How newsagents defied the Blitz

Shop front.jpg


Many local newspapers have had to go online-only because of the current Coronavirus outbreak and national newspaper circulations have plummeted because of the lockdown.

However, this reminded me of the following story. My mum's mother and father, Charlie and Esther McCarthy, ran three newsagents/tobacconists/sweet shops in the South London area — three because during the war they were bombed out of the first two.

However, in the days before the internet and mass TV, the government was so keen to keep news — and propaganda — flowing that each time my grandparents were bombed out they were given help to find new premises.

Several times, even before their shops were destroyed, so many bombs dropped nearby that the roads were often blocked, and no newspaper deliveries could get through. So, messages would be sent to them so they could put 'headlines' on boards outside the shops so that people still got some kind of news.

I discovered all this many years after I became a journo. Maybe it was destined that 'news' should be in my blood.

Pictured above is a receipt bearing a picture of my grandad in the front of one of the shops in Waterloo Road which bore his name. Sadly, I never had the chance to meet him as he died before I was born.

Why my mum got her skates on


MEMORIES: My mum Millie with her mum Esther on holiday in Norfolk just before the outbreak of the Second World War. They could never take holidays as a family because someone always had to stay behind to run the shop.

While my mother was still at school before war broke out, she had to go home at lunchtimes to help out in the shop. While walking down one of the Bermondsey side streets on her way home one day she received some unwanted attention from some local yobs.

So, she got herself a pair of roller skates so she could do the journey from school and back a slightly longer way, but just as quick.

However, one of the many roles my grandfather undertook during that era was training boxers at the Downside Fisher Club in Bermondsey. I am surprised with his skills he didn’t seek out the yobs to give them a ‘boxing lesson’.

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre