My Life as a Copper in Attercliffe — Martyn Johnson – 8th February 2016

(Martyns’ 1st visit – Metal Detecting — dated 3/10/2011 )

Martyn, a last minute replace­ment for the sched­uled speaker, is a unique, genu­ine and col­our­ful char­ac­ter with tre­mend­ous people skills, a warm heart, and an abil­ity to tell a story. He remin­isced with us about his early life, and 17 years as a ‘Bobby’ in Attercliffe, start­ing at the age of 19, in 1962.

The son of a Houghton Main miner, brought up in Darfield, Barnsley, who says he was only trouble and too dim to learn any­thing, and whose father insisted he didn’t go down the mines, even­tu­ally left school and became a Blacksmiths’ Assistant. Although enjoy­ing this, the leader of his local youth club saw poten­tial in Martyn, the end result of which, was that he joined the Sheffield Police Force in Attercliffe, mainly because of his phys­ical strength, and fit­ness and the abil­ity to use it, in what was a tough area.

The first incid­ent he atten­ded, turned out to be a weekly ritual between father and son, who attacked one another, when drunk, with such ser­i­ous intent that the Ambulance crews and hos­pit­als wouldn’t accept them, when injured, due to their viol­ent natures. It was left to the Bobbies to ‘sort them out’ each week.

The first pris­on­ers that Martyn took were 2 men steal­ing scrap iron from build­ing sites. Whilst one was strip­ping lead piping, the other was on lookout. Martyn sur­prised the lookout and held him quickly, with his truncheon, by the short and cur­lies. The man tried to squeak ‘COPPER’ as a warn­ing, but the second man, unaware of the situ­ation, mis­un­der­stood him and said ‘No, it’s lead’. He soon real­ised what was hap­pen­ing when he was arres­ted.

There was the case of the sus­pec­ted sui­cide, where a man had not been seen for 2 days and could not be roused in his house. After Martyn had severely dam­aged the house whilst break­ing in, seen evid­ence of poten­tial sui­cide, he even­tu­ally found a man lying in bed, only to be shocked when he sprung into life, put his hear­ing aids and false teeth in and then gave him a piece of his mind.

When he was called to incid­ents he had no idea what to expect. Amusing ones, sad ones, or embar­rass­ing ones. The equip­ment was prim­it­ive, com­pared to today’s, and the Bobbies were down to earth, had common sense and built rela­tion­ships and respect with the people in the area. They were vis­ible, approach­able and respec­ted their col­leagues. Although pro­moted for a short while, Martyn soon returned to the ‘beat’ that he was best suited to, and where he con­trib­uted the most.

We were treated to sev­eral more tales, which kept us amused, and enter­tained for a most enjoy­able hour. These very human stor­ies and many more are told in his very read­able books ‘What’s tha up to?’ and ‘What’s tha up to nah?’, one of which fea­tured in the top ten best sellers in the Sunday Times.