Skip to content

So Long, Michael Myers

March 2, 2024
by Deborah Ivy Aitken

Michael Myers, Spitalfields’ oldest resident, died on 13th February just a few weeks short of his ninety-fifth birthday. Growing up in Petticoat Lane, Michael only moved a quarter of a mile to live in a flat above the Spitalfields Market, yet he found all of life here in this small neighbourhood.

His partner Deborah Ivy Aitken reflects upon a life well-lived in Spitalfields, accompanied with photographs by his friend Phil Maxwell.


Michael Myers (1929-2024)


Michael had a full and rich life, as one might expect of one who lived to be almost ninety-five. He was born in Southampton, accidentally. His father was working there for Gracie Fields at the time and Michael decided to enter the world when his mother went for a short visit.

He enjoyed a wonderful childhood surrounded by family, friends and neighbours in the old tenement that was Brunswick Buildings on New Goulston St. Petticoat Lane was his playground and the hawkers fascinated him – the plate juggler, the man selling ‘Codbury’s’ chocolate but saying it so fast shoppers thought it was Cadbury’s, and the escapologist in chains who was always about to escape when the market closed promptly at 2pm.

Michael still laughed about the time he saw a salesman put a roll of loo paper into a holder, turn the handle and out came five pound notes. Michael ran home and asked his mum for sixpence. When she asked what it was for he said, ‘I’m going to make us rich!’ He came back with the holder and asked his mum for a loo roll. Then he put it into the holder and told her to watch as he turned the handle, but out came toilet paper not bank notes. You can imagine the disappointment, yet it was one of his favourite childhood stories.

Although their parents were poor, Michael and his brother, Raymond, never went without. Michael had a light blue sports car which he peddled around the streets close to home. He had two paternal aunts who adored him too. One often taking him to Brighton where she lived in Brunswick Gardens and where he celebrated his bar mitzvah, the other returning from the New York World’s Fair in 1939 with a trunk of American toys. Michael had great tales of getting his first suit made – when the tailor was afraid to tell one of his aunts the price, knowing she would want to pay less.

During the war he was evacuated to Ely but two weeks later, after a rocket fell close by, his mother fetched him back to London. Eventually, most of the family including his granny moved to Oxford where his father worked in a munitions factory. In 1944, the family returned to Brunswick Buildings. There were many bomb sites in East London then and one day Michael received a deep cut to his leg from a jagged piece of metal when he and his friends were fooling around. Michael believed he was one of the first to get penicillin at the Royal London Hospital.

Michael’s favourite pastimes were films and music. He loved cinema when he was a boy and this passion grew into a huge collection of videos and DVDs when he was an adult, also amassing an enormous library of film books. His knowledge of cinema, especially from the 1930s to the 1960s, was vast. Many a quiet evening, I would pick up one of Leonard Maltin’s movie guides and quiz Michael on directors, actors and dates. I was thrilled once when I caught him out, but woke the next morning to find a note saying ‘an elephant never forgets’ along with a page number. My win was short-lived. It appears I had been reading the details of the remake and he had been giving answers about the original. Michael was interested in all genres of film but he particularly liked them in black and white. I watched a movie with him once and at the end I said, ‘I’m sure that film was in colour when I originally saw it,’ and he responded, ‘It was, I turned the colour off.’ He never tired of watching great films, such as Spring In Park Lane, The Third Man, The Fallen Idol and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Michael also loved comedy series like Dad’s Army, Bilko, Hancock’s Half Hour and The Three Stooges. Friends and family who watched these shows with Michael could not resist getting caught up in the antics and farce because Michael’s laughter was genuine and infectious. In everyday life he could be heard quoting the catchphrases, ‘Hey Moe’ and ‘Nuck, Nuck, Nuck.’

Michael’s other great passion was music, both listening and singing. His interests were mostly for classical, jazz, big band and the classic standards written by, but not limited to, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and Rogers & Hart. His collection is as large as his film collection and one room in the house was designated the ‘Music Room’ where he spent happy hours listening and singing.

