From the archives: Peterborough’s pirate trader

Flamboyant city shopkeeper Frank Brierley.
Flamboyant city shopkeeper Frank Brierley.
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Peterborough has never had a more flamboyant entrepreneur than supermarket pioneer Frank Brierley.

Dubbed the Pirate King, he was credited with being the man who brought check-out tills to Britain and was renowned for never missing an opportunity.

On January 28, 1969 workers at Perkins Engines were locked in a bitter industrial dispute that had seen staff walk out 13 days earlier.

The front page splash of the ET revealed: “Today is a black day for Peterborough. Union members still working at the strikebound Perkins Engines Group are now being recommended to join the strike.’’

A black day it might have been but it was also an opportunity for Mr Brierley.

Inside that edition of the paper was a “Four-page advertisers’ announcement’’ with its own masthead which read Brierley’s News with a skull and crossbones.

Presented like a newspaper, its lead story proclaimed: “Tonight is Strikers’ Night at the Peterborough store. But Frank Brierley emphasised this morning that he is not taking sides in the dispute which resulted in more than 5,000 men stopping work.’’

The idea was that on production of a union card a man on strike, or his wife, were handed free of charge an extra food parcel to put with their shopping.

Mr Brierley commented: “I take no side in this dispute.I am solely concerned with the wives and children who are affected, even though they have no say on what goes on.’’

Brierley’s News contained some other gems including an editor’s comment, Frank Says, which railed against the high price of children’s clothes and contained the boast: “Whatever your income with Brierley’s no child need be shabby.’’

There was also a Spot The Ball photograph competition... but with a difference.

Readers could win £50 if they could “Spot the Shoplifter’’ in (I presume) a mocked up photograph!

Even Mrs Brierley got in on the act with a by-lined column entitled Woman’s Place in which she promised to pass on any “hints, recipes, or tips that come my way’’.

That day’s tip was to look out for “job lots’’ with Mrs Brierly revealing a recent one was “a lot of good curtains material and dresses from a sale in March.’’

There was another story on the front page of the ET the next day with a fellow trader denouncing Mr Brierley actions as a gimmick.

He hit back saying: “It’s obviously jealousy - why didn’t he think of it.’’