‘Big John’: Another great Norwich character

PUBLISHED: 13:32 17 January 2017 | UPDATED: 13:32 17 January 2017

"PABOR!": Big John Heard - also nicknamed 'Feet' - on duty with his satchel of Eastern Evening Newses in Norwich city centre.


When I was a boy he always appeared to me as a threatening figure, sitting on his small stool and shouting “pabor”, but I realise now the impression I had then was wrong.

I used to see a man I now know was nicknamed ‘Big John’ with his large black boots, dark clothes, bowler hat, small round frame glasses and ever constant cigarette in his mouth when out shopping with my mother as a boy.

This impression I had then was wrong, as all his friends, both by writing in and in Derek James’ excellent article on him recently, have all described him as a friendly, gentle giant, who would not harm anyone.

I wish I had known that years ago when I always made sure my mother was between me and ‘Big John’ when we walked past him.

Another character I remember from the same shopping trips with my mother was a man I always called “the dinner plate juggler”.

My mother, like all the women then, always went shopping on the market and this other character had a stall at the back of the market on the war memorial side that sold various household goods, including a vast range of crockery.

This man could talk the hind legs off a donkey and somehow always managed to gather a crowd to listen to his sales talk.

The highlight was when he picked up several large white dinner plates and proceeded to throw them in the air, catch them and then do more amazing tricks with them.

The crowd were always expecting the plates to be broken at any minute with the noise they all made when clattering and banging together.

However, I never saw him drop or break one.

Does anyone else remember this character from the back of the market?

David M Coe, Rosebery Road, Norwich.

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