One of Michael’s first jobs was as an errand boy for Leslie Gamage at Gamages Department Store in Holborn. His most memorable errand was being sent by Mr Gamage to go to Claridge’s to collect a package from his wife. Off Michael went to Claridge’s and up to the suite where the Gamages lived. Mrs Gamage gave Michael an envelope to deliver to his boss. Being curious, Michael watched as the envelope was opened and discovered it contained a hankie for Mr Gamage’s breast pocket.

Eventually, Michael trained as a barber but he never stayed long in any salon. When he worked in an East London factory, he used to cut colleagues’ hair in the freight lift for extra pocket money. In the sixties, Michael did the ‘knowledge’ to become a black cab driver and, though he seldom talked about his life as a cabby, a few stories came forth. One was about a man he picked up who said to him, ‘Driver, when we get to the destination I am going to shoot you.’ It must have been very frightening for Michael but he made a plan. When they reached the destination, Michael jumped out of the cab and confronted him face-to-face, saying, ‘I have a wife and six children at home who rely on me. If you shoot me, they will have no one to look after them.’ Apparently, the man paid his fare and gave Michael a substantial tip.

Another time, an American got in his cab and asked to be taken to Tooting Common. As Michael was heading off in that direction the passenger pointed out that the journey seemed to be taking longer than he expected. It turned out he wanted to go to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the British Museum. When he retired at eighty, Michael received a very complimentary letter from the Carriage Office advising he had an unblemished record after driving for forty-three years.

In his early sixties, Michael began to pursue a musical career with a regular gig at the Comedy Cafe in Rivington St where he met some great comedians. Then, winning a big competition in 1991 at ‘Up the Creek’ in Greenwich gave Michael the boost he needed to seek more opportunities. He sang at weddings and parties as well as pubs and bars. He sang on New Year’s Eve at the Golden Heart on a few occasions and for years performed at the popular Workers’ Playtime at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club to great applause.

A highlight was when he sang at the premiere of the film, Gangster No. 1 in Leicester Sq and the after party at the Café de Paris. In attendance were many beautiful women and known gangsters. It was scary for Michael because – years before – his cousin, George Cornell, was shot by one of the Kray brothers at the Blind Beggar in Whitechapel. Incidentally, Michael did not know his cousin.

Michael was always up for a laugh, especially if he was the one causing the laughter. He wrote and recorded countless skits playing all the characters. He also liked magic tricks. I once arranged for a magician to teach Michael some tricks which he could entertain us with at a dinner party that evening, but unfortunately he forgot all the tricks. He loved Sandy Powell and Tommy Cooper and had hours of fun playing with the Charlie McCarthy doll I gave him.

After Brighton, Michael’s favourite places to visit were Paris and Nice. We had many holidays in Nice where Michael discovered another life passion, photo-bombing weddings. Inevitably, we could be found at the Hôtel de Ville on a Saturday where marriage ceremonies were on an assembly line. Michael had no qualms about stepping into any wedding party, often standing beside the bride, while I took his picture. Once in a small French village, he even climbed the church stairs with the father and the bride while I snapped away. These were his best comedic moments.

Throughout his life, Michael involved himself in community projects. I only found out recently that he and his neighbour, Mossy Joseph, were instrumental in getting the Grade ll listing for the Spitalfields Market Horner Building. He was the head of the Spitalfields Market Residents’ Association for years and campaigned vigorously against developments in the area.

Regardless of differences, Michael seldom made disparaging remarks about others. He did not like tittle-tattle or gossip. He treated everyone with kindness and respect. He was a gentleman in every aspect of his life.

I think if Michael were to give advice about life, it would be to keep enriching your pool of friends. His friendships with people of all ages attest to his ability to engage with others.

Michael always had a song on his lips. He will be greatly missed by our families, friends and acquaintances and mostly by his daughter, Annette, son-in-law, Marcel, our granddaughter, Gabrielle and me.


Deborah and Michael

Sandra Esqulant, landlady of The Golden Heart, with Michael

Deborah and Michael

Photographs copyright © Phil Maxwell

Click here to watch videos of Michael singing

You may also like to read

A Walk With Mike Myers

Mike Myers, The Spitalfields Crooner

Mike Myers at The Golden Heart

19 Responses leave one →
  1. Vince permalink
    March 2, 2024

    Sad to hear this news. By some strange quirk, I thought of him just yesterday and wondered how he was, then comforted myself by thinking that if anything had happened I would have seen it on these pages. Rest well Michael.

