Estimated reading time:4 minutes, 6 seconds
Everyone has a story. Here longtime Islington resident, Joe Hagland talks about pubs, railways, film stars and family life on Caledonian Road back in the 1950s. Interview by Nicola Baird
Joe Hagland has been a regular at Age UK Islington events for years initially as a volunteer. The Hagland family has a long history with Islington as Joe, now 81, explains.
“I had a big family – all railway people. My grandfather, who was one of the driers of the Flying Scotsman, had 23 children – and the same wife. He lived in Nailour Street, N7 opposite Pentonville Prison.” Nailour Street is gone now but the name lives on with Nailour Hall Community Centre at 52 Blundell Street, N7.
We’d meet up and drink at the pubs on Caldedonian Road. A piano was your entertainment! I don’t play but I used to sing. We went to the Prince Arthur, opposite the prison at 379 Caledonian Road (now known as Doyles Tavern); the Offord Arms at 388 Caledonian Road (now a glazier) and The Volunteer at 73 Frederica Street (now demolished). Near The Volunteer there was a railway wall where they filmed The Ladykillers (1955) which starred Alec Guinness. We’d meet the film crew and Herbert Lom (the actor who played Louis Harvey) in the pub every day for lunch. I used to be quite a drinker but I gave it up 18 years ago. I still go into pubs, but I get a cup of tea or a soft drink.”
On 6 July 1961 the final person was hanged at Pentonville Prison – so for many years it wasn’t unusual for Cally locals to see death announcements outside the prison. “Everybody would go to the gate to see the notice. You’d see he’d been hung that morning at 9 o’clock and you’d think ‘he won’t do that again’,” remembers Joe.
Despite the family connection to King’s Cross and the railways, Joe joined the army and served in the London Rifle Brigade.
Now he lives in sheltered accommodation, but that doesn’t prevent him from travelling around Islington and beyond. “I live with old people and some do moan,” he says so, “I like to travel on trains and buses – everything but up there [points to the sky] on planes, because that’s too near the boss! If you can walk then get out…”
Because Joe’s so good at keeping up with the news, in summer 2015 he travelled 135 miles by train to help the Compton Hospice in Wolverhampton after he heard on TV’s Crimewatch that it had been robbed. “I felt sad that the people there have got the big C and had their ambulances smashed up, so I got a donation and took it to them.” He was very well received. “They introduced me as London Joe, gave me a cup of tea and sandwiches and clapped me. Then they put the story on Facebook. It got more than 1,500 messages. Within 24 hours newspapers were sharing the story online and more than 1 million people saw what I’d done. Even people from Australia were saying ‘Good on you’. I’d sooner give than receive, but I was very impressed when the hospice sent me a book with all the messages. Thanks is good enough, but those comments mean more than anything.”
Thanks to Joe’s grandfather there are still plenty of Hagland relatives in Islington. Listening to Joe talk about his life, it’s fascinating to think how important Islington pubs were in offering space for big families to meet up. With the rise of the gastro pub it is still possible to have big gatherings, but it’s no longer a cheap and cheerful way to enjoy a family get together.
- A version of this interview was originally published in Get Together magazine, for Islington Age UK, see here.
- Islington Age UK organises loads of get togethers, every day of the week, including drop in activities at Drovers Centre on North Road, N7 just by the bus stop (393).