Monday, 10 April 2017

by Dave Roberts

Oddly enough, Norman originally came not from Middlewich, but from Warrington, and the line was:

Born and bred in Warrington (a borough of renown)

which is, technically, a better line, scans better and has a pleasing little bit of alliteration about it.

And when Norman was looking for a job he found employment not at ERF, but at ICI.

Which, to those who know their Middlewich history, is not entirely inappropriate, given that ERF's service centre in  Brooks Lane was built on part of the old ICI Middlewich alkali works.

In the end, though, Norman's Middlewich credentials were restored to him and Norman's Story became a 'Middlewich poem'.

Norman is a real person, and was a real storeman, in the days when ERF Ltd, the now-defunct British truck manufacturer, had a parts operation in Brooks Lane in Middlewich (from 1971 until 2000, for those who like to know these things)

The real Norman started work there in the 1970s, not long after I did, and was, as you can imagine, soon christened 'Norman The Storeman'. 

Norman's Story is no great work of art, but simply the result of my sitting down and working out what else rhymed with 'Norman' and 'storeman'.

At the time of writing the original Norman, now well into his 80s, is still going strong and still living in Middlewich with his wife who is another ex-ERF employee.

The only fear I ever have when performing this poem is that the audience will have forgotten the start by the time I get to the end. So far, this has never happened.

Norman's story was written in 1983, and broadcast on Arthur Wood's Homeground programme on Radio Stoke on the 10th December 1985.


Norman Shufflebotton was a lovely little boy;
His mother's greatest treasure, his father's pride and joy.
Born and bred in Middlewich (a place of great renown),
He grew into a fine young man, admired throughout the town.

He thought when he was twenty-one that he would change his name,
For he was sure that life would bring him fortune, wealth and fame,
And a name like 'Shufflebottom' didn't have much of a ring,
So he had it changed to Gorman, which he thought was just the thing.

He went to ERF to see what jobs were to be had;
They said, 'we want a storekeeper, the job is yours, my lad!'
He started in the stores and worked his fingers to the bone;
In ten years he was chargehand, with a small gang of his own.

And every night he did a part-time job, just for the kicks,
As commissionaire in uniform, outside the local flicks.
He worked and worked for forty years and never had a rest;
Of all the world's great workers, our Norman was the best.

The Queen was told about him and she said, 'this kind of man,
'Has made our country great - we must reward him, if we can!'
So Norman got a medal from her gracious majesty.
Now he's Norman Gorman, foreman-storeman, doorman, M.B.E.

© Dave Roberts 1983/Salt Town Productions 2016

This first appeared on THE ODD EXCEPTION 30th August 2016

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