  2. Peter Hiller permalink
    March 2, 2024

    Beautifully written piece about a fascinating man. What a character. Thank you.

  3. March 2, 2024

    Thank you Deborah for sharing this lovely story of Michael’s life, truly a life well lived .
    RIP Michael.

  4. March 2, 2024

    As above, a beautifully written piece, thank you.

  5. March 2, 2024

    MR MICHAEL MYERS (1929-2024) — R.I.P

    Love & Peace

  6. aubrey permalink
    March 2, 2024

    I remember (vaguely) attending one party he had at his flat sometime in the early 60’s. The task that we were required to do, was to sing a Frank Sinatra ballad song alongside just the recorded orchestral music playing in the background. It was more difficult than I imagined. I failed my effort miserably. Later he showed everyone how it should be done properly. I believe the ballad was “you make me feel so young”.
    They were happy days. I’m so sad to hear about his passing.

  7. March 2, 2024

    Lovely to read this and what an insight into Michael’s life and the years with Debbie who brought him such richness and happiness and care until the end. A true gentleman. I acknowledge his support in the publication of my recent book Child Migrant Voices in Modern Britain – he put me in touch with Errol, Cathy’s husband, who put me in touch with Richard Lue, both from Jamaica – both important stories. But most important Michael touched all who knew him with his humour and passion of film and music. A friend to all.

  8. Sue permalink
    March 2, 2024

    Love to read of these London characters. Particularly like the B&W film story. R.I.P Mr.Myers

  9. Linda Granfield permalink
    March 2, 2024

    A talented man who obviously enriched the lives of those he met.
    Thank you, GA, for the video lead. I particularly liked “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” (from 2012–close your eyes and listen)

    May Mike’s friends and family forever recall him ‘as in olden days, happy golden days.’

  10. March 2, 2024

    What a colourful piece, just like Michael. Thank you Deborah x

  11. Adele permalink
    March 2, 2024

    Rest in Peace Mr Myers. A life truly well-lived.

  12. Eva Radford permalink
    March 2, 2024

    Thank you for this loving piece on Michael. He must have been a wonderful person to know. Condolences to you and his friends and family.

  13. Robin permalink
    March 2, 2024

    Gosh, if I’d have known Michael was into photo-bombing weddings, I would have invited him to mine! What an amazing man, so full of life. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Marcia Howard permalink
    March 3, 2024

    Love the thought of him photo-bombing weddings. He sounds like he was quite a character and well loved so know he’ll be badly missed by family and all who knew him.

  15. Marcia Howard permalink
    March 3, 2024

    Just listened to him singing Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas from link above. A lovely voice!

  16. Bev permalink
    March 3, 2024

    A lovely tribute to dearest Michael from Deb, and a reminder of his long, interesting and happy life and great photos from Phil. x

  17. Chris permalink
    March 5, 2024

    Wonderful tribute to such a wonderful man. Had the pleasure of spending many hours and days in his company, be it parties, pub or seeing in New Year at the Working Man’s Club. Made our wedding day truly special when he performed. Our deepest condolences Deborah & family, Michael will be truly missed by all those that knew and loved him like us. 🙏🏾🙏🏽🙏🏻❤️ Angela, Elijah & Chris

  18. Bob Sutherland permalink
    March 7, 2024

    Heart strings really pulled that Mike has passed. We had the honour of sitting at the dinner table with Mike and Deb a couple of years ago. Mike serenaded us with a couple of fabulous tunes that literally had tears down our faces they were so impecably performed.
    Mike, you will be missed. Waiting for your next photobomb.

  19. Darlene Kells permalink
    April 3, 2024

    I just knew something wascadmiss, ♡♡♡ What a great testament to such a wonderful man, my heart breaks for you and the family all thou he has 95 years and by the sounds of it pack those years full, amazing life stories that will carry you thru. Remember him as the best stroy teller. Sending you all the hugs I can.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS