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What's Tha Up To? (Paperback)

Memories of an Attercliffe Bobby

Local History True Crime

By Martyn Johnson
Imprint: Wharncliffe Books
Pages: 192
ISBN: 9781845631239
Published: 8th November 2010
Last Released: 12th March 2012



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If you want to know what it was really like to be a policeman in a large working-class area of Sheffield during the 1960s and 1970s then Martyn Johnson's memories provide us with a superb insight of the twilight era of the 'beat bobby'. Centred on Attercliffe and Darnall, we meet a host of colourful characters, lovable (and not so lovable) rogues and a rich variety of incidents and events that could not have been imagined even by the most creative of fiction writers. But they are all true. Read about amazing traffic accidents, impromptu fights, antics of burglars and thieves, 'domestics', a dreadful house fire, a dead horse that moved, a lost peacock, suicides and suspicious deaths, mortuary training, and even UFO's.

Along the way we meet a host of lovely people that made up an almost forgotten and fading part of old Sheffield; and a few visitors too, including the great Brazilian footballer Pele. At times hilarious, occasionally sad, but never dull, this book is highly recommended for anyone interested in our recent social history.

As mentioned in

Barnsley Chronicle

Martyn became a popular author after retiring from the police force and his first book, “What’s Tha Up To – memories of a Yorkshire Bobby”, has appeared on the Sunday Times Bestseller list and he is a regular giving talks at literary festivals around the country.

The Garstand Courier

Martyn Johnson and I are about the same age, (just the wrong side of sixty), and both joined the police in the mid-1960’s. He walked a beat and kept the peace in Sheffield;I walked a beat and kept the peace in the East End of London. Our careers took different paths and whilst he remained true to his roots I opted to climb the greasy pole, ending up as a Deputy Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard. Some might say that we had little in common, but that could not be further from the truth, because what comes across loud and clear in Martyn’s writing is his love of ‘real’ policing, of the sort that we both delivered in those early years. On that subject I am at one with him – things were better then!
Sadly, today’s generation of policemen (and women), for all sorts of reasons, do not see themselves as part of the communities they police. All too often, kitted up in stab-proof body armour, with a lethal array of weaponry on their belt, they operate as an army of occupation. The rest of us, indeed the general public as a whole, are regarded as enemies. It gives me no pleasure to observe that policing in the twenty-first century is largely delivered by granite-faced bullies, for whom the word ‘community’ is regarded as a dirty word. Life imitates art, and on the vanishingly rare occasions when we actually see police officers patrolling, they are invariably in pairs, studiously ignoring you and me, as if they were appearing in a TV police drama.
It could and should have been so different.
Read Martyn’s account of working class Sheffield forty years ago and you will see what we have all lost. I could match him story for story, anecdote for anecdote, because whether it was the characters who lived and worked in Attercliffe and Darnall, or the people on my patch in West Ham, the name of the game was the same. We delivered a service to people; usually with a smile, occasionally with a scowl, and very occasionally with a ‘clip around the ear’ and trip home to speak to young Jimmy’s mum or dad – who always knew what to do to underline the message. We arrested those who needed to be arrested, but more importantly we did not arrest those who didn’t need to be arrested. Long before the days of targets and ‘performance measures’ we just got the job done. It wasn’t perfect, it never had been, but what we had in those long gone days was an understanding of ‘service’ and that was the key to our success. Ask anyone today what they want from the police and the most common answer is that they would just like to see them on their streets, walking a beat, getting to know them. We used to be good at that, but not now. To today’s cops that sort of policing is for wimps.
Thus, to read Martyn Johnson, certainly for me, and I suspect for most people, is like a walk down memory lane. A sometimes sad, sometimes amusing, sometimes laugh-out-loud chronicle of characters and situations that he recalls so expertly, and I recognise so well

David Gilbertson QPM, BSc(Econ), MBIM Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Scotland Yard (retired 2001)

“…there has been so much demand for the former Attercliffe beat bobby’s heartwarming anecdotes there is already a reprint in progress… And the book has been given a ‘uniform’ five stars by reviewers on Amazon’s UK site

The Star, 30th Aug 2011

Once I picked it up I had difficulty putting it down; I can't say that about many books but it was certainly the case with this one. There are many parts that will make you laugh out loud and one or two that will being a tear to your eye.

Peter Spencer, The Searcher

Many of his stories made me laugh as did some that made me sad. His down to earth and open narrative makes this an easily readable book.

A highly readable and interesting book. Well recommended.

Police History Society- Chris Forester

The books is really a collection of short stories, some humorous, some tragic, some ironic and some amazing but all of which reflect the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the author as he dealt with them. The collection demonstrates the wide variety of incidents police officers encounter and the even more diverse nature of the people involved, but it particularly illustrates the humanity of the author himself as he lays his feelings and emotions open for public scrutiny. The fear when confronted by an armed man, the helplessness and grief when unable to save a family in a burning house, the elation on making a good arrest and the sadness and sympathy for a family without money to heat their home. All of this balanced by seeing the funny side of many of his encounters.

A good 'coffee table' book that you can dip into and read one chapter at a time without having to re-read to refresh yourself on the plot. Recommended for nostalgic police officers and those interested in the sociology of policing in the 60's and 70's.

Tony Murray- Former Chief Inspector- South Yorkshire Police- Barnsley Eye

About Martyn Johnson

Martyn Johnson was born at Darfield, the son of a coal miner. Leaving school at the age of fifteen, his first job was as a blacksmith. His work changed dramatically four years later when he joined the Sheffield City Police Force where he served as a 'beat bobby' until 1969. A two-year spell in CID followed but, missing grassroots policing, he returned to the beat for a further seven years. Passionate about local history, Martyn is a well-known metal detector and has appeared on many BBC Radio Sheffield programmes talking about his hobby.

A long-time resident of Wentworth village, he also assisted and advised Catherine Bailey when she was researching her best selling book, Black Diamonds.

Perfect Partner

What's Tha Up To Nah? More Memories of a Sheffield Bobby (Paperback)

Martyn continues his wonderful stories about policing during the 1960s and 1970s. As with his previous volume the book is written from the heart, not so much nostalgia as a genuine feeling for the people, animals, places and history of Sheffield. As before, humour and sadness combine so that every chapter really is a compelling read. Life as a traditional beat bobby is rapidly becoming a fading memory. At a time when front-line policing is under threat nationwide there can be no better time to reflect on the life and times of the old fashioned street policeman whether on foot, on a cycle, motorbike…

By Martyn Johnson

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