Look Back With Little: Who do you think you are?

Percy Lickorish, Enid Lickorish (Beere) and Colin Lickorish in about 1935
Percy Lickorish, Enid Lickorish (Beere) and Colin Lickorish in about 1935

There comes a time when many people feel the urge to try to answer the question ‘who do you think you are?’

This is the stage in life reached by Colin Lickorish of Grimsbury, who during a conversation recounted a lifetime dominated by personal initiatives and family connections.

Colin’s story is especially interesting because it encompasses the involvement of a grandmother in activities of the First World War munitions factory as well as his own work experiences which were integral parts of the changing faces of both Banbury and Grimsbury.

Grandmother Lickorish was a shell filler, otherwise nicknamed a ‘Canary’ because her skin would have turned yellow as a result of the filling material.

She and her colleagues worked under the eagle eye of Captain Snowball, whose post-war activities also made him a well-known garage owner. His business was situated in North Bar and as well as petrol pumps had the biggest tyre supplier for miles around, an unsurprising fact as he promoted the new pneumatic tyres (previously solid).

Another significant and early member of the Lickorish family was W.M. Lickorish who was managing secretary of the Banbury and District Industrial and Co-operative Society.

In 1916 in the midst of war he summed up the spirit of enthusiasm in town and country for the Co-operative Movement when he said that what matters is ‘the essential faith in the better instincts of the human heart to work for their security as a driving force in the achievement of the race’.

It was highly appropriate that at 3pm on March 10, 1934 in front of a huge crowd that completely filled the town centre end of Broad Street, W.M. Lickorish opened the Arcade Building and ushered in a new phase in the history of Banbury Co-opville. He remarked that ‘a long-cherished dream has at last been realised’.

Most of Colin Lickorish’s life has been taken up with the coal business, firstly for Frosts in Grimsbury and afterwards Palmers in Banbury. Remarkably the former was born out of the run up to the General Strike of 1926.

It grew in scale to take advantage of the substantial market for domestic fuel in Grimsbury and served not only Banbury but an area 15 miles around.

The local base was close to Merton Street railway station. Frosts had garaging for three lorries, one of which was decorated and deployed in the procession of floats that made their way up the Oxford Road to the Horton Hospital fête of about 1930.

Primed by the experience with Frosts, Colin moved on to work for Palmers Banbury-based coal merchants with their own wharfage on the Oxford Canal.

An extant sign ‘Town Hall Wharf’ reminds us of its location on Lower Cherwell Street. This job sustained him in work between 1960 and 1976.

Memories of that time are inevitably dominated by regular journeys to supplier collieries of the Warwickshire and Leicestershire coal fields. Customers associated them with quality domestic fuels.

On leaving Palmers Colin answered the employment wake-up call, ‘Be your own boss and it will work for you’. Armed with purpose designed bags he started his own coal and firewood business.

Then in 1980 a very different challenge reared its head. Colin bought a newsagents’ business in the Middleton Road close to the Cricketers from Mrs Webb, wife of Banbury’s post master. Grimsbury proved to be a happy hunting ground for custom. Eleven newspaper rounds sprouted, all in Grimsbury.

Groceries filled four fridges, vegetables from Hicks found a ready market but above all a sub post office was a mecca for hoards of pensioners.

Thursdays were synonymous with big queues. In retailing jargon the postal connection afforded an excellent spin off to the other side of the business. 1980 was a good time to start a retail adventure.

Was it not then that Councillor John Boss declared home rule for Grimsbury, Banbury’s growth area of the future?

l I am grateful to Colin and Valda Lickorish for the chance to explore ‘who do you think you are?’