Sid Callaway - Millionaire Rainham Farmer
If you had walked along Rainham High Street during the 1970s and the 1980s you would at some point have passed an old unshaven man wearing a worn, creased and old fashioned grey woollen suit, a grubby shirt, a baggy cap and hobnail boots. He usually carried a sack full of oats over his shoulder to feed his horses on his land at Rainham Mark. He regularly caught the bus from outside the present day Lukehurst furniture store. Many people may have felt sorry for this old man as somebody down on his luck but in reality this was no poverty stricken individual. This was Sid Callaway, fruit farmer, millionaire and at one time the richest man in Rainham.
A humble and shy individual who lived in a big old house in Pudding Lane, Sid generally didn’t say much and got on with his life. He had been involved in fruit farming all his life and had worked hard for his father in his younger days on the family land in Rainham. His father tended to be hard on him, making him work long hours on the farm and even refused to give permission for him to marry his girlfriend Doris. Many years passed before the courting couple were able to get married.Although Sid led a very hard and spartan existence in his younger days, he lived for cricket and football and became a regular supporter of Gillingham Football Club but if they were playing away he would venture down to Rainham Recreation Ground to watch a game on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning for enjoyment.
During the cricket season Sid spent most of his free time at Berengrove Park as a player and patron of Rainham Cricket Club who he first joined in 1919 and he still holds the record for being the longest serving member of the club. Although he wasn’t a gifted cricketer he spent many years as Second XI captain and proved to be a capable catcher in the field as he possessed unusually large hands for a man of his size. He could also capably hold up one end in the lower order when batting but didn't score large amounts of runs or get many wickets. Ex- Rainham First XI captain Terry Glazier recalled that during the early 1960s when Sid had reached his mid-sixties and still turning out for the Second XI, a batsman hit a ball like a bullet to mid-off where Sid was fielding. Instinctively Sid thrust up one giant hand, the ball stuck and the batsman was dismissed. Sid was heard to remark to the passing victim, "Not bad for a 65 year old".
Sid became wealthy during the Second World War when food became scarce leading to high prices in the markets for his fruit. After this he became super rich after selling portions of his land for building, including the site for the construction of the Howard School during the 1960s. This sudden wealth had few effects on his life as he continued to work on his land, he didn’t drink, smoke or drive and he and didn’t have any children to maintain. He gave himself very few luxuries, he used the public bus service for transport and spent time at Maidstone market every Tuesday. He travelled there with his brother and wife where he sold small amounts of farm produce taken in his brother’s vehicle to earn some pin money and where he had the chance to chat with other local farmers.
Sid had become fixed in his ways and found it difficult to change. Late local historian Freddie Cooper once asked him why he didn’t go to Australia to watch the Ashes cricket series between Australia and England but he replied that he felt that he wouldn’t fit in. Instead, he remained in Rainham where he felt comfortable and continued to spend time at Berengrove Park where he made significant financial contributions to Rainham Cricket Club. From the 1950s to the end of the 1980s he paid off club debts, he bought sight screens and gave the club money to purchase a new clubhouse in 1976. He even tried to buy Berengrove Park from the owner Colonel Iremonger during the mid-1950s but the colonel refused and sold it to Rainham builder George Ward instead. After finishing his playing days with Rainham Sid became the club president, a position he held right up to his death and he continued to patronise the club.
Being a kind-hearted man Sid tried to help people he knew in need. After one of the Rainham cricketers had experienced a particularly difficult financial period baskets of fruit and eggs began appearing on his doorstep. Although the player concerned could not identify the person everybody knew that Sid Callaway was responsible.
During the 1950s when Rainham cricketer John Richardson lost his accommodation due to the death of his employer, an old retired colonel for whom he worked as a batman (a commissioned officer’s personal servant), Sid offered him accommodation at his house in Pudding Lane. He also employed him as an odd job man on his property and as full time groundsman at Rainham Cricket Club. John Richardson lived with Sid and his wife right up to the time of their deaths. After Doris Callaway died followed by Sid in the late 1980s, John Richardson, who had become almost like a son to them, inherited much of Sid’s wealth, including his house until he also died a few years later after which the house was demolished to make way for new housing now known as ‘The Old Orchard.’
Although old Sid sometimes gave the impression of being an unfortunate and needy individual, he used his money to help others, he played a massive part in the development of Rainham Cricket Club and became a well-known resident of Rainham where he spent the whole of his long life.