In the 50s to mid 60s I lived off Heyworth Street. I remember there was a local character known as Simon (maybe bacause people thought he was simple) who lived in Kepler Street.
He was thought of as a tramp as he dressed in old shabby torn clothing and worn boots. Sometimes he was seen pushing a pram containing things he had found in the derelict houses in the area. He also used to look in the bins outside the shops.
He lived in a 3 story house in Kepler Street with a large yard at the back, full of wood and junk.
Simon was the sort of man your parents told you to keep away from.
Some of the older lads used to pester him, breaking his windows and calling the fire brigade to him.
One day he caught a friend and me who had sneaked into his yard to get some pram wheels to make a steering cart. He told us if we helped him tidy his yard he would help us make the carts, which we did, and he did. In his house the rooms were full of old radios and teles and anything he found in the houses that were being pulled down. I also remember seeing old bicycles with petrol engines on.
Another time he asked us to come early one saturday morning as he had a job for us and would give us some money. We turned up and there was a big furniture van outside, full of old wardrobes and chests of drawers and such other furniture. We helped move it into the empty boarded up house next to his which he had the keys to.
When we had finished, I remember watching him sign an invoice and I saw it was furniture from one of the old hotels that was being knocked down to make way for the new St Johns market. He signed it John Wilson.
He gave us five shillings each which was a few bob to us being about eleven or twelve at the time.
There was no electric, gas or water to his house. He brought water from elswhere in bottles in his pram. He boiled it on the fire and made us tea and a bacon butty. Athough he was dressed in torn clothing and lived in what looked like a derelict house, I remember noticing he was always clean. Also, although we were told to keep away from him, he never tried any funny business.
My family moved out of the area about 1964 when the houses were being demolished. I often wonder what happened to Simon, and who he really was.