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Book reviews — April 1997

'Major Major, Memories of an Older Brother', by Terry Major-Ball
Duckworth 1994, 167 pages, 62 illustrations, £12.95, (ISBN 0 7156 2631 0)
It might seem odd that a book of this nature is being reviewed in the Newsletter but its contents are likely to be of more interest to members than might be at first thought. Mr John Major's elder brother has spent a considerable time in Colindale library, he has an interest in family and local history, and here you will find mention of Philips electrical, Butlins holiday camp at Bognor Regis, Brixton Market, Worcester Park, factory work, making plastic bottle caps and breeding goldfish. A strong atmosphere of past suburban South West London is evoked and accounts of the Second World War, flying bombs, evacuation to Norfolk, National Service, the delights of Toni's Milk Bar in the high street Worcester Park, work in Woolworths and much else are well worth reading.

The family garden ornament business, Major's Garden Ornaments, was set up by our Prime Minister's father in the early 1930s and it became a flourishing concern up to the outbreak of the Second World War. There is quite an extended account of the process of making the ornaments in chapter six which will appeal directly to industrial archaeologists. Garden gnomes, ducks, herons, hippopotami etc were made from sand and cement with reinforcing wires for things like the ears. An antiquing process involving mineral black or manganese dioxide was used for some products but a number of the garden ornaments were painted all over, for instance crocodiles had big red mouths with rows of white teeth. There were three main outlets for the garden ornament business; David's Rural Industries, Mr Spiers of Cliftonville and Bentalls at Kingston-upon-Thames.

Some critics have compared this work to The Diary of a Nobody but Mr Terry Major-Ball is no Mr Pooter. If there is a parallel it is in the description of not fashionable parts of outer London that are normally never written about let alone published and for this reason Major Major can be recommended as filling a very vacant space. It is a refreshing read. Bob Carr

© GLIAS, 1998