Jack Strachan’s Chippy

In the late 1950’s/early 1960’s my grandparents owned a fish and chip restaurant on land which later became the roundabout at junction 27 of the M62 at Birstall. This land on the cusp of Gildersome and Morley – Suburban bastions separated by Gelderd Road in the  west of Leeds.

Although his tenure as the Harry Ramsden*** of Gildersome didn’t extend until I was born, anecdotally**** I’m told it was an eatery where my mother and father worked part-time prior to their marriage in 1960. My old man undertaking frying duties, my mum was in charge of buttering the slices of bread. Her hard work going on to make hundreds of chip butties for the west Leeds populace.

*** – Ramsden who had the foresight to hang onto his chippy in Guiseley, north west Leeds, which went on to evolve into a major multinational franchise.

**** – A story submitted to yours truly by older family members from a position of reminisce. “The good old days” their habitual sentiment. One seemingly churned out by every generation of middle age or older as a backhanded swipe at the ‘mess’ younger people have made of their deemed utopian societies of yore.

The forefathers on my paternal side sadly not holding onto his fish and chip restaurant long enough to make a financial killing when the land was acquired for the now vehicle laden section of tarmac around junction 27 of the M62 motorway.

This site now a scene of frequent traffic latency, along with a retail park containing an IKEA, a Next, a Starbucks any many other franchise stores and eateries which I’m momentarily unable to recollect…….. Wouldn’t it be ironic if there was a Harry Ramsden’s there?!!

When my kids were younger. I’ve spent many a pre-Christmas traffic jam around this area. Times when I’ve tried to negate their disenchantment by informing them that several decades ago their great granddad Jack and great grandma Phoebe owned a chip shop on the area of ground we’d been rendered stationary for the last hour.

Unsurprisingly, this snippet of family history didn’t stop my offspring’s irritability at being stuck motionless behind other automobiles. Neither did further revelations that their grandad Malcolm and grandma Margaret also worked part time jobs in the shop around 1959/60.

As an aside, my failed strategy worth remembering if you’re a parent to kids bickering in your car. That being said, even if it had worked, the chances you’ll be in vehicle congestion on land where one of your forefathers had owned a chippy six decades ago are probably remote. Unless you lie about it, of course!….. However, we all know we shouldn’t deceive our kids in an attempt to pacify them…… Don’t we?!! (cough, cough).

After selling his chippy, my grandad bought and ran Fancy Goods stores in the Leeds area. These retail shops selling a multitude of hardware, bedding, toys and accessories which he sold to working mens clubs (like the Armley Liberal Club) as bingo/raffle prizes. Novelties and notions which on bingo night would be the reward for calling “House!!”……. Incidentally, that was for people who’d secured a ‘full house’ in bingo parlais, not as a trinket for those just randomly shouting “House!” despite the state of their card.

At one point, around 1970, he owned three of these stores – This trinity of shops residing in Armley, Calverley and Beeston areas of this metropolis. If memory serves me correct, the Beeston establishment on Rowland Road a target for thieves on more than one occasion.

One Sunday morning at that time I recall, as a 7 year old boy, visiting the Beeston store with grandad Jack as he surveyed the damage of a Saturday night burglary. Broken glass and stock scattered all over the shop. That being said his shops were so cluttered some of the damage may well’ve been a consequence of his inadequate window dressing skills. Attributes that in 1970’s Beeston, Armley and Calverley weren’t the highest priority to a small shop owner.

Years ago, while researching my family tree, I sought to find a photograph of my grandad’s Armley shop on Stanningley Road, just opposite the Liberal Club, which was knocked down for road widening 20-30 years ago. A place I remember with great fondness, probably because my brother Ian and me were given carte blanche to raid the penny toys he sold.

Sadly, I’ve yet to find the photo bearing his Stanningley Road establishment with it’s signage of Strachan’s Fancy Goods. I did though find an online thread about Armley in which his shop from that era was mentioned at the foot of the clip below.

Screenshot 2019-11-03 at 15.57.06

A consummate salesman with a gift of the gab, great humour and a penchant for itchy feet when it came to business he retired a few years after selling all three shops. Moving, with my grandma, into a home on Springfield Road in Scarborough. His move to the east coast of Yorkshire necessitated when the Arabs, who were his last customers, found out it wasn’t sand!

Despite his death when I was only 14 years old, in 1977, Jack Strachan is a man who evokes many fond memories; his shameless silliness big influences for me and my penmanship……. My only regret is that he didn’t have Harry Ramsden’s business foresight !!


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