As Christmas is only a few days away, this seems a good time to write about one shop that anyone at all familiar with Charnwood Street will remember – Paddy’s Swag Shop, which was at 257 Charnwood Street in the early 1950s and then moved across the road to 248-50. Jill Richardson remembers its opening as ‘a revelation. A real Aladdin’s cave of small and large items of toys, brik-a-brak and goods never seen since the war. All my pocket money was spent there’. Needless to say, it was particularly popular with local children, and those who came from other parts of Leicester to spend their pocket money or choose a birthday or Christmas treat. ‘At Christmas time’, Paddy himself wrote: ‘many a parent could buy toys for a whole family of four children and still get change out of about £3’ (Leicester Mercury, 1 September 1986).
William Henry Joseph ‘Paddy’ Rogers was born in 1909 and died in 1999. He served in the British army during World War II, when he was among the forces responsible for liberating Norway from German occupation – but in an interview in 1998 he recalled that when he was 12 or 13 he :
started on the Market as a boy roundabout… We used to go up on Saturday to see if any market trader wanted a lad to unpack, to pack. And it was Jack Sills, the shoe man, who gave me a job, five shillings… and I thought now, if the customers, if the public won’t come to you, you got to go to them. And I stood on the box and started telling a tale… the people were stopping to look, listen, and bought shoes… (East Midlands Oral History Archive, 384, LO/004/C4).
Paddy later had a stall of his own in the Market where he was well known for pitching his wares and attracting the crowds.
My thanks to Paddy’s grandson Gary Rogers, Jill Richardson, and everyone else who sent me information about Paddy and his Swag Shop – and to Michael Westmoreland for permission to reproduce the photograph. Do you have any memories of your own that you’d like to pass on?