A fond farewell to Peggotty
PUBLISHED: 09:28 30 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:35 02 January 2020
For me it all began in 1955 with two items: a sole-lump – a fish also called a lump-sucker – and a small fun balloon released in Germany being found on Great Yarmouth’s North Beach.
The lump-sucker and balloon were my first contributions to the Through the Porthole column, a nightly feature in the Eastern Evening News on a page of chatty items from Norwich, Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
I was paid an old 1½d a published line for my efforts, and as a local lad I was not short of topics to boost my meagre salary as a trainee reporter. Colleague Peter Bagshaw was another contributor. Chief reporter Joe Harrison was Peggotty and responsible for ensuring a nightly column was supplied.
After two years I was posted to other Norfolk offices, my Porthole perks over until I returned to Yarmouth in the 1970s. Then came an EEN revamp and those nightly jottings were axed.
When I switched from reporting to a desk job on the Mercury, in 1987 I persuaded my editor to resurrect Peggotty's Porthole in our weekly paper and it expanded to become a full-page fixture. After I retired in 1994, I continued "Portholing", even though Mrs Peggotty and I were spending five winter months a year in Spain.
Computers were rare then, so before leaving Peggotty's Hut I typed enough to cover my long absences, plus providing photographs, captions and running order. Remarkably, it worked a treat. After those long Spanish breaks ended for us, Peggotty has continued uninterrupted, an enjoyable and at times challenging weekly "must-do".
Peggotty and Porthole first appeared in the Eastern Evening News about 1930, the authors being one or two Yarmouthians with day jobs but interested in all things local.
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Today's offering is my final one before my voluntary retirement as Peggotty, 65 years after my Evening News debut.
I know not whether or not this weekly feature will continue with another writer, although I hope a successor is found.
Regular readers will be well aware that my personal pleasures have been the subject matter of many columns. I loved the herring fishery that saw Yarmouth harbour crammed with drifters each autumn, and enjoyed the riverside's other activities involving the timber-importing ships, coasters, rig support vessels, roll-on/roll-off ferries, lightships and pleasure trippers.
Another joy has been the holiday industry, supreme in the Sixties when visitors flocked here, drawn by attractions like golden beaches, our facilities, and the nationally-acclaimed star entertainers who presence was magnetic, resulting in many a "House Full" notice outside theatres and other places like the Hippodrome Circus, Tyrolean Biergarten (in the Winter Gardens) and the outdoor Marina amphitheatre.
But as Lionel Bart's 1959 comedy song noted, Fings Ain't What They Used To Be! - and in typical Peggotty style, I must point out that the hit version was recorded by Max Bygraves - one of the first star names to spend a summer here (Britannia Pier, 1951) - while the West End stage production of the musical featured Gorleston-born Maurice Kaufmann who died in 1997.
I will dearly miss the inspired input from readers, and the discipline of honing columns until they are as good as I can get them. Once I am satisfied, the hard bit begins - seeking relevant photographs.
There is a finite number of available pictures from the past, inevitably resulting in many being published regularly; most are Mercury photographs taken by long-serving staff photographer, the late Les Gould, but others are generously and promptly provided by Yarmouth author and historian Colin Tooke or port and Breydon Water enthusiast Peter Allard.
Other photographs are old postcards and other pictures of Yarmouth of yesteryear, reminding senior residents of scenes perhaps long forgotten, or surprising younger generations how our town once looked.
Finally, thank you to my readers for your interest down the decades, and to Mrs Peggotty for tolerating my long stints at my computer.