Thursday, 8 October 2015

When a ghost sign in Heaton Mersey reveals a story from the Great War

The ghost sign on Didsbury Road
I like the way that a story can turn on a sixpence and take you off in a way you could not quite have envisaged which is what happened with the ghost sign on the side of a building on Didsbury Road.

My old friend David Harrop spotted it for the first time recently despite having regularly passed the house.

Neither of us thought the sign that remarkable.

It didn’t promote a product or give the name of the retailer who may have had it painted, and only part of it had survived.

So on the surface not the most interesting of signs but as ever there is a story and a little bit of a mystery.

The faded letters proclaim “DAILY BUSINESS AS” which I can only assume finished with the word “USUAL” but what that business was and why it was painted on the side of building is lost.

But there was also the word “Supper” beside the door which would suggest that it had once been a “chippy” although someone else remembered it as a wool shop.

Either way it had retail history and that was what offered up by the twist in the tale because back in 1911 it had been “a well known green grocery business” run by Mr and Mrs Grime.*

Private Ernest Grime 1886-1917
Robert and Elizabeth Grime had been born in Heaton Mersey and in 1911 had been married for thirty-five years.

They had eight children and had been selling apples, pears and potatoes from their shop from at least 1891.

A decade earlier Robert had been a porter and carter, an occupation he shared with his brothers and father who all lived at Long Row on Didsbury Road with his sister who described herself as a cotton winder.

In time I will explore more of the lives of Robert and Elizabeth Grime but for now it’s their youngest son who interests me because in 1916 he enlisted, was posted to the Welsh Regiment and died in action on December 24 1917.

According to the Stockport Advertiser “he was 34 years of age, unmarried and before enlisting assisted his father in the well known green grocery business.  

He was widely known in Heaton Mersey, Didsbury and district and was greatly respected.  He was a steady industrious young man with a high moral character which endeared him to a large circle of friends and he will be sadly missed.*

He had enlisted in the December of 1916, completed “nearly twelve months training [and] went on active service on December 10th, 1917 and was killed in action on December 24th having been in the firing line only one full day.”*

It is a story we will all be familiar with but for me it is the connection with that house on Didsbury Road.

I doubt that I would ever have come across Ernest Grime but for David Harrop who having taken the picture of the ghost sign told me of about the death of this young man.

The memorial cross, 1917
David as many will know has a large collection of memorabilia from both world wars and has a permanent exhibition in the Remembrance Lodge at Southern Cemetery and this November will be taken part in remembrance services in both Manchester and Stockport.

So it is fitting that I should conclude by mentioning the service at St John’s Parish Church on Sunday November 8th at 10.30 whose day school Ernest attended.

David will be there reading a poem and exhibiting a Tower Poppy, a memorial cross and other items from his collection.

The memorial cross is particularly poignant because it is an iron grave marker used to identify the burial plot of a fallen soldier and has a powerful story of its own which will appear next month.

Pictures; from the collection of David Harrop

*Stockport Advertiser, January 25, 1918

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