I’ll close my eyes and be back at the Boleyn

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends
I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life Ive loved them all


West Ham historian and one of the great Irons  – Nigel Kahn –  takes you on a journey from his childhood home to the Boleyn. But it’s more than that – it’s also a journey of Nigel’s life  and his passions. If you read nothing else today, make sure you read this

Close your eyes and think about the Boleyn Ground and what does the mind’s eye see – is it your first visit, the first time you walked in to see the pitch?

Is it great games you have attended, do you remember the loved ones that brought you to the games but are no longer around or the players that you have loved or worshipped.?Perhaps it is the journey you used to make or the friends you have made.

For me, if I close my eyes I can see back to when as a nine year old, my Mum standing over me and tying my scarf round my neck: “Mind the roads and use the crossings” she would say as I left our flat in Tinto Road, round into Hayday then across to Ingal Road where at the end I was on the Barking Road. There I would walk with the crowds that were also going to the game marching westwards.

Back then it was safe for children to walk the streets and my mum was not that worried as so many were walking up from West Ham’s heartland of Canning Town, she assumed I would be looked after on the route. The Barking Road is like the major vein that carries my life blood as it was not only my route to the football ground, it is a big part of my life.

At its beginning lies Rathbone Market, where as a child I would sit on my Grandad’s stall, bagging up peanuts before collecting my pie and mash as a reward. Further up just past Ingal Road where on a match day I went past the Abbey Arms junction, Moody’s pie mash shop next to a Dry Cleaners on the corner of Jutland Road – a favourite of mine. I continued my journey up past my Youth Club, next to the church I attended, just before the bus stop where I met my future wife when we were both teenagers and then we married in that same church six years later.

Walking on towards the Greengate area, above the William Hill’s, is where I worked after school as a teenager sorting the post for Duthie Hart and Duthie solicitors, dropping off the bags at the Post Office across the roads, Next to Chris and Pete’s hairdressers, who cut my hair, washed by the Saturday girl who at the time looked a lot like Gloria Estefan.

On we travel, crossing Prince Regent Lane walking past the Castle Pub, where as a kid I couldn’t see in but you could hear what was going on, now sadly another bookmakers. Crossing Tunmarsh Lane, and past the old Blooms factory which I think made cooked meats, past the parade of shops starting with what I think were tailors that seemed forever to have Fred Perry T-shirts in the window.

That was next to the toy shop that housed the best assortment of Airfix model planes in the back corner and where my Subbuteo set came from. Sadly no West Ham team for me, just the stock Red or Blue teams which were mainly held together with blue tac. The last shop in this parade was a security shop, in fact it is still there just not as large. It was here I finished my apprenticeship as a locksmith, very handy as I’d quit my first employers as they made me work a Saturday missing the Orient FA Cup game at Brisbane Road in the January of 1987.

By the time the game was replayed at the Boleyn I was working at this shop on the Barking Road and so working on a Saturday wasn’t much of a problem just 5 minutes from the ground. The shops disappear, the last being the old Wine Bar before the Esso petrol station.

Cross New City Road, with the school at the other end being where my daughter and my Mum both started their education, Walking on we come to Inniskilling Road with the Sweet Shop on the corner. That same shop my Nan and Grandad traded from long before I was born but it was just four doors from the house they brought my mum up in after the war.

The ground is now in sight with the floodlights rising from the roof of the South Bank, past the dry cleaners, Coral Bookmakers and now we have the Best Turkish Kebab Shop, where I took my wife for something to eat the night I met her. Can’t say for sure when the kebab shop opened but it is at least 30 years now. Crossing the road in front of what was Barclays Bank with the toilet block outside which now is overlooked by the World Cup Winners statue.

For those that know it nowadays and think Barclays is on the other side of the road, well that was the Gas Board shop, the bookshop was there in the same place as the furniture shop on the corner. I walked along Green Street now, but I wasn’t allowed to cross in front of the Boleyn Pub, I had to walk down to opposite the gates, past what was the Bobby Moore shop and stop outside the gates and there I would meet my Uncle who had secured our season tickets in 1977 after a three year wait apparently.

Once I was across the road I was dispatched to Dick’s office, this was under the West Stand next to the players entrance, Dick must have been a friend of my uncle and it was his job to give out the comp tickets stuffed into little brown envelopes with their names on. As a kid it was great as sometimes you would have old players collecting or managers of other teams, even famous journalists.

I remember getting Bryon Butler’s autograph; he was the top BBC radio commentator of the day, and Dick called me over to the little window where Bryon obliged my request. My uncle would collect me just as the game kicked off and on we go, through the turnstile, up the staircase on the left into Block A which was right in the corner of the concourse, we climbed the stairs to our Row U seats on the left by the corrugated wall of the stand and from there I witnessed relegation, cup runs and finally promotion.

So my mind’s eye is as vivid today of that journey as it was back as a kid, though half that walk I still do today so its still fresh in my head, but though the Boleyn will go I only have to close my eyes.

I hope you have enjoyed my walk down my personal memory lane, and a journey in a way through a big part of my life just by walking down the Barking Road.

If you want to share your Memories feel free to email them to me to claretandhugh@gmail.com and we will reproduce them in here.

I can be contacted at mywhufc@yahoo.com


About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon