What’s Tha Up To? Moving memoirs of a Yorkshire beat bobby

Write on: Former Attercliff policeman Marytn Johnson with his book.
Write on: Former Attercliff policeman Marytn Johnson with his book.

Martyn Johnson never intended for his stories to become a book. He was just writing things down for his grandchildren.

But there has been so much demand for the former Attercliffe beat bobby’s heartwarming anecdotes there is already a reprint in progress, despite What’s Tha Up To: Memories of a Yorkshire Bobby not hitting the shelves until September 15.

Adelphi Cinema, Attercliffe'October 1967.

Adelphi Cinema, Attercliffe'October 1967.

The book is full of tales of criminal antics, impromptu fights and ‘domestics’. Readers will also find out about the time that PC Johnson unwittingly helped a local thief steal coal, about a dead horse that moved, a lost peacock and even UFOs.

In the 1960s and 1970s Sheffield, Martyn, who grew up in Darfield, near Barnsley, and still lives in nearby Wentworth, worked as a beat bobby in the Attercliffe area, which he admits was ‘a real shock to the system, after coming from such a small village’.

He left school at 15 to start his working life as a blacksmith, but joined the Sheffield City Police force at 19, and became a well-known ‘beat bobby’. He joined the CID after seven years - but missed grassroots policing so much that he returned to the streets only two years later.

Martyn said: “The reason I wrote the book is that I was ill, and my son said to write some of my stories down before it is too late.

“All coppers have got stories to tell, and I love to be funny, so the book is humorous, as well as a bit weepy and sad in places.

“There is nothing grand about it – it is just the ordinary stuff that every bobby sees, but that no-one seems to write about.”

Martyn’s stories about life on the beat were originally published in April 2010, after local author and historian Brian Elliott got hold of some of them and contacted Barnsley-based book publishers Pen and Sword.

And the book has been given a ‘uniform’ five stars by reviewers on Amazon’s UK site.

“The interesting bit of the story is that I got a call from a lady in London who had just happened to pick up the book. She was absolutely thrilled with it, and her publishing company bought the rights,” Martyn said.

The latest edition of the book, released by Little Brown imprint Sphere, will be available right across the region in supermarkets and book shops.

Martyn will be taking part in the Off the Shelf literary festival in Sheffield in October, and will be doing several talks and signings to promote the book. And a follow-up, What’s Tha Up To Nah?, will be released later this year.

Martyn, the son of a coalminer, was also involved as a researcher for Catherine Bailey’s best-selling book Black Diamonds, about the reality of life as a miner in Wentworth between the world wars.

One of his main hobbies is as a ‘metal detectorist’, and he has appeared on BBC Radio Sheffield to talk about it.

n Visit www.martynjohnson.co.uk for more information about Martyn and his memoirs.