On 8th June 2013 I went, with my wife Marjorie, to Cambridge and was presented with the Local History Book Award for 2013, for my book “What Happened to Smedley’s?”
Following all the press publicity, I went to Wisbech and met Charles Gap, two years older than me, who remembered our playing together as boys in the park in Wisbech, over seventy-five years ago. Both our fathers worked in the nearby Smedley’s Canning Factory.
Some years later, as an apprentice, I was taught about sterilising pea cans by his father, also Charlie Gap, who my grandfather had recruited from Evesham for his new factory at Wisbech in 1925. He even gave me the original letters from my grandfather.
The press publicity, and a local man with many Wisbech contacts, encouraged a local Wisbech shop, Etcetera to obtain copies of the book. They ordered copies of “What Happened …” and of my first book, “A Canner’s Life”. I sent them some publicity material to make their window display more colourful.
I got York Publishing to print the first copies of “What Happened to Smedley’s?” in time for me to give hardback copies to my children and some grandchildren on St George’s Day 23rd April 2012, when my wife celebrated our Diamond Jubilee.
H.M. Queen Elizabeth was celebrating the diamond Jubilee of her accession to the throne with a Jubilee party on the Thames, so I wrote and offered her a copy of my book! Smedley’s had been the first company to offer a range of quick frozen fruits and vegetables in Britain and also to supply the Royal household. Those first frozen foods were packed at the Wisbech factory.
My offer was accepted and I sent a book, with a note highlighting the reference to our supplying a range of frozen foods to the R.N. Battleship that took King George VI, his Queen and the two Princesses to Canada early in 1939. I received a very nice reply which said, “Her majesty and The Royal Family have long enjoyed the association with Smedley’s and your continued loyalty and kind support are warmly appreciated by The Queen and her family.”