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Article and photos by Paul Wright, 2023
J H May - Shop Closure 2022
but Contracting continues
bargains shop and works
Bargains to be had.
Shop and workshop in view.

John May Electrical came to life in the summer of 1947, with two sites in use during those early days.

One site was in High Street South, and the other was in Harborough Road, with the combination of doing electrical work, with a workshop out the back, and also on site was an off-licence shop; we used to call them an “outdoor beer house”.

How did all this come about? Well, it was the brain child of John Herbert May after his work on RAF stations;  this included special electrical installations in connection with fighter command underground headquarters, also with experimental air ministry stations.

Back to the Rushden side of things, they also topped up people’s accumulators. This was in the days before electric and battery operated radios. The accumulator was rather like a large square shaped glass bottle with a handle on the top for carrying it. Inside were the components that made the wireless work surrounded in acid. The radio had two accumulators. It ran on one, while the other was being charged up for you, which was every week.

The old fashioned wireless would also have an aerial to pick up the radio signal. The aerial was a very long wire that stretched across the room and outside the house into the back yard. Many homes would still have been using an accumulator driven wireless up until the mid 1950s.

There were just three radio services in the UK at this time, they were; the Light programme (Radio 2), the Third programme (Radio 3), and the Home Service (Radio 4).

The transmitter site for our area was at Droitwitch in Worcestershire.

Although Radio Luxembourg was beaming out “pop music” from the Grand Duchy at night.

Radio Luxembourg had that “Pop” providing monopoly in the UK until, Easter 1964, when Radio Caroline began daytime test transmissions from a ship anchored less than four miles off the coast near Felixstowe (Offshore Radio). Referred to as the “Lady” Radio Caroline, it finally came ashore after many high sea adventures, and is now transmitting from a land based studio in the South East of England.

The next move for J. H. May was to Moor Road in 1958, and the shop was half the size that we saw in 2022, this originally doubled as the family home. John’s son Michael was just 12 years old when the move occurred. And Michael’s mother Margaret ran the shop.

I remember John (Johnnie) in the mid 1960’s, and fond memories of working along side him and Harry Cave, who had a carpentry firm up Birchall Road.

Michael (Butch), served his time as an apprentice at Central Electric up High Street South. Meanwhile his wife Marilyn was working the Midland bank in Irthlingborough.

One of her numerous tasks was to check the announcements in the deaths column in the Evening Telegraph, which was sold on six days per week (currently once per week). And then to render any named accounts ‘in-active’.

Currently the bank branches seem to be waving goodbye to over the counter customers, stating that foot fall in branch is well down.

Rushden has lost Barclays, Nat West, TSB, and Lloyds so far, and the High Street is home to HSBC, and next door the Nationwide building society.

Mr John May sadly passed away in 1969, aged 57, and Michael took over running the business aged 21. The contracting side has been going about 75 years, and is going to continue, and now managed by Jonathan May BEng (Hons) CEng MCIBSE MIET MIWFM.

bargain Marilyn, Michael and Pete Wright.
Yes, it'a bargain.
Marilyn, Michael and Pete Wright.

The shop in Moor Road had been an Oasis for so many electrical parts and white goods over the years. Prior to the shop closing, bargains galore were to be had, with 50% discounts.

But the bargains have now gone, and the shop closed down in September, 2022.

And now joins the likes of Wheatcroft’s which was in Church Street, and closed in the summer of 2015.

Mr Theo Wheatcroft was infamous for keeping shop prices in a pre-decimal monetary system based on pounds, shillings and pence. In the pre-decimal age, one pound sterling was divided into twenty shillings, and one shilling into 12 pence. This meant there were 240 pennies to the pound.

The shop was taken over, and run for a short period of three years by Mr David Cole, but totally shut in 2018.

The big DIY stores on the edge of town may stock most things for loads of different trades, and jobs. But it is not the choice of everyone to buy a multi pack of so many screws etc, which no doubt lay in the shed, to gather rust and dust. Most of us forget about them and go and buy even more?

Let’s face it, when Peter Crisp called it a day after half a century of providing a top notch service, Rushden was never going to recover from losing our star player, that was back in 2009. Following shortly afterwards was the “Wills” department store, they went in to liquidation in the autumn of 2010.

Another High Street shop to close in 2022 was “Card’s Galore” at 71 the High Street. It had been run by Ian and his wife. They had been trading for several years next door to the “Rose and Crown”, and many former customers will miss them.

Also in 2022, in Church Street, the former shoe shop called “Junior Choice” at number 88, had announced its closure after several years in business.

So the commercial landscape of Moor Road has changed over the years, working our way from Washbrook Road. We had the Launderette on the corner of  Pemberton Street, opposite we enjoyed the top class fish and chip run by Arthur Northover and his family. The Moor Road Garage was keeping motorists moving, and it still is.

Howard Illife ran his butchers shop in Moor Road around the same period.

Jack and Jill day nursery is now occupying what was Moor Road School then Youth Club. I went to give my first blood donation in the mid 1970’s, every time after that, when waiting I would recite to myself the immortal words from Tony Hancock’s the “Blood donor”. When not donating blood there, it was our local polling station, after that it moved a couple of times to Highfield Road. Now I vote by postal vote.

Moving towards Fitzwilliam Street, and on the left hand side, Mr Rixon was providing eye care from his residence. And on the same side, we had Horrell’s shoe factory, that was later used as an extra clicking and closing facility by Totectors. Circa 2000 Totectors had slipped from former glory, and ceased being an employer in town. That Horrell’s building is now being used as flats. The Moor Road Spiritualist Church is still busy in the same spot in the area.

Up at J. H. May in Moor Road, Marilyn was always keen to have a chat, and a good old natter about most things local. Naturally one subject would lead to another of course, and so it went on. And if you wanted any expert advice, it was always on hand in May’s electrical shop on the corner of Moor Road, and Station road.

Questions, and expert advice.
Industrial savings.

Should you require to contact the company, you can call them on Rushden 312900.

We shall all miss having a chat to you, and Michael, and being there for us.

Have a happy retirement, and thanks for being part of everything.

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