Soham Grammarians - Joshua Martin 100 not out

Kate Bavester writes occasionally about her grandfather Josh Martin - what follows is based on her news:

There was a report in the paper about the death of Mr Lockwood at the age of 94 who was thought to be the oldest Grammarian but unfortunately for him, my Grandad has the claim to that title.

In his 100th year he still had all of his faculties, still fiercely independent, insisting on living in his own home in Soham and despite having nearly lost his sight due to macular degeneration he managed well with the help of carers and my mum and her sister.

He attended the old Grammar School sometime in the early 1920s. I had hoped to get Grandad to attend one of the reunion dinners but he really isn't up to a night out - he tires easily. I like to know of any events so I can tell him about them - he does love to talk and has a memory that I'd be proud of. Having something to tell him about would be excellent for conversation and would get those very old grey cells ticking over with more memories and tales.

He is quite happy to chat about things - the trouble is we always manage to get onto the subject of horses and unfortunately the family have heard all the stories time and time again! I'd be quite happy to ask him some questions if anyone came up with some. He has already been filmed and interviewed by Hellions Bumpstead Gramophone company about the traditions of horse dealing and horse fairs and enjoyed that.

Grandad, as far as I know, has very little paperwork from the old days - I've been doing our family tree and he has been a mine of information but there are few photos or documents available.

His 100th Birthday

Here are some photos of Grandad on his birthday 6th November 2009. He ALWAYS wears his Grammarian tie for special occasions although I have to say it is a bit battered and worn now! He looked very smart and dapper but there again he always does!

It was a fabulous day - we took him to the Red Lion pub in Soham on the actual day, as he was born in the pub and he had a pint on the landlord there. Lots of locals were there to have a chat with.

The following day we had an 'open house' at one of the Day Centres in Soham and approximately 100 people came to see him and have a chat.

Ann Jarman talking to Grandad - she has long been a family friend
and was speaker at the last Grammarians dinner.
All of the photos show him wearing his Grammarians tie with pride!

He went home very tired but very happy that day and was so proud to have received his card from the Queen. He will be equally proud of his certificate of congratulations from the Grammarians. Thank you for that.

Unfortunately two weeks after his birthday he had to go into hospital for a short stay. He said on his birthday that he didn't want to be 100 as "it's all down-hill from there" (made me titter somewhat as most people think it's all down-hill from 40 so he's had 60 years of going down-hill already!). He seems to have convinced himself that it really is down-hill although he perked up with the news of a General Election! He is keeping up with the news and taking an interest - but generally is very melancholy making it hard for my mum and her sister who are the main carers.

Unfortunately as his eyesight is more or less gone now he won't be able to see the people in the 1920s school photo.

Newmarket Journal article

9 Jan 11: from Kate Bavester, a grandaughter of Josh Martin 21 - I write with sad news. Grandad Josh passed away peacefully in the early hours of this morning. He was most proud of his certificate you did for him which said he was the Oldest Grammarian which I had printed off and framed and he had it hanging on the wall. He will be buried wearing his grammar school tie which he always wore with pride. He was a lovely old man and we will miss him but after living for 101 years, 2 months and 3 days we can truly say he had a good innings and he had no pain, he just conked out!

Josh's very well attended funeral was on Monday 24th January 2011 at 2pm at St Andrews Church, Soham, and afterwards at The Brook (formerly Brook House) in Brook Street, Soham. His wreath was in SGS colours and a number of Grammarians attended.

St Andrew's Church Soham

A Service of Thanksgiving
and a Celebration for the life of

Joshua "Josh" Martin

6th November 1909 - 9th January 2011

Monday, 24th January, 2011 at 2.00pm

Eulogy for Joshua Martin given by his Grandson, Jonathan James

When giving the Eulogy at a funeral, it is customary to tell stories of what happened during that person’s life. When it is the funeral of Joshua Martin, I somehow think that most of us here today will already know many of those stories.

I am sure that on 6th November 1901 when Emma Julia Martin gave birth to Joshua Junior, she and her husband, Joshua Senior, had no idea that 101 years later, so many people would be at the funeral of one of Soham’s biggest and best loved characters.

