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Sammy Fisher Of Old Montague St

May 28, 2016
by the gentle author

Wednesday 1st June : EXHIBITION OPENING of John Claridge’s EAST END photography from 6pm at VOUT-O-RENEES, 30 Prescot St, Aldgate, E1 8BB. (Exhibition runs until 21st July)

Thursday 2nd June : BOOK LAUNCH PARTY for John Claridge’s EAST END from 6pm upstairs at THE FRENCH HOUSE, 49 Dean St, Soho, W1D 5BG.

Friday 3rd June : JOHN CLARIDGE IN CONVERSATION talking about his EAST END photography with Stefan Dickers at 7pm at WATERSTONES PICCADILLY, W1J 9HD. to reserve your free ticket.

I took an advance copy of John Claridge’s EAST END over to show my pal Paul Gardner, fourth generation proprietor of Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen in Commercial St, and he laughed when he opened the book and saw the first double page spread. Paul recognised the shopkeeper in John Claridge’s photograph as Sammy Fisher, standing in the doorway of his grocer’s shop in Old Montague St in 1961.

“That’s Sammy Fishoff,” Paul declared in fond recognition of an old friend, “He changed his name to Fisher because people teased him, saying ‘Piss off Fishoff!'”

“He used to buy his bags off me for his grocery shop and he was very sharp – if there was only 499 in a pack of 500 he’d spot it like that.

Sammy came to my wedding in 1982 and brought me a ceramic horse and cart. When I knew him, after his wife died, he came in my shop everyday and sat down and gave me advice on how to run the business. I’d give him faulty paper carrier bags and he’d stand in Petticoat Lane and sell them for 5p. He used to say, ‘Just because you buy it as a bargain, doesn’t mean you’ve got to sell it as a bargain.’

I think of Sammy in his red cap and with his trousers hitched up high. I didn’t know if he had any family, but when he died of a hernia in 1985, I went to his funeral and there weren’t many people there, until some relatives turned up from Manchester in a Rolls Royce. He always said, ‘I’ve got money! I’m going to leave you something in my will because you’ve been so good to me’ which was extraordinary because he was such a curmudgeon. In fact, he did leave me some money in his will – but it was less than he owed me!”

Paul Gardner’s recognition left me excited in anticipation of how many others we shall be able to identify in John Claridge’s pictures when his book is published next week.

Click image to enlarge

We are giving away 500 beautiful posters of John Claridge’s photograph of Sammy Fisher’s Grocery Shop from EAST END –  you can pick one up free from Paul Gardner at Gardners Market Sundriesmen, 149 Commercial St, E1 and we shall be handing them out at The French House and Waterstones Piccadilly next week.


9 Responses leave one →
  1. May 28, 2016

    I am sorry to be missing out on all the fun again! Valerie

  2. Pamela Smith permalink
    May 28, 2016

    The more I read about Paul Gardner, the more I think what a lovely, lovely man he is. I visited his store after reading about it in these pages and I think he was quite taken aback that someone from Australia would call in for a chat.

  3. May 28, 2016

    GA yes indeed this is exiting, if more id’s are established when John’s book pics are seen. This opens up possibilities for more of these real characters, which have been lost in time, to have their moments again so to speak. More follows up’s would be nice to see keep our fingers crossed for next weeks viewing. John

  4. Shawdian permalink
    May 28, 2016


    In the past there seems to have been so many ‘characters’ (great example, Mr Fisher). Where are they all now? I think this is a refelction on todays society where we dare not be quite our selves any more. Like everything today all is becoming so standard as we become too self conscious and try to be like the next person on the list. Individuality is a prize in life. The spice of life makes the world go round [Not Square]. The book looks intruiging, so off to buy my copy ..

  5. Linda Granfield permalink
    May 28, 2016

    Hear, hear, to the follow-ups idea mentioned by John. Can’t wait to see how many more folks are identified.
    Terrific photos! Thank you for sharing them and the stories.

  6. John Jacob Lyons permalink
    May 29, 2016

    I was born in 1938 at 96 Old Montague St. Bombed out in 1940. Not sure whether Sammy Fisher’s shop was there in those days. If it was, it was next door but one to us.

  7. Barbara permalink
    May 30, 2016

    I remember so many of the shops along Old Montague St as we lived in a turning off the street . Also looking forward to seeing if there are any photos of the shops in Black Lion Yard . As kids we had our own names for some of them ” The little old mans ” and ” The little old women ” and the local sweetshops were ” Dave’s ” and ” AB’s ” . There was an old woman who sold pickled herrings out of a large wooden barrel and one day a customer dropped her purse into the barrel !
    I am so pleased that John Claridge has taken these wonderful photos . Can’t wait to get my copy of the book .

  8. Irene Rendlick permalink
    May 31, 2016

    The Picture of the Butcher Shop in Old Montague street,with my late father and uncle standing outside. I have many memories of the shop and staying there . The shop was originally a Public House, and my late Grandfather turned it into a Butcher shop.

    My maiden was Irene Goldstein

  9. Maureen Firmin Marshom permalink
    June 25, 2016

    My dad Sammy Firmin and mum Ada Firmin were good friends with Sammy and Bertha Fishoff. Our shop was the same in Sidney Street and my dad used to socialise with them as well as delivering milk and bagels etc to their shop weekly. We used to go out with them mostly on Sundays to Lyons Corner House in Marble Arch. After my dad and Sammy Fishoff passed away, my husband and I and baby daughter took Bertha and my mum on holiday to Spain with us which was about 40 years ago. It was just after Bertha took ill. They were such characters in those days.

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