Former Derby Borough and Derbyshire Constabulary policeman John Louch, of Mackworth, continues his humorous look back at life on the beat, remembering colourful landlord Junkie Jack and an amusing fund-raising event.
WHEN travelling about town, I very often go along a road or pass a particular building that stirs memories and causes me to smile or, in some cases, burst out laughing, much to the amazement of anybody who happens to be with me at the time.
The other day, I decided to go for a haircut. On the way, I passed a group of houses which I would say are about 20 years old.
I remembered that, before these houses were built, the site was occupied by (in my humble opinion) Derby’s premier food outlet.
People would travel from far and wide to sample the delights offered at these premises, Junction Street Fish and Chip Shop.
On Friday and Saturday nights, after the pubs had shut, the queue would stretch down Junction Street to somewhere near the Junction Tavern.
Many is the time when on foot patrol, and also when I patrolled that particular area on a Velocette motor cycle, that I would call in just before closing time, which would be about 11.30pm, and purchase a portion of chips.
Then, after putting the wrapped-up chips into my greatcoat pocket or down the front of my tunic, I would go somewhere quiet, out of the way of any passing sergeant, and enjoy a tasty supper, after which I would carry on around my beat suitably fortified.
If you met a sergeant and still had the chips on your person, they had a habit of keeping you talking until the chips went cold. It never occurred to us when we were probationary constables that the sergeants had done it all before and they, too, had enjoyed a tasty supper to while away the time.
I understand there was one policeman who, after buying his chips, would put them on top of his head, inside his helmet.
I never met this individual, so it was probably one of those mythical tales that gets passed down through the generations.
Back to the queue that stretched as far as the Junction Tavern. The pub landlord in those days was Jack Grimsley, better known to one and all as Junkie Jack, who ran the premises together with his wife, Joyce.
He was quite a character. He was only about 5ft 2ins tall, with mutton chop whiskers and a handlebar moustache. He had a red face and a ready smile.
In fact, he could have stepped straight out of the previous century. He was similar in looks to those landlords depicted in books and magazines of the Victorian and Edwardian periods.
After closing time, Jack had the habit of standing in the doorway to the pub and watching the world go by while enjoying a cigarette.
Very often when I walked past on my beat, he would call out: “All quiet officer.”
Now and then I would reply something like: “Evening Jack, you wouldn’t be entertaining anybody behind them curtains, would you?”
His face would light up and, with a mischievous grin, he would reply something like: “Not me officer, you should know me by now. Always legal and above board.”
Around about 1980, when I was a sergeant serving at Cotton Lane Police Station, I was invited to attend the annual dinner and dance of the Derby and District Licensed Victuallers’ Association, at the Pennine Hotel.
I remember standing with a group of people when I heard a sound. “P-ss-t! P-ss-t! John! John!” Looking round I saw our old friend Jack Grimsley standing at the top of the stairs.
“Aye up, Jack,” said I, “What’s up?”
Jack replied: “I’m on the committee and I’ve got to welcome this new chief superintendent you’ve got. He’s the guest of honour and I’ve got to take him into a side room to meet our chairman, Frank Monk, and, the trouble is, I don’t know what he looks like. Can you introduce me when he appears?”
I agreed and stood with Jack at the top of the stairs.
After a few minutes, Chief Superintendent Griffiths, who had recently transferred from Nottinghamshire, arrived with his wife. I went up to him. He looked a bit startled, when he saw me and said: “Hello sergeant, what are you doing here?”
I told him that I was a guest and then said: “May I introduce you to … er, er … Junkie Jack? He will take you through to meet the chairman, Frank Monk.”
I had completely forgotten Jack’s real name.
The chief superintendent said: “That’s a funny name.” He and Jack, together with Mrs Griffiths, then processed across the floor to a side room, from where they would later process, with the LVA chairman, to the top table.
In my younger days, when I was on the job as we like to refer to our police service, publicans were, in the main, great characters and I would say the majority were pro-police.
When Frank Monk, from the St Helen’s, now the Five Lamps, was chairman of the LVA, he requested that police visits to licensed premises be reintroduced as he was of the opinion that licencees liked to see the police. It gave them a sense of security. It also discouraged under-age drinking.
Over the years, police officers have always been willing to do their bit for charity.
This could take the form of a sponsored bike ride or football match, a concert by the police choir (still going strong and still raising funds for deserving causes) or by simply making fools of themselves.
I fell into this latter category.
In February 1976, my old mate PC Cliff Barker and I were encouraged to take part in a charity fancy dress parade at the Honeycomb public house, on Silverhill Road, Mickleover.
The Silverhill estate was still under construction and the Honeycomb doubled up as a social centre.
In the picture, left, you can see me as the frustrated mother and Cliff as the naughty child. (Did I really have sideboards like that?)
I remember that, when we were waiting to go on, I said to Cliff: “I hope we don’t get arrested on the way home!”
He replied: “Yeh! Just think what it would be like going to court in the morning dressed like this!”
