George Manchester was one of Jim Gibb’s sidekicks, and was a rare old character too. His real name was George Godber. It was said that he had been a brilliant technician at Manchester University, hence the alias of Manchester, but had suffered much personal and domestic strife. He had begun to drift around the country and had, for some reason, taken to Grindleford and its people.
He was constantly trying to drown his sorrows in drink but he never quite succeeded. He was a wreck of a man, with rheumy eyes and a long red nose which had a permanent dew-drop on the end. He always wore a greasy flat cap with the peak pulled down over one eye. His big boots never seemed to have any heels on them and were covered in a rich mixture of lime, pig food, cow muck and other unmentionable substances. He walked with a curious scuttling gait and always had a rolled up sack under one arm, but there rarely seemed to be anything in it.
In the thirties there was no refuse collection in the village as we have now. Most household rubbish was either burned, composted or fed to pigs. Any larger items, such as old tin baths, buckets, pots and pans, tin cans etc., were taken to the Pinfold at the bottom of Sir William Hill Road. The Pinfold had originally been used to keep stray animals but falling into disuse, had been taken over as an unofficial rubbish dump. The Rural District Council would periodically empty it.
George Manchester’s main job was to collect this sort of rubbish from anyone who wanted it taken up to the Pinfold. His charges for this service were rather variable; he knew exactly how much he could extract from his various customers dependent on their financial status, which George was always well clued up on them.
One of George’s customers was an elderly spinster who lived with her aged mother at Nether Padley in one of the large houses, known to locals as ‘The Villas’. She was noted for her thrift, to put it rather kindly. One Monday morning when I called for her order she asked me if I could ask Mr. Manchester to call to take away some old tin cans to the Pinfold. Well I saw George a day later and told him that there was a job in the offering for him, but he didn’t seem too keen somehow.
The following Monday I called again to the spinster and noticed that the tin cans were still in the yard waiting to be taken away. I asked her if Mr. Manchester had been to see her about them.
“Oh yes,” she replied, “he’s been and looked at the refuse and he said that he would call back and give me an estimate for its removal”.
I later found that George had had previous business dealings with the thrifty spinster and had been unable to extract enough for his services. So he was certainly not going to be caught again by her!
Another of George’s specialty jobs was ‘lime-washing’. This was a favourite job for the winter months or during wet periods, when he could work under cover in someone’s privy, pantry or shed. A much drier, warmer job than Pinfold Agent.
He once lime-washed the kitchen of an elderly Scots lady called Miss Frimlay, but did not bother to do part of the wall under the sink, thinking that she was unlikely to kneel down to inspect it. The week after he had done the job he was stopped by Miss Frimlay in the street.
“Mr. Manchester, you hav’na done me under the sink!” she shrilled accusingly in her Scots brogue.
His reply sent her home red-faced, not to venture out for several weeks. “Well Miss Frimlay,” he drawled in imitation of her Scots tongue, “I didna think I could get thee under there ta do ya!