How a man called Albert saved my family in more ways than one / Dave Thomas column

A name that has always stuck in my mind is that of Burnley footballer Albert Cheesebrough.

It’s not a name to forget easily and it made a great impression on me as a nine-year-old. What an amazing name I used to think and it was a name to remember easily. Funny name though, I thought, and I’m glad I’m not called Albert. I recently wondered what the origin of the name Cheesebrough is so I looked it up and it hales from Cheshire, meaning, ‘dweller of a town in Cheshire.’

The origin of names is fascinating. The name Nutter originates from Blackburn – funny that. Mind you, one of my favourite people of all time was called Albert. He was a very short, round, bald little man in his 60s, never without a smile, and changed our standard of living dramatically when I was about seven.

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He lived in a tiny house just up the road from us. I have no memory of how it actually came to happen but he kind of adopted us. He came in every day for a couple of years for a small wage, cooked, cleaned and worked all day to look after us. My mother, who worked all day teaching had, in fact, no interest in cooking or housework and came to rely on him entirely. For her, life was now perfect. In fact, now I come to think, and recalling my mother’s cooking, it was perfect for all of us.

So, Albert was, in truth, great news. The food improved dramatically and at last there was no cigarette ash in the mashed potatoes or rice pudding, except at weekend when, to her horror, she had to resume duties.

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Albert was a treasure and no matter what, always wore a three-piece suit whether he was cooking or cleaning, and the waistcoat was completed with a watch on a chain that hung down from his portly middle. It was in fact Albert who saved a holiday one year. The holiday money had been put in an envelope and then hidden for safekeeping. Alas both parents forgot where they had put it.

I can remember to this day it was £30 and that was a lot of money in 1953. It was Albert who found it under the breadbin in the pantry, clearly the safest place in the house.

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When he eventually fell ill and passed away there was much sadness and regret on our part. It was back to mother’s cooking, braised steak her speciality. I have never been able to eat it since.

Then there was another footballer, Jock Winton, another name that stuck in my head. I’d like to be called Jock, I thought. First name Jock, second name Winton, perfectly matched. With a name like that I could picture him before I ever saw him. I imagined someone tough-looking, craggy with cropped hair, a square jaw and firm physique, not too tall and not too short.

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It’s not often that what you imagine matches real life, but it turned out that my imagination was spot on.