Cobbling & Shoes
President Ann Johnson welcomed thirteen members and a guest from Ormside WI to Asby WI’s meeting and introduced Tommy Thomlinson, the evening’s speaker whose topic was ‘Life through shoe repairing’. Despite admitting to an initial reluctance four years ago to doing any form of public speaking Mr Thomlinson proved himself to be a competent and most entertaining orator.
He explained that, as a teenager, he had been determined to escape school as soon as he could, and, having been told by his headmaster that he could only leave if he had a job to go to he responded to a window advertisement for an apprentice shoe repairer. He was successful with his application and began a 5 year apprenticeship which lead to his lifetime profession.
Although in the 1970s there were six or more other one-man cobblers in Penrith, after completing his apprenticeship and then working for a number of years with same company, he decided to leave and set up on his own. By the 1980s most of the other small shoe repair businesses had closed down. This was mainly as a result of the disappearance of the better quality shoe shops in the town and the availability of all-leather shoes being taken over by ‘plastic’ shoes.
Mr Thomlinson moved to new premises in Burrowgate and diversified by adding key-cutting, a bigger range of polishes, and the sale of leather goods to his basic shoe repairing work. And, later still, he added sports trophy engraving to his skills. This he still does. After nearly 40 years in the trade he finally retired and now spends time enjoying carriage-driving which, like his work did, enables him to continue to meet many interesting people about whom he has many entertaining stories to tell.
Susan Walker gave the vote of thanks and, with Pam Cowey, provided the evening’s refreshments. Before leaving Mr Thomlinson drew the raffle – winner Helen Cooper – and judged the shoe horn competition – first, Rachel Forrest; second, Susan Renshaw.