“Put’em up Son!” Bert’s Story
‘Herbert George Fry’ was the Second youngest of six born to Frederick & Caroline in London's ‘down-at-heel’ East End, 1905 His early years were tough! When Bert was Six, his Dad (a ‘Hansom cab’ driver) had a fall and tragically lost his sight! This left Caroline to take in laundry to try to make ends meet! Bert would scour the markets for discarded veg and meat finding any scrap of Interest for the pot. He earned some pennies with odd jobs like lighting fires for the Jewish families on Sabbath. He also cleaned out the ovens at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry! The kids were sent in before the furnace cooled which made the turnaround quicker for the boss! Blisters, callouses, choking & other health issues were common. It was regular work though & Bert was a grafter! Carrie (Bert’s oldest sister) adopted the role of Mum. She did her best to make up for the absence of her own Mum as primary carer. Bert never forgot this & His admiration for his Sister was life long! By the time Bert got to the tender age of Thirteen the Great War had already cast a long shadow. When Ferdinand Von Zeppelin’s mighty airships threatened bombs from the clouds, Bert would get on his bike & blow a bugle to warn people to take cover! He was keen to go to sea and do his bit for the war effort. Bert pitched up at Navy Recruitment and lied about his Age! The Officer took one look at Him and
Suggested that he came back when He Had some
‘Shit in His Shoes!’
Undeterred, Bert pitched up again less than a year later.
aged just Fourteen, He pulled his toughest face and showed his straightest Back!
“You’re in The Navy Now Son!”
Bert served Ten years, rising to the rank of Leading Seaman and Acting Petty Officer. He earned extra as a ship’s photographer and was also a gifted ‘light welterweight’ boxer. He did well from these ventures and every spare penny was sent home to keep Mum and the family. In 1929 (Aged 24) he joined the Metropolitan Police but his bobby’s uniform soon gave way to a smart Pin-Striped suit as Detective Constable and later, Sergeant! Bert was twice a member of Scotland yard’s famous ‘Flying Squad ’ and earned himself the
nickname ‘Admiral ’ for his dapper turnout & History, as well as an enviable reputation for Crime Fighting. In 1934 Bert fell in love with the Beautiful 20 year-old Gretchen. Two years later they married and had two children, Peter and (My Mum) Margaret. Differences with seniors of the ‘Graduate Force’ led to Bert’s retirement from the ‘Met’ in 1958 and he Ended his working days running security for ‘Joe Lyons ’ Coffee houses.
Bert finally sailed from this world in 1991, aged 86.
“Muck in Your Shoes” Contemplates the difference that a year could have made to young Bert & all that followed in his extraordinary life. I have used His 1888 ’Domenico Maratea’ (bowl back) Mandolin & Ukulele Banjo on this recording to add his Indelible mark to the project. Instruments that I remember hearing from my own Christmases past.
The story Continues!
Herbert Houdini (aka Dan Gmaj) 5th November 2014
Many thanks to Phil Cooper and all at the 'Artist Collective'
who inspired me to action this project
Their Album 'Stories of the Great War' will be out soon :-) http://artistcollective.co.uk/
On steed of steel the Stepney scout a warning bugle blew
To shelter run and save yourselves from hunting airship crew
A deed so brave from one so young yet no surprise to me
With straightened back to join the fight the Navy it would be!
Come back when there’s shit in your shoes boy
Come back when you've seen one more year
You’re keen! That’s a credit to you boy
But save your old Mum from the tears
You’re needed to gather the veg Bert,
The fires won’t light on their own
Your brovers and sisters will miss Bert,
Don’t leave the family home
The Whitechapel bells all will cool Bert,
The blisters and callouses heal
The Peelers, a good man will miss Bert
A life's worth of time you must steal
The villains they'll all get away Bert,
No one to keep'em on straight
The Toffs they’ll learn nuffin at all Bert,
Coz you won’t be there as a mate!
Your Greta you never will court Bert,
Young Maggie & Pete not a Glint ;-)
& Il'l never write this at all Bert,
Coz I won't Exist, that’s a hint!
Piano play never to roll Bert,
Not a pluck from your old mandolin
My Christmases fading away Bert,
Like tales of your travels to sing
So come back when there’s shit in your shoes boy,
Come back when you’re not just a lad
Come back when there's shit in you shoes Bert,
We'll sing of the life that you've had,
We'll sing of the life that you've had :-D
Lest we forget 11/11/2014