Born in December 1920, at home in Little Turner Street in the East End of London, Mrs. Shaw talks in this interview about school, work, living through World War II, and what life was like in the years leading up to war. In this excerpt she remembers the Battle of Cable Street in October 1936, when an attempted march by Sir Oswald Moseley and his British Union of Fascists was stopped from going through the East End by the mass of hostile and determined opposition. Mrs. Shaw was then fifteen; her brother Harry, who went with her to Cable Street, was sixteen.

Her brother Harry was Harry Karnac, who opened a general bookstore in Gloucester Road in 1950, which gradually became the pre-eminent British bookstore for psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic literature and led to his establishing his eponymous publishing house, through which, as Brett Kahr wrote in his obituary essay, "Harry Karnac’s contribution as an educator of psychoanalytical students and as a disseminator of psychological culture remains unparalleled".

In 2005 and 2007 Harry Karnac recorded interviews with archivist Craig Fees, one of which was still on Harry Karnac's computer when he died in 2014. It was here that his nephew Simon Shaw found it, and found Harry's version of a story Harry's younger sister Gertie tells in this selection, in which their mother empties his bookshelves without Harry's knowledge on the outbreak of World War II. Why? The story about Cable Street offers an introduction.

 

 

Among other things which are on the full recording,  generously lodged in the Archive and Study Centre by Simon Shaw and excerpted here with his permission, are descriptions of shops and people on Little Turner Street, a 400 foot long neighbourhood which no longer exists; and accounts of Christian Street and Fairclough Schools (with reversible tables to make hammocks for children, a teacher's lost dentures,  and a reprisal which she didn't repeat). 

 

Accession Number 2015.007
Edited by Craig Fees