William Ernest Sole
By Bob Sheldon
This article was originally published in the April 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
William was born in Stepney in 1879. He was the grandson of Edward and Rose Hannah Sole of Woodnesborough, a small village in Kent near to Sandwich. His father Edward moved to London soon after marrying Sarah Marshall to work in Dockland (see Jennifer Ballís article in Vol. 2 Number 9 for November 1999). He became a Stevedore and Dock foreman so it was natural that his son William would follow his father into dockland.
William was the grandfather of Jennifer Ball and she recently recalled a few memories of him:
"I was twenty when my grandfather died and when I looked down from the window of the flat in London's East End which was almost opposite the blue lamp of the River Police Headquarters I was surprised to see so many men, caps in hand, standing waiting to see the cortege pass. I knew he had worked on the docks all his life but he had been retired from his job as a dock foreman for twelve years and I had no idea that the affection and respect that we felt for him extended beyond our walls.
Always a quiet man he had been deaf since childhood. As a young man he was a keen cyclist. As for his latter years a cousin of my mother's told me the following:
I used to look forward to Monday evenings as a child. We lived in Limehouse and my Uncle Will and Aunt Vic would come over and they and my mum and Aunt May would go for a drink in a pub called 'The Eight Bells' in Three Colt Street. Sometimes we would have a fish and chip supper when they came home and Aunt May would play the piano and my mum would sing all the old music hall songs. Aunt Vic would always ask for 'Just a song at twilight'. This was her favourite and we'd all sing together. Uncle Will was deaf but he'd always laugh at my mum's singing. When they went home he would give me a shilling, a lot of money then and he would always slip my mum some money as well. I was always listening to the gossip. We were a happy family and they were happy times."
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