Butcher Boy ( Part 5, Roys Story)
Roy Marshall was brought up in Bethnal Green in Londons East End, with 2 Brothers and a Sister. His Dad was a part time wrestler who later went on to fight " Big Daddy and Mick McMannus. His Mum was a cleaner at the local school.
He left school at 16 with no qualifications and got a job in Smithfield Market with his school mate Mark.
Roy had always been a bit of a rogue at school, Bethnal Green was a tough area ( still is) in the 1960,s. He got into some minor crime but nothing serious.
Once he started down the Market he was in his element, this was a time when security in Smithfield was almost non existent, they had their own Market Police, but these were few and far between. Everyone was making a bit of money on the side.
Roy started as a " Cutter", basically he would cut up English Lambs at a wholesalers in the Market, the meat would then be taken to the scales to be weighed, this would be checked by a "checker". The checker would write out a "ticket" ( kind of invoice), the ticket would be taken to the sales desk and handed over to the cashier. The cashier would work out what was owed and the customer would pay. The buyer or customer would then get a Market Porter to carry the meat to his Van. Thats the way the system worked in those days.
Now this system was easy to make money out of, if you were a certain kind of person, and Roy was most definately that kind of person!
As a Cutter, what you needed was a Checker who was in on the scam and a customer who also wanted to make money. Now most butchers are always up for making a quid or two so finding customers was not a problem. At Roys wholesalers, the checker just happened to be Mark, Roys old school mate.
So the scam began, for example, a customer would ask for 20 legs of lamb, Roy would cut them and put them on the scale. The actual weight would be 100lb, but Roy would shout to the checker that the weight was 78lb. The checker would look at the scale and agree. he would write out a ticket for 78lb @ 35p per pound. The customer then takes the ticket to the sales desk and pays for 78lb @ 35p. So the customer gets 22lb of lamb for free! He splits the difference with Roy and Mark and everyones happy.
It may not sound like a lot of money now, but Roy was only earning around £20 per week then. Most weeks the scam would give him and Mark another £60 each at least and some weeks it could run into £100,s!
Whilst he was working at Smithfield, Roy put himself on a 2 year Butchery course ( 2 evenings a week ) at Smithfield College.
Roy worked in Smithfield for 4 years and was shrewd enough to save his scam money, unlike Mark who spunked his up the wall! Don't get me wrong, Roy enjoyed himself, but was very focused, he knew what he wanted to do. He had a dream of having a chain of Butcher shops all over the East End. By the time he was 20 he had enough saved to almost buy his own shop.
When he was 19 he met Sue. They were married at 21, the same year he bought his shop in East Ham, East London.
When I met Roy in 1972 he had had the shop for 4 years and his wife Sue was pregnant. The baby was due in September.
Micky joined Roy in 1970. Roy put him through an apprenticeship. This consisted of Micky having a day release to go to College in Hornchurch Essex every Monday to learn Maths, English, Biology and Meat Technology ( Practical and Theory). It was a two year course and the exams were the equivalent to "A" levels. The rest of the week Micky would learn his trade from Roy in the shop.
Being a busy precinct of shops there were always deliveries being made, we had 2 Butchers, 2 Grocers, 2 Greengrocers, a hardware shop, 2 Newsagents, a Pub, Bakers, Launderette, Cafe.. you get the picture!
Roy, being Roy, knew that all delivery drivers had "overs". This meant that they had things on board that they shouldn't have. Basically they had put them on the vehicle without anyone seeing and then would sell them at a small cost to one of their regulars. So a delivery driver for a newsagents may have 2 boxes of jelly babies that are extra on board. He would then sell them to one of his drops at a discounted rate. The money went into his pocket and that was his beer money for the day. Everyone knew it went on and it was widely accepted. Remember there was no CCTV in those days and it was impossible to check everything that went on to the vehicles.
As soon as Roy got the shop he started his onslaught of delivery drivers. As soon as he saw any delivery being made to any shop in the precinct he was off. He would run over to the driver and ask him direct " Any overs Mate?" No matter if they said yes or no, he slipped them a few quid and said " Remember me next time, I'll take as much as you can get and I've always got cash".
This was music to most drivers ears. They could normally get a lot of "overs" but the problem was getting rid of them. Not all shop keepers were like Roy, they may not always have the cash on them, they may not always want what the driver has. Now here was someone who was saying he would take anything and pay for it straightaway!
So within a few weeks it started, true to his word Roy took anything and paid cash there and then. He was getting sweets, coffee, tea, sugar, towels, in fact anything that was being delivered in our area some of it was coming to Roys shop. Roy had a large garage at the back of the shop and this was where everything was stored. Drivers now knew that they could load as many "overs" onto their vehicle and they could get rid of it easily.
Roy would then contact the other shops in the precinct and offer them goods at discounted prices, he would even give them an invoice! If he had a lot of one item, he would contact other shopkeepers in the area and offer them the goods. He would make about a 50% mark up on everything and would earn some serious money. Everyone was happy.
It would also work the other way round, shopkeepers would contact Roy and ask if he could get a certain item. Roy would speak to the relevant driver and say he would like as much as he could get of this certain item. He was now getting stuff to order!
So by the time I joined Roy in 1972, he was very well known in the area. he was known as the man who could get anything!
The drivers simply knew Roy as "The Butcher".
Well, that brings you up to date and explains why Roy was so "popular!".
But as with all these things, sometimes you can get in too deep!.