I would here like to mention a character, though he played a somewhat insignificant role and stood in the background of this Play 'Life's Swift Passage' with all its tragedies, its comedies and its short run.
Little notice was taken of him as he played his part modestly yet effectively, until he found it at an end! and took his long rest. Little Mr Gordon! He taught the children Hebrew. At odd times he deputised for the 'Reader' and such like odd jobs. He was a bit of an Hebrew scholar, so there was little else he could do and this dependence on his occupation brought him small return, and he remained poor and obscure.
Anyway he had no higher aims, nor could he have had for he was getting on in years. He had no aptitude for business and spoke little English. He was plain, quiet and unobtrusive, wrapped up in his teaching and learning. He was pious and strictly orthodox, with a turn for religious sanctity and thought. He lived in a cottage in one of the lesser streets where he brought up his family. He had three sons. One was a postman in the town for several years.
It often happens that parents in humble circumstances endow the world with children of exceptional ability, that are an asset to it who rise if not to fame and eminence, do beyond mediocrity.
But not so in this case. I refer to intellectuality and genius. I cast no aspersions or reflections on labour and its prosaic occupations. They are essential to world's progress and must be done by someone. Their accomplishment is an honour, deserving of the highest praise and esteem.
Marks Levy (1848-1917)
It is strange how from usage one's surname gets obliterated. Such was the case with Marks Levy. I with many others knew him but as Mr Marks. Thus was he addressed and spoken of. It was always Mr Marks the “Shammos”, not Mr Levy the Shammos, and that's what he was - a 'Shammos' to the Congregation; an office he held for many years and I have no knowledge of a predecessor, if ever there were one.
And what has a Shammos to do? Collect the seat money principally; carry out certain offices at Divine Worship and sundry jobs, for which he received a stipend of about thirty shillings per week, and on that remuneration he existed, although it was supplemented somewhat by a side line - for he sold salted-herrings, pickled cucumbers, and black-bread, and on the Passover he supplied the prescribed pabulum for that Festival when it came along about Eastertide.
He had a dingy little shop in Nelson St and lived with his family on the premises. It was bare of fittings, and a large herring cask stood alone and solitary in a corner. His wife, frail, timid, short-sighted, looked after what little business there was - an odd customer now and then from the Community - in between her household chores. She spoke little English, and that of the most rudimentary order, barely understandable.
He also did some money-lending and with one thing and another he got along; in fact it was rumoured he had a 'bit' put by, though one couldn't credit it judging from appearance - not always a safe guide. However, on his demise the money-lending was taken over by his son Abie - we called him Yab - who got on well enough with it for many years; married and reared a family, respectably putting two sons to the medical Profession.
But finally he left the town and at present lives retired. He married a daughter of the late Mr Cohen, another Shammos to the Congregation, whose wife kept a draper's shop in Newport Road, opposite St Paul’s vicarage. Marks Levy was slightly above middle height, and in physique normal. Easy going and affable who liked a game of cards, was sporty, and had an occasional flutter on a racehorse.
Elias Monet (1842-1906)
A singular character, a type one rarely comes across; both physically and temperamentally, was Mr Monet. He was very stout and corpulent - like a cask - which militated against his walking, and he puffed his way through the streets with an effort.
He was reserved and retiring. He spoke to few and few spoke to him. He sought neither company nor friends and none sought him, and so he lived with his wife and son in a small cottage in High Duncombe Street; where he lent money to the working classes and few knew any more than this about him!
His wife was even a more interesting character. She was his antithesis. Thin and pale, loquacious, critical, and censorious. Very old fashioned, and so religiously orthodox she wore a 'sheital' - a wig.
He interested himself in nothing outside his home and his business and remained indifferent to everything that transpired beyond these! This seemed a strange sort of existence, but it suited him and no doubt her, which is their concern and so he continued until his death in the little cottage in High Duncombe Street.
His widow with her son Lybash - who by then had grown to manhood - moved into a much larger dwelling and better locality of Grange Rd West ,where she passed her days in similar solitude. ‘It takes all sorts of people to make a World‘ - which would be drab and monotonous were all alike. People must be taken as they are. At least they lend variety and afford interest, without which life would be somewhat cold and barren.
There is nothing so salutary, so interesting to a discerning observer than the study of humanity with its strength and weakness. It is one of the most fascinating pursuits. In the human countenance we have a mirror that reflects so faithful and true one's nature, character, and inherent qualities, which offers to the discerning physiognamist a field and study as absorbing as any, in any branch of science.
Bensie Simon (1840-1939)
He was a nonogenarian! - so I am given to understand - and that attainment is a distinction worthy of record. He lived in one of the cottages in Harris Street and to me he looked no different either in middle age or old age. Identical! no variation in dress, appearance or in features...This is phenomenal!
He was a glazier and I never knew him to be anything else. He seemed quite content and happy enough, and no doubt he was, for it would be a sad reflection to think it were only the 'Rich' that had that! Why! Life wouldn't be worth living and the less fortunate might well go and drown themselves and have done with it!
His wife was a good type of woman, sedate, mild and modest. Their family was not large. Mrs Jaffa - the mother of Eric Jaffa - is a daughter. It is among such types ,such classes, one finds more humour, bonhomie, and comradeship, more sympathy, than in any other. They do not engage in worthless pleasures and pursuits; their minds are not warped by over-concentration; their sympathy is not paralized by excess or over-indulgence! He had his own little clique with whom he mixed and passed his time.
He was a centenarian! This I had from his grandson. He may have been fuddled in his computation and probably out of it by a few pears. Nevertheless, he was an old man with a claim to longevity, as I remember him when I was a boy. He was hale and sturdy, with a sonorous voice that rang out clear as a bell; an active brain, and unimpaired memory. This is remarkable for advanced years!
He spoke little English, and preferred conversing in Yiddish. One son was a glazier. A daughter married the late Abraham Smollan, who for years was a sojourner in South Africa, but returned to Middlesbro' during The Boer War, where he died. And his daughter is Mrs Craster of Cambridge Rd, and mother of Dan and Colin, who are in business here.
Although George Isaacs would not be regarded as strictly one of the Old Originals, nevertheless he was an old member who infiltrated into the town somewhat later.
He was evidently English born, for he spoke the language well, without a trace of foreign accent, but with a Cockney idiom which invested it with a piquancy and it is probable he hailed from London. His features were Semitic. He was quick of comprehension, sharp and shrewd, business-like! pleasant and talkative.
He kept a second-hand clothes shop at 10 High Gosford Street, which was afterwards opened out as a pawnby the late Sol Levy previously mentioned.
He resided in Marton Road about opposite The Star and Garter; here he lived quiet and comfortable. Mrs Isaacs was a placid, gentle, amicable woman. A likeable personality and altogether the family was well-disposed, quiet and respectable. After years of residence here they left the town.