21 February 2011

Sally, Nottingham Newspaper Seller and Pavement Artist. And Friends


Sir Micheal McMinn made a rule,
Which applied not to Scrabble nor Poole,
He said,
        Practical Christianity,
        Leeds to insanity,
& Solumnly slid off his stool.
                                          Boom Boom.

The 'Pome' and the sketch are by Sally, whose surname I forget, but who was once a noted figure on Nottingham streets selling first the rebel weekly Nottingham News, and then selling the regular Nottingham Evening Post. Some people have taken to calling her Sally Freeman, and of course rumour and the internet being what they are others have joined in calling her that, although I don't remember that as her name: as long as no proof is given that that was her name, she remains with no surname for me.  She was noted by most people who passed because they found it rather incongruous to hear a female voice (I think all had previously been male) calling out 'Post' in a delicate, highly 'posh' sounding accent. Later, she graduated to pavement artist, making highly elaborate (and really rather clever) chalk drawings on the street around Lister Gate, Nottingham. She has long been gone, and judging by a few Nottingham nostalgia forums, no one knows where, although they certainly miss her.

The person in the idiosyncratically spelt poem and the diagram is Mick McMinn, who was also known as 'Luton Mick' after his town of origin to avoid confusion with a surfeit of Micks, and he was a friend of mine and a very close friend of Sally's and her partner Sam's. The drawing points to Mick's love of pool, scrabble, and alcohol, moving from upright position on a bar stool to a skeletal heap on the floor, still clutching his drink and reaching for the last letter of the alphabet. Mick told me that all of Sally's chalk drawings were about him or him and Sam, and as I've no way of proving otherwise I'll have to believe it. On several occasions, I had a drink in city center pubs in the company of the three of them, and I remember at least one evening being with Mick, his partner Polly, Sally, and my ex-wife at Mick's house. Sally was usually quite quiet, but when she did speak it was often with a wit that was impossible to match.

And Mick told such stories about Sally and Sam. How about their day trip to Skegness, when they boarded the train out with an empty wheelie bin, all the Nottingham folk on the coast were in generous holiday mood seeing Sally do her pavement artist routine, and of course the merry pair had great difficulty hauling the bin onto the return train as it was full to the brim with money.

But Mick was obviously in awe of both of them, fascinated by their antics, and was evidently distressed when his own partner Polly barred them from visiting their house in Sneinton, although I forget why. He said that the following evening, Sally and Sam both stood on the doorstep drenched in tears and begging forgiveness. They were, of course, forgiven.

Do I believe all this?

Well...fictionalized biography makes for interesting stories, and these are just a few of many Mick told me about Sally (and Sam), but then, we are talking about people who seemed larger than life.

As for Mick, it's many years since I last saw him, but he wasn't drinking at all then.

A seated Sally selling (or rather reading) Nottingham Evening Post.

Finally, I recently noticed this fine shot of Sally which Dave Armstrong has very kindly given me permission to reproduce here. It's a lovely photo of her, with the apparent incongruity of the flamboyant hat mixed with the duffel coat accurately capturing the way she was. And her face registers the timidity, the fragility behind her eccentricity. A superb portrait.

ADDENDUM 1: 5 March 2018, and this post has received almost 200 visits in less than two days. This is particularly odd as I can't find any reason online for the renewed interest. Can anyone help? If so please make a comment below or send me an email. Thanks. (Mystery solved: see comment below.)

ADDENDUM 2: I've noticed that Sally has been given the surname 'Freeman' or 'Eastman' by various people, but neither name strikes a chord with me: her full name is unknown as far as I'm concerned.


Anonymous said...

thanks for this nice post 111213

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

thanks for this tips

Unknown said...

This poem is about my dad

Unknown said...

I randomly had Sally pop to mind remembering as a child admiring chalk art 'pomes' in town with my parents - thanks for the background info!

Dr Tony Shaw said...

And thank you for the comment Alan.

Anonymous said...

https://www.facebook.com/groups/304093506435867/ she has been mentioned in this group - Toni

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Thanks for this, Toni! I wasn't aware of the group, which I'm now awaiting approval to become a member of.

Lesley O'Hare said...

...and this on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/78104432@N07/sets/72157645446726534/

Michael McEvoy said...

Thank you Dr. Shaw. Your blog on Sally was very interesting. She has always intrigued me. I'm trying to gather images of her for a portrait and your post has gave me a better understanding of the subject for my future painting.
I must apologise as I used some of your notes and Sally's sketch in a recent post with a face book group. Should you wish, I can remove it.
Warm regards,
Michael McEvoy

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Thanks for the comment, Michael. No, don't remove anything: the more people are aware of Sally and her work the better. She'd obviously be much better known had she been active in the internet age: there are still many blank areas online, and unfortunately Sally is one of them.

Cheers, Tony

Unknown said...

What was Sam's surname?

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Good question. I don't think anyone knows.

James Scarborough said...

Wall's surname was Freeman,a nicer lady you couldn't wish to meet,never had a bad word about anyone or anything,greatly missed.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony, Have you found anymore out about Sally? I used to talk with her when I went in to town, but started working abroad in the late 80's and didn't see her again. Is she still alive? I had heard she had died. I tried sending you an email, but there was a problem. I always thought she was a talented, intelligent and pretty woman and have thought about her on numerous occasions. Regards Andy

Anonymous said...

I have now realised that you have to approve all comments. If yu want to contact me directly regarding Sally, my email address is: andyroach@rocketmail.com

Peter Mann said...

In view of your biography of Sally, what is not known is whether sally is still with us even though we no longer see her pavement art featuring McLusty and her ubiquitous 'pomes'.
Word on the grapevine was that she had passed away. Are you in a position to confirm or deny this situation?

Dr Tony Shaw said...

This is not a biography of Sally but comments or observations about her. I'd have liked to write much more on her, although Mick McMinn (now dead) didn't think it a good idea, so he withheld information: at the same time, most of what he did tell me isn't too, let's say 'pretty'. But that 'grapevine' is merely a ragbag of suppositions best avoided at all costs, although I can't imagine her ever surviving without her partner, which in itself means little as it's only a personal supposition. Someone asked me for more information about her, which I gave by email, although I suspect that that information (for whatever reason asked for) was far too much more than they wanted to know, which I assumed from that person's non-response.

The internet is generally assumed to contain a huge wealth of knowledge, which is certainly true, although there still exist gaps, and the 1980s for some reason seem particularly full of those gaps. As far as I know neither Sally nor Sam had anyone to fill in the spaces, and perhaps they'll never be known. However, the biography of the fascinating Nottingham character Sophie Curly (Joan Aderney Easdale) by her granddaughter Celia Robertson (reviewed elsewhere here) might give a slight hope of fresh information about Sally by unknown others: it's very odd to think that I probably know more about her than anyone else.

Ian Plenderleith said...

June 18, 1981, just shy of 16, I travelled from Lincolnshire to Trent Bridge for the first day of the first test between Australia and England. During the afternoon and evening sessions I was intrigued by a young female newspaper seller who walked around the periphery of the pitch with a sing-song call of "Post... Eee-vening Post". I can remember the melody and her lovely tone to this day. A section of moronic, beered-up cricket fans started to mimic her, but she seemed bemused and unperturbed by their bellicose echoing of her curt but rhythmic Post-poem. She just kept on walking and calling. Today, almost 40 years on, I decided to google her and came across this blog. Many thanks for that. I really, really hope that she is still with us.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

And many thanks for this memory Ian. If you'd ever been with her socially I'm sure you'd have been even more impressed by Sally. I could add a lot more about her to this blog but I think it's best kept as it is: she was a lovely person.