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.