Reflections on a career that was a wonderful load of junk

Patnick's Junkerama'A delighted Edward Patnick the day the shop was cleared'December 1983
Patnick's Junkerama'A delighted Edward Patnick the day the shop was cleared'December 1983

Edward Patnick prefers talking to writing.

He has given talks and raised £23,500 for the baby charity Tommy’s since his daughter, Lisa, gave birth to a stillborn child in 2002.

Many of his audiences are told about his experiences of more than 50 years as a junk dealer in Sheffield.

You should write a book, he was told, and now he has.

‘Confessions of a Junk Dealer’ tells the story of Edward’s Jewish ancestors, who fled Russian persecution to arrive in Sheffield in the 1880s, and how the family established an empire of junk shops across the city.

People of a certain age may recall the shop on Langsett Road and especially Patnick’s ‘Junkerama’ on Page Hall Road, which trumpeted: “We buy and sell almost everything.”

Parents would admonish their children with “Your room looks like Patnick’s shop”.

The family rose to prominence, wealth and political influence on the back of buying and selling in shops and markets - often stuff found in house clearances.

Edward’s late brother, Irvine, became a Conservative councillor and MP in Sheffield, becoming Sir Irvine. For many years, Edward was in his shadow.

When he met Chancellor George Osborne at a Downing Street reception for the charity Tommy, the politician said: “You must be Irvine’s brother.”

But Edward has plenty of his own stories to tell, from his birth 77 years ago as the fourth son of Bessie and Aaron Patnick. His great grandfather, Nathan, got a job as a Hebrew teacher at the first purpose built synagogue in Sheffield.

There is a treasure trove of memories and anecdotes in the book.

One customer said she would pay £180 for a three-piece suite in fivers, which turned out to be 5p pieces. There was the time he was asked to clear a council bungalow on Lower Manor, only to find a very old lady in bed. He had been given the wrong number.

A similar mix-up at Nether Edge resulted in him clearing a flat when the resident was actually very much alive, albeit in hospital.

There were some remarkable discoveries among the junk, and rolls of banknotes found hidden in the strangest places.

Inevitably, some deals were winners, some losers, but a dynasty was built on the things other people didn’t want.

Edward’s only research for the book was to talk to the family. “It was hard work writing,” he says. “It’s easier to talk than to write.”

These days his name is known beyond his chosen trade. He has been president of the Sheffield Jewish Congregation since 2011 and his talks extend to freemasonry.

But junk was in his blood, he says, having retired seven years ago and now living in Greenhill with wife Anne.

“I enjoyed every minute of it. When I was told I had to retire through ill health I have never been back to a market or a sale of anything to do with the business.

*‘Confessions of a Junk Dealer’, by Edward K Patnick, is available from Amazon and bookshops priced at £9.99.