Former Old Town resident George Sheader publishes a series of essays exploring life in Scarborough in his first book Me Old Mam and the Sea - how to get your copy

Taking his lead from Ernest Hemmingway, George Sheader has called his series of essays about his life in the Old Town Me Old Mam and the Sea.

By Sue Wilkinson
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 10:48 am
George Sheader and his mum Doreen in Scarborough. George has written Me Old Mam and the Sea - a collection of essays on his life in the Old Town
George Sheader and his mum Doreen in Scarborough. George has written Me Old Mam and the Sea - a collection of essays on his life in the Old Town

While Hemmingway’s novella is about a fisherman and his battle with a giant marlin, George’s book is full of meditations on a range of topics from deckchairs to death – and tales of his mum and dad Doreen and Dick Sheader.

George, who lives in Israel was born into a traditional fishing family and raised in the Bottom End of Scarborough.

“My whole world consisted of the harbour, the seafront and the Castle Dykes,” he said.

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George Sheader grew up in the fishing community of Scarborough's Old Town

He went to Friarage Junior School and after passing his 12plus went on to Scarborough Boys High School.

“I did fairly well academically and was accepted by Ealing College to study modern languages, which turned out to be a complete disaster.”

He left after a year and returning to Scarborough got a job as the pastry chef’s assistant at the Prince of Wales Hotel.

“I found the work far more interesting than studying Russian, French and Spanish.”

George Sheader has written his book to better explain his life to his family and it includes a range of essays on the Old Town. They include mentions of mussels skeiners his aunty Gladys Sheader, the Queen Mother and Vera Lynn.

The next few years were spent garnering experience in different hotels and bakeries.

Needing a change aged 26, he travelled to Israel with the intention of working on a kibbutz for a year,.

“It was on Kibbutz Be’eri in the Negev Desert that I found my future and my direction.

“I met Yaffa, my wife-to-be, and her four-year-old son, Deddy. We married in England in 1978, then returned to Israel permanently in 1979.

“We settled in Beer Sheva, where I continued working in local patisseries, but soon found out I would have to forget all I’d learnt about scones and Eccles cakes, and adapt myself to the new, Israeli cuisine of burekas and baklawa.”

In 1987, he opened George’s Bakery, which he ran until 2004 when he sold it to take up the appointment of youth development ffficer for the Israel Cricket Association.

“My greatest achievements in this position were the joint programmes I initiated and successfully ran between Israeli Jewish kids, Bedouin boys and girls and Arab schools from the West Bank,” he said,

He retired in 2018 and spends his time with his family, which has grown to 15 members, travelling around the Holy Land and writing.

“I have always been a big reader, but I can’t in all honesty put my finger on any one author or book that has inspired me.

“Perhaps artists like Ricky Gervais, Larry David and Sean Lock have shown me how far you can take a subject if you’re willing to go there, while at the same time, keeping within the bounds of acceptability, but, having said that, all my work is original.

“It is all me, exposed to the world, and no one else on the planet could have written what I have written in Me Old Mam And The Sea,” he said.

Each chapter, or essay, has its roots in Scarborough’s fishing quarter – the Bottom End – from where it may, or may not, wander off in any random direction – to Israel, to Scotland, to West Heslerton, and South Cliff, but the common denominator in each essay is the Bottom End of Scarborough.

“I suppose the real inspiration comes from the main characters themselves: the quiet wisdom of me mam; the hilarious boldness of my wife, Yaffa; and the endearing unpredictability of my brother John.”

George began writing the essays in Me Old Mam And The Sea not with any ambition to publish but as a record for his children and grandchildren all living in Israel.

“I want them to read it and to better know who I was, what I did and where I came from,” he said.

“It was only after I had decided to self-publish that I realised if I were to satisfy and entertain a wider, more critical readership I needed to allow myself to be bolder, more controversial and dafter.

“Writing bold and controversial is easy – it’s the daft stuff that is more challenging.

“Will the reader understand the daftness, or will he/she take it at face value and merely consider me silly?

“It’s a risk all comedians have to take but there lies the joy in writing about nonsense as if it were significant, like the pieces on Waagh and the Wonderful World of Walking Sticks.”

Scarborough holds a special place in his heart.

“It would be easy to sound like a travel brochure here. Queen of the Yorkshire Coast; a plethora of old buildings and churches to vist; theatres galore and a cricket ground of international reputation, etc.

“Asking why Scarborough is so special is like asking ‘Why is your mother so special?’ Because she’s me mam.

“Scarborough is special to me because I know her, and she’s mine just like me mam is mine and I’m sure it’s the same for all Scarborough’s offspring, whether they have left home or not.

“When I visit Scarborough – or return home would be more accurate – after a lengthy absence, I don’t allow myself to see anything negative.

“I see only what my memory allows me to see.

“The Castle, as grand as any Schloss on the Rhine; Oliver’s Mount with its cenotaph, no less impressive than Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer;

the North Bay’s very own Bondi Beach with its two-metre surf; the magnificent Spreight Lane Steps, obviously the inspiration for Rome’s Spanish Steps.

“I stroll round Marine Drive and imagine the waves crashing against the seawall, shooting 30 yards into the air;

“I enter the market and see Mr Muir’s grocery on my right and Sid’s Bazaar on my left; I walk past Maggie Bean’s Bakery in Longwestgate and the wonderful smell of her incomparable baps still lingers in my mind.

“Scarborough is special to me, because, like me man, she’s the only one I’ve got.”

The first batch of 250 copies of Me Old Mam and The Sea came out a week before Christmas and have all been sold.

“The responses to it have been phenomenal,” said George.

“I’ve ordered a further batch which should be out by the end of this month.

“Everything has happened so fast and because of Covid, I haven’t been able to get over to Scarborough to arrange a deal with a local bookshop.”

Me Old Mam And The Sea, however, will be available on the York Publishing Services on-line bookshop.

Customers can contact George either by text or Whats App on 0736-1293381; email me at [email protected]; or message him by Messenger on Facebook and he will direct them to where the book is available in Scarborough.