrison family lived in Burgh Road, Gorleston, until 1952 before moving to Lynn Grove, next to the high school gates. Jennifer left for Somerset in the Seventies and married a local man; they have two adult sons. She still works as a supply primary school teacher.

A date in brother Keith's log is a tad confusing, for he said he planned to retire in 1988, aged 60, from being a pilot with Air UK based at Stansted Airport; after leaving Yarmouth Grammar School, he was a Royal Air Force pilot. He lives in Cambridgeshire. Perhaps it was long out of date.

Both Keith and Jennifer hoped that friends still in their old home town will contact them through the web page.

I hope it was only a temporary blip with that web site, for after perusing this column, there might well be many Mercury readers hoping to log on to it.

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