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John Sheridan
Dorothy Sheridan
Wed 30 Aug 2006 00.07 BST

  • The exuberance, generosity and charm of John Sheridan, who has died aged 82, touched the lives of many people. A socialist and a campaigner for peace, freedom and social justice, he also had passions for painting, music, swimming and a love of the countryside, especially the wild coastlines of Yorkshire, the west of Ireland and Corsica.

He was born in Dublin, where his father owned a transport business which suffered in the Depression. The family moved a good deal, John's education was fragmented and, in any case, as he confessed, he often bunked off school. The family eventually settled in Galway city.
John began to question his parents' religious beliefs quite early and by the late 1930s was already identifying himself as a socialist and republican. Like many young Irishmen of the time, he joined the RAF, not least to escape the confines of the Catholic church. He met my mother Moyra in Galway in 1939 and they married in 1946. Four years later they moved to London, with me aged two; my brother John was born there in 1951. My father left the RAF soon after and the family moved to Yorkshire. There, after taking on a series of jobs from postman to brush salesman, he landed a white-collar job working for the local newspaper group, Ackrills, based in Harrogate.

In the late 50s and early 60s our lives were dominated by folk music: John would pick up a musical instrument, improvise a tune and get everyone singing along. Our cottage in Nidderdale became a magnet for singers, writers and artists. John was a founder and mainstay of Harrogate Folk Club, doing the warm-up act for guests and getting me (aged 14) to do the same. Visiting stars included Martin Carthy, Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl. John also took music to hospitals, schools and prisons.
Folk music at that time was closely linked with the left and especially with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. When the Aldermaston marches began, John took up his guitar and sang as he marched along with thousands of others.
His marriage to my mother ended in 1964, shortly after the birth of my sister Nuala. He moved to Hull to be with his new partner, Val Gribbin, whom he had met through CND. With Val's help he set up a secondhand book and record shop. All the proceeds from the Freedom Folk Club, which he founded in Hull, went to the African National Congress in South Africa to support the campaign to free Nelson Mandela. More recently, he protested against the invasion of Iraq as an active member of the Hull Stop the War Campaign.
John is survived by Val, his three children from his marriage to Moyra - Dorothy, John and Finuala - and by a second son, David Yelland, the journalist, who was born and adopted in 1963 and who traced his birth family in 1998. There are three grandsons, and one great-granddaughter, born shortly after John's death.

About Normans Place
Norman himself sent us this potted history of the fondly remembered Norman’s Place record shop…
I started my first shop (10 foot square) in Cotta Court in Cottingham, which was like a scene from a spaghetti western. All it needed was the tumbleweed blowing down the street; I swear you could actually hear eerie harmonica being played from the rooftops by some mute midget in a top hat every time you went down there. It suited me as I could open when I felt like it – at the time my wife had just gone back to work and I was looking after our new baby. I stayed there until our daughter Alice was old enough to go to nursery school. She had a little bed under the counter which I’m sure would be against the law now.
I then relocated to Princes Avenue in Hull, which in my teens and early twenties had been the centre of alternative living with the Book And Record Exchange, Zebra and Bogus Brothers all being down there. Unfortunately by the time I got there in the early 1990s the alternative lifestyle had become more a case of dealing with burglars on a daily basis and refusing to buy bags full of CDs, coffee and jam they had stolen the night before. My childhood dream came true when I was approached by Richard (who had taken over from John Sheridan when he and then his son retired) to take over the lease at Sheridan’s record shop on Anlaby Road in the town centre. I didn’t need to think twice about it.
I had spent many happy hours in John’s shops as a teenager, first in Carr Lane then on Anlaby Road, picking up albums that I still play to this day. I can remember going in with my old chum Al the day after seeing Loudon Wainwright on The Old Grey Whistle Test and finding his first two (and at that time only) albums in there; or standing with baited breath as John bought a copy of a Krautrock album by Frumpy with a fantastic multi-coloured cover inside a fantastic smelling printed PVC sleeve. I can still remember what the guy looked like that sold him it – I think I was that quick buying it that John didn’t even have time to deface the sleeve with his usual big circular stamp.
It was fantastic to have moved Norman’s Place into Sheridan’s and I loved it, even the occasional “strange” customers – although I always kept a sword handy near my antique till [we THINK this is a joke – Ed].
The problems arose in the shop when people stopped selling me vinyl and started selling it themselves on Ebay. I wasn’t getting any fresh stock in for my regulars and they soon got fed up of looking at the same stuff. I spent more and more time with the door locked so I could sit on my computer loading albums onto Ebay myself, which in turn led me to the decision that I didn’t need a shop – just a big shed to sit and list stuff in all day. So I rented the shop out to Amazing Fantasy, a comic shop that had outgrown the small place it was in a few doors down [Amazing Fantasy is still trading in the old Sheridan’s/Norman’s Place premises]. It was the end of an era for me.
I still sell a bit on the internet. We have moved up to the Yorkshire Dales to “get it together in the country” as they used to say, and I sit in my barn listing stuff on “the Bay” and buying the odd vinyl reissue.
But the happiest days for me were looking round the shops in Hull. Stardisc – wow, what a great shop! There was the nice guy in there that liked weird and wonderful stuff – I think he was Mr Stardisc’s son. All the Vertigo “swirl” albums that are now worth hundreds were in there at cut prices – I bought the Gracious and Cressida albums from there. Then there was upstairs in Hammonds (Binns / House of Fraser) and upstairs above Rediffusion, as well as Book And Record Exchange, Rock In on Newland Avenue, Pantomime on Princes Avenue (what a place that was – old clothes, books and some records).
Not forgetting Cleveland’s down Hessle Road – I remember they always had loads of import EPs by the Kinks, Pretty Things and Stones and so on in the window – oh God, it was heaven! There was Bolder’s Record Bar near the flyover where I remember going in to try and find the new Atomic Rooster album and Trevor Bolder’s dad Harry tried to sell me an album by some guy called David Bowie because his son was on it. I thought “it can’t be much good then if a guy from Hull’s on it!!!”.
The “job” hasn’+t provided me with a future pension or a lavish lifestyle but I wouldn’t swap it for the world. What a life – hunting out and selling vinyl. If there is even one person out there that has one single happy memory or funny story of my shop the way I have about previous shops in Hull then I am happy just to be a minor part in the story involving Sheridan’s and all the other shops. Myself, as a shop keeper I made a lot of mistakes – I’m not the most patient man (I was memorably described as “mercurial” by the Hull Daily Mail), but I’d like to think I was always fair (maybe that’s another reason I never made a killing!).
I could always put my foot in it. The worst mistake I ever made was telling some guy that I didn’t want the tonnes of signed Iron Maiden stuff he had because the new singer [Blaze Bayley] was a “prat” (I think it may have been a more ancient and slightly stronger word I actually used) and people were only bothered about Bruce Dickinson who’d left a while before. I asked him how come he’d got so much signed stuff and the guy said that the “prat” in the band was his son.
Happy times…!
– Norm, Norman’s Place

Listening to music tonight transported me back to John Sheridans shop on Anlaby Road, which holds marvellous memories of buying my first ‘proper’ music. Whilst it’s now over 50 years ago, I can remember John as a tall, long haired, bearded nice guy, who was always totally immersed in his love of music. Sorry to hear he’s gone, and so too, my dear friend who I’d be with , looking through all those records, Ian Stow.
God bless you both.
Jonathan Pyne




19 Anlaby Road Hull / East Yorkshire
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