On September 21st 1912, Josh, at the age of 3, laid a commemorative stone at the building of his father’s brand new Slaughterhouse on the Shade at Soham. Unknown to him at the time, that slaughterhouse was to become not only his place of work, but also the place that in later years he kept ponies and helped teach numerous children to ride.

It’s fair to say that Joshua and his three siblings, Joe, Eric and Renee had quite a privileged upbringing. The family were one of the first in Soham to have a car, their telephone number was Soham 5 and they lived at Melton House, one of Soham’s finest properties.

Whilst attending The Shade School, Josh won the ‘Never Absent, Never Late Medal’. He went on to study at The Old Soham Grammar School and up until very recently he attended The Annual Soham Grammarians Reunion and proudly wore the Old School Tie on all special occasions.

After leaving school Josh joined the family business of farmers, horse dealers and slaughterers. It grew into a massive business and they even exported meat to the continent, which was quite a feat in those days. Josh very rarely spoke of the slaughtering side of the business, but as we all know, ALWAYS , spoke of the dealing side. I recall him coming home from Cambridge Auction one day very upset indeed. He had been bidding for a pony for someone’s daughter to ride, but once the owner saw that Josh was the bidder, they immediately withdrew the horse from sale fearing it was going to slaughter.

Despite his profession, Josh’s love and knowledge of horses was never in question. For many years he kept ponies and most were successful in competitions - three immediately spring to mind; Patsy, Duke and Joe - but there were many many more. Seldom was the vet called – it seemed there was no equine ailment that could not be cured somehow using Stockholm Tar! Others were cured with some of the most bizarre potions known to man but they worked! Once Josh had given any old nag one of his extreme makeovers, their value unsurprisingly rocketed.

We will never, physically, return to those days but somehow, during one of Josh’s tales, you were transported back mentally to a whole new world. You could somehow picture the pony he had bought for 20 and sold for 40. I’m sure we all felt we knew such characters as Art Petchy and Gilly Robinson. In the infamous tale, I’m still amazed that the car that rolled over with these various characters in it, including Josh Senior, never seriously injured anyone. The main victim appeared to be the cigar that got stubbed out on impact!

This was a totally different way of life, as Josh drove his father around the countryside buying and selling horses. Deals weren’t confirmed by email, but with a handshake. There was no video-conferencing; they met in a pub. You didn’t need a website as you had to earn your reputation.

It was on one such trip that Josh called into the Labourer’s Rest Pub at Kenny Hill. The young lady he met there, Emma Butcher, was the daughter of the landlord. Emma was to become his soul mate and at the age of 25 he married her. That marriage was to last for 63 years until Grandma sadly died in 1998.

On 11th October 1935, Josh and Emma were delighted at the birth of Shirley. Five years later, on 25th November 1940, Jenny arrived. Years later Shirley married Bernard and Jenny married Robin, both of whom became son-in-laws. Over the last 47 years five grandchildren and five great grandchildren completed the family.

Being a member of Josh’s family is, to say the least, a very unique experience. For a start you have to be tri-lingual - English, Fen and Romany makes up our vocabulary. Romany was picked up during Josh’s numerous horse deals with the gipsy fraternity. Today we all still unwittingly let slip many Romany words. When other children at school were singing songs from the latest top ten hits, us grandchildren were belting out such favourites as “I’m OK on top of a load of hay” and “Joshua, Joshua, sweet as a lemon squash you are”.

Some children were always reluctant to be collected from school when they knew their grandparents were picking them up. That didn’t apply to us grandchildren as our Grandad was the one in the middle of the crowd of parents telling stories and making them laugh. We had the coolest Grandad in the school.

As Josh’s family was one of the first to have a car in Soham, naturally he could drive and taught a number of others how to. His cars all had something in common - they ran on fumes! A fiver's worth that he filled up with was only achievable by the fact that Brook Street to Downfield’s Garage was all downhill! When he stopped driving in his mid-eighties, Josh continued his journeys by bicycle. A key phrase in today’s world is Health and Safety and this could be applied to Josh’s bicycle riding; Whilst it was good for his health, it wasn’t great for other road user’s safety! However, he was often to be seen in Soham High Street, propping up his bike and telling his stories.

