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Knife work, if you can get it, says Terry the grinder

18 May, 2017 — By John Gulliver

Grind designs: Knife grinder Terry O’Shea, who is heading for the country

HIS call “Gri-i-i-nder, knife gri-i-i-nder” broke the peace on a Sunday morning in NW5.

I heard him shouting out his trade, and I couldn’t help but stop and hear his story.

Terry O’Shea has long been a face in these parts, walking through the streets, dragging his knife sharpener along on a little trolley and hoping to pick up a few jobs.

Terry is around 60, he says, and has been doing this for 45 years.

Originally from Galway, he told me he was stopping for a while in Gospel Oak before heading out of London for his annual summer tour.

“As soon as the weather turns, I go out into the country,” he said.

“I’m what they call an ’edge ’umper, because I kip under hedges,” he said.

“I put a sleeping bag, three shirts and two pairs of pants in a bag in a box on the trolley and go to the counties.”

The freedom pass for buses, he said, had made it much easier for him to get around, and he also liked to find a nice pub to stop at so he could do their knives in return for a room at the back to sleep in.

“I used to find old stables for a kip but there are not so many about these days,” he added.

“The English villages, they’re mostly posh now. But what do people really need? A three-piece suit and a three-piece suite – something to wear and something to sit on.”

His trade is a throw back to the old days of Alf the Rag and Bone man, who was a famous sight on the streets of our borough – a rapidly disappearing sight. With it, we have lost the concept of making-do, fixing-up and looking-after. Such ideals are surely worth treasuring.


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