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Joe Scarborough


Growing up in Pitsmoor, 1940s

Colour photograph of artist Joe Scarborough's face.
Joe Scarborough, taken in 2006 © Carl Rose


The artist Joe Scarborough grew up in Pitsmoor and still has a bit of a love affair with the place. He was interviewed for the Burngreave Voices oral history archive. In the sound clip he talks about his memories of home life.

The sound clip lasts for 3 minutes.

The whole thing about Pitsmoor was that it was practical. And you found that relatives lived very closely together, I mean, I know it was classed as slum property but not at the time, it was working houses. We were two up and two down and an off shot kitchen, front room never used. Never ever used, so it was kitchen life with an old radio permanently tuned to American Forces Network because that's where you got all the big bands and stuff like that. Me Grandmother Brown who fiercely believed in Joe Stalin, Uncle Joe, she used to call him. I thought he was a relative early on. And she and my father did not agree, they hated each other.

Grandmother Brown was your mother's mother?

That's right, my mother had a brain tumour so we were never in great conversations, it was as if she was.., people who have been a through similar process, it was as if she was drunk all the time. Now my father was a serious socialist, he was chased out of Fitzalan Square by the Black Shirts many a time and took shelter at Toll Bar. Where all his books were burnt, first class Gallants editions, Red Hand Book Club, all those, and I only saved one and it was called 'An American Testament' by Joseph A Freeman. What a wonderful non-de-plume! Joseph A Freeman.


And being called Joe it struck a cord with me. But there's an enormous amount of rough love, it wasn't, being technically an only child, you were hugged but much was expected of you. You give love with one hand, there's expectancy on the other that you will succeed. 'Our Fred's lad will do ever so well, you know'. That's because me dad made me wear a collar and tie, which immediately made everyone think, 'Crumbs he's really clever'. I wasn't, actually. In fact when the 11 Plus came along I got the one at the bottom of the list. It was a place called Marlcliffe. But long before there you were, you were trotting round the streets, you had places where you could go and where you couldn't, because there was another gang. There'd be another gang on Verdon Street, there would be a gang at the top of Rock Street an' all like that. Our gang was at the bottom of Fitzalan Street, but when we went to war with other kids in Park Wood Springs we would all unite together. Early politics you see. What was it, 'The friend of my enemy is my friend,' or something like that.