When Grandma died we all feared for how he would cope looking after himself. His source of inspiration for his newly found skill of cooking was a lady called “Delilah” - known to you and I as Delia Smith. He was regularly glued to the television when “Delilah” was on, learning to make his next culinary delight. The Beef Steak Pudding he made prompted Shirley to write to “Delilah”, who in return wrote Josh the most wonderful letter.

The fact that up until only recently Josh was able to live at home was attributable to the care of others. He had a wonderful team of carers, but it was the tireless efforts of Shirley and Jenny that meant he was able to remain in the house where he had lived for over three quarters of a century. The entire family are truly grateful for that.

Eighteen months ago, Josh returned to his beloved Slaughterhouse, now my family home, to re-lay the commemorative stone that he had originally laid 97 years previously. Predictably, upon getting out of the car, he went straight across to the paddock to fuss our horses, who uncannily appeared to be at the gate waiting for him. Re-laying that stone, surrounded by his great grandchildren, was clearly a magical moment for him.

Many of us here will recall Josh’s 100th Birthday Party. Over 100 people attended, a day that meant a great deal to Josh. Proudly displaying his message from Her Majesty the Queen, we were all able to see his delight at being surrounded by so many friends. And yes, Grandad, we all ate the old fashioned way of “opening our mouths before we put the food in!”

And so today we say farewell; the true end of an era. Shirley and Jenny say farewell to a father. Bernard and Robin say farewell to a father-in-law. Kate, Helen, Sally, myself and Rachel say farewell to a Grandad. Rebecca, Jonathan and Mark say farewell to a Grandfather-in-law. Emily, Joshua, Elizabeth, William and Marley say farewell to a Great Grandad, known affectionately as 'GG Josh'.

Everyone says farewell to a great friend and Soham says farewell to a Son.

The wreath on Josh's coffin, here on Josh & Emma's grave, was in the colours of Soham Grammar School

The service was taken by the Vicar of Soham, Rev Tim Alban Jones.
The organ was played by Mr Peter Scott, formerly a master at Soham Grammar School. There were two hymns:
Morning has broken
We plough the fields and scatter

Fred Eden, Frank Haslam and Geoff Griggs were among Soham Grammarians who attended the service.

Donations, in lieu, of flowers, for MAGPAS could be left at the Service or sent to CE Fuller & Co, Funeral Directors, 23 Hall Street, Soham, ELY, Cambs., CB7 5BN

Shirley, Jenny, and family welcomed everyone to The Brook, Brook Street, Soham for refreshments following the service.

DVD - Josh Martin - 95 Years a horse dealer

Josh Martin (Junior) was born in the Red Lion Soham to a horse dealing father also named Josh and to a horse dealing grandfather. He has been a Horse Dealer and Knackerman all his life.

To some his story telling may seem droll and slow. It is compared to the lack-lustre speech of today but to me it is an excellent example of how people used to speak in his age using story and with it passing wisdoms. He takes his time to spin out a yarn but then people had more time then and I have heard other people of his age tell stories similarly. There was more time then so one has to learn to be patient, but I knew he was a storyteller from the first time he started breaking into the all familiar dialogue of a true storyteller. "How are you Josh" I said when I arrived, "not so bad for an old 'un" came the reply, which is the same thing as my mother who was born four years before Josh would have said.

I spent two and a half hours with Josh on a November morning in 2004 and these are a selection of his stories. Stories that are anecdotes of an age and into which valuable information about the period is slowly dropped in. Important information about the age when the horse ruled for it was the means of transport and power on the land and those who did not know sufficient would suffer from their lack of knowledge for the knowledge of horse has many facets.

Here Josh explains some of the tricks of the old dealers, what to look for in a good horse and why he had to know the Romany language that was adopted by the horse dealers.

Unless otherwise stated images via Kate Bavester, to whom also thanks for facilitating much of the content of this page.
page created 8 Apr 2010: last updated 16 Feb 11 - if you can add Josh stories to this page please contact the editor