The two tales I have just related occurred in the 1970s and early 80s, during which time we were serving in the Derbyshire Constabulary.
I will now return to Derby Borough Police in the 60s.
I went to a reunion of ex-Derby Borough Police officers recently and, during the evening, ex-PC John Keetley entered the premises wearing a toy police helmet, with a flashing blue light on top.
Much has been written about the helmet with the blue lamp attached that was adopted by the Derby Borough Police in the early 60s.
Over the years, it has become something of a joke.
Comedians on television and even clowns in the circus ring have included a police helmet with a blue flashing lamp as part of their act.
In fact, after all these years, some people do not believe that a policeman actually wore such a piece of equipment.
In my opinion, it was one of the best health and safety tools ever devised, especially when you consider that then health and safety was not the priority it is today.
In the late 50s and early 60s, most people went to work by bike and, when Rolls-Royce moved to premises on Victory Road, there were hundreds of cyclists leaving work at the same time, travelling along Moor Lane and then onto the ring road at Osmaston Park Road.
A traffic point was created to control the flow of traffic consisting of cycles, motor cycles and the odd motor car from the Victory Road works.
Without a control, it was chaos, with cyclists entering Osmaston Park Road into the face of fast-moving traffic, especially that travelling towards the Mitre Island (now known as the Spider Island) down hill from Normanton Barracks.
It was obvious from the start that doing traffic duty at this particular point was quite dangerous for the police officer on duty.
We did have white gloves and armlets, plus a white helmet cover, which we wore from about 1962 onwards.
It was not too bad in the summer when the duty was performed in daylight. Even so, knees would tremble at the sight of a lorry heading towards you at about 40mph.
However, with the arrival of dark nights in winter, performing traffic duty at this point was suicidal, so much so, the Chief Constable Frank Hulme informed Rolls-Royce that it was too dangerous and that, from then on, the police would withdraw from traffic duty at the junction of Osmaston Park Road and Moor Lane on the grounds that to continue would result in someone getting killed.
This situation did not suit the powers-that-be at Rolls-Royce. They volunteered their own security police to take on the duty.
The chief constable took the view that, if they were going to do it, that would be all right.
The security policemen were duly sworn in as Special Constables to give them the power to stop vehicles on a public road.
The chief constable was, however, proved right and, three days after Rolls-Royce security police started operating, an unfortunate security officer was killed.
The Rolls-Royce security police were immediately withdrawn.
Not to be beaten, the problem was given to some design engineers at Rolls-Royce who came up with the idea of a flashing blue light mounted on a police helmet and powered by a rechargeable battery carried on a waistbelt, similar to that used by miners to power their helmet lamps.
Equipped with this novel device and, after the necessary trials, Derby Borough Police recommenced traffic duty at the junction of Osmaston Park Road and Moor Lane.
The blue lamp helmet proved to be very successful, enabling traffic to be controlled at this point until the installation of traffic lights, which are in existence to this day.
Policemen doing traffic duty is a rare sight today but, in the 1950s and 60s, it was the norm. It could be quite dangerous, particularly on trunk roads.
My old colleague PC134 Peter Howse was one of the officers who trialed the helmet when it was introduced.
Peter went on to be the deputy chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary.
On one particular occasion, he was giving a speech to the great and good in the Guildhall in Norwich. Whilst he was describing the circumstances surrounding the helmet, with the blue lamp attached, that he had worn when he was a young policeman in Derby, he noticed a well-dressed lady, sitting at the front, who was laughing so much that the tears were running down her face.
At the end of the proceedings, Peter went up to this lady and asked her if she had enjoyed his talk.
She then related the following story.
“When I was a young girl, I lived with my parents in Osmaston Park Road, in Derby. My dad worked at Rolls-Royce and went to work on his bike.
“Every night, he would leave work at 5pm and get home about 20 minutes later. He would push his bike through the front door and into the hall and lean it against the wall.
“He would then take his cap and coat off and hang them up, walk through to the living room and sit down at the table, which was already set, and then mother would place his dinner in front of him.
“It was a regular occurrence and you could set your watch by him.
“Then, one night, he did not appear at the usual time. Mother put his dinner in the oven. Half past five came and went and then, at about a quarter to six, the front door slammed open and in came dad with his bike.
“He threw his cap and coat on the stairs and marched into the living room with a thunderous look on his face.
“‘Where’ve you been?’ asked mother. ‘Your dinner has all dried up’.
‘“Been,’ said dad. ‘Been. I’m late because there’s some prat up at Moor Lane with a blue lamp on his head holding everybody up’.
“You must have been that prat, deputy chief constable,” she said, still laughing.
Well prat or not, the blue lamp helmet was a good idea, which saved us from getting killed or injured and was invaluable until electric signals were introduced at the junctions used by the workers.
In spite of this success, the blue lamp helmet was never adopted by any other force.
Well that’s all for the moment. Mind how you go.