Curly and Bob – one man and his horse for 30 years

Gordon Ash with Bob
Gordon Ash with Bob

Boys who became men when HMS Havant rescued thousands from Dunkirk

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Richard Boryer’s atmospheric pictures on these pages last month of the old totters’ market in Unicorn Road, Portsmouth, stirred fond memories for many of you.

One of the pictures featured a man with a horse and I asked if it might be Gordon Ash with Bob his faithful cart-puller.

And indeed it was Gordon – known to everyone as Curly – alongside Bob, both well-loved Portsmouth characters.

Curly’s granddaughter, Cherelle Ash, sent me this touching picture (right) of the two of them.

And another granddaughter, Kathrine Coleman (nee Ash), also got in touch.

She says: ‘Grandad worked as a rag and bone man and was married to Peggy. They had 10 children. The cart was preciously restored by my Uncle Peter (Curly’s son) and is still kept in our family.’

Kathrine said Curly was born in Portsea and although he travelled around the country for work in his younger days, he spent most of his life in the Fratton, Portsea and Landport areas.

She adds: ‘He petitioned Portsmouth City Council in the Home for Bob campaign (see pictures below) and secured a plot of land for Bob who must have been about 30 when he died.’

Steve Burn, from Havant, wrote saying: ‘Curly’s oldest son Gordon is still in Portsmouth along with his brothers ‘Midgey’ and Martin.

‘We all attended school in Cosham in the 1960s and the Ash family were well-known traders .

‘I helped Midgey one Navy Days weekend outside the Dockyard main gate selling apples and Curly complained that I wasn’t shouting my wares loudly enough.’

And Bob sparked this memory from Richard Jeal, of Vian Road, Waterlooville. When he was about four, in the late 1960s, he lived in Ladywood House, Plymouth Street.

‘The flats stood next to a bomb site (now Winston Churchill Avenue) which was a fantastic playground for we kids, but also open grazing for Bob. He was always secured by a long chain giving him freedom to wander around.

‘Being an adventurous lad, I would wait until my parents were asleep then drag a chair to the front door, stand on it to undo the top bolt, then quietly slip out leaving the door ajar for my re-entry later on.

‘I would then go down to Bobby and feed him any carrots, greens, apples or bread mum had left out. I’d then scarper back home before I was missed.’