A Trip Down Memory Lane (via Oxton Road)
I recently recieved a wonderful letter from a former Wirral resident who used to reside in Whitford Road, Tranmere. Mr. Norman Davies noticed the image of 35 Oxton Road in ‘Wirral Then and Now’ and for him the picture stirred up some fascinating personal memories. He writes…
“I was delighted to stumble across your photo of Dashleys last night as my mother- Gladys Davies nee Jones- worked there for nineteen years solid. I was born in the early nineteen-fifties and she was already working there then. My strongest memories of the shop were from the early nineteen-sixties. (My mother told me the story of the riot damage then). At that time there were three men and two women working in the shop. Mr. Dashley was always at the counter together with my mother and another lady called Esther Vickery from Oxton. Mr Dashley dealt with the preparation of the joints and the ladies sliced the meat or dished out the sausages, blackpuddings and pies. The two men were usually mobile between the back rooms and the front of shop.
I remember the back rooms well. There was one large room and a smaller one with staff “facilities”. They were white tiled (as you’d expect) and the centre of the room had a huge solid natural and scrubbed unvarnished wooden worktable,with similar counters around the walls. The floors of these backrooms and the shop itself were of untreated floorboards covered in fresh sawdust as was usual in those days.
There were huge mincing machines and machines used in the production of sausages and the pork pies made on the premises. These pies were extremely rich…almost too rich…with a strong peppery meat, a thick layer of natural gelatine on top and a pastry which was very hard and greasy. Inside there was sometimes as much gelatine as there was meat….but nobody seemed to mind. I’m afraid I didn’t like them myself as they were always in my mum’s fridge at home and so I was spoilt for choice!…but I know they were very popular in Birkenhead indeed. (Incidentally, I converted to Judaism much later in life… and though there was (and still is!) some family speculation about my father’s side of the family… my parents were not Jewish. Ironic that my mother should have been a pork butcher!)
Mr. Dashley was a larger than life character who (I suspect) would have been at home on the Music Hall stage. He was built rather like Willoughby Goddard (The actor who played ‘Landburger Gessler’ in the Sixties TV series “William Tell”)…and had a huge jowly face with a red nose. My memories of him are of a man sharpening knives and meat-cleavers melodramatically with grand gestures while the other staff ran about serving customers rapidly and with smiles and jokes. He used to shout and yell jokey comments (or sing) for the “entertainment” of all the customers but he had a most unfortunately weird sense of humour which meant that most people did not find his joking half as funny as he did. My mother told me that one of his favourite “acts” was to have loud imaginary conversations with me ( still in my pregnant mother’s womb) as though I could actually hear him! To say that he was an eccentric and quirky character would be an understatement.
Actually, my mother told me that most of the jolly running about that went on in that shop was because they were all freezing and as the shop was only open in the mornings…they were always being chivvied along to speed up business by the boss. The place had no heating whatsoever (to keep the meat fresh) and the street door was left wide open all through the winter for the same reason. The workers never sat down….so they were constantly on the move to keep warm!
I also knew Mrs. Dashley….and she deserves a little mention to honour her memory here too. She was one of the kindest and wisest people my mother knew (so she told me) and when I went to visit her in 1972….I found that description to be spot on. (She lived in a river- facing top flat in the eaves of one of the grand black stone terraces on Hamilton Square).
One postscript to this little tale. I noticed from the published photo that the next door shop was John Duff’s the bakery, and my mother once told me a story about that too. She told me that before the second world war….before she worked for Mr Dashley……she was working in a bakery called Duffs when she offered the delivery boy (who drove the baker’s van) a “peach melba” which she had just made. This became a regular event. She married him—He was my father Richard Davies. May their memory be for a blessing.”
My immense thanks to Mr Davies for this amazing contribution.