Toe Rags in Rainham – as recollected to Maggie Francis
Horace Moore is a Rainham boy through and through. He was born in 1933 and lived at 205 Station Road, Rainham and he has shared memories and some of his many stories of his life and time growing up in Rainham.
The Oast House, next to the Station was the main Offices for Wakeley Brother’s many businesses and Horace remembers horses and carts going up Station Road taking wheat to the Oast, where the sacks of grain were hoisted up from the back of the carts into the building, but Horace was more aware that the wheat came in on the barges.
That was where he was happiest, down by the water with everything associated with the river.
When Horace was a lad, Rainham was just a small community with the majority of the population involved working in various ways on the river, in the brickfields or in the agricultural community.
Along with the rest of the local children, he went to Solomon Road School from the age of 5. No fancy introductions to school in those days. As he says; ’You just got left at the door on the first day and was left to get on with it’.
By the grand age of six and half, Horace was doing his first job.
George (Cully) Carter had young Horace, picking up winkles with him and running up and down Station Road for him selling them from door to door.
Young Horace would sell the catch from an old cart, calling on the locals to buy a basin of whatever it was that he and Cully had caught that day.
Horace loved the river and would go shrimping and winkling in the winter on the mud flats.
Spring found him trawling for pink shrimps and brown shrimps, fluing (catching flounders). People would buy them off the boats.
At the age of 13 Horace was taken on as an Apprentice to Jack Carter (Cully’s grandson) to become a Freeman of the River Medway.
Four years later Horace was called up for National Service. His love of the river made him want to go into The Naval Reserve, but he couldn’t get in because he was colour blind.
Instead he went in the Army and served in Suez. He earned 36 shillings a week in the Army and apart from 5 shillings which he kept for himself, he sent all the rest home to his dear old mum.
He found out later, that his mum had saved up all his for him.
Once he was out of the Army and home in Rainham, he did all kinds of jobs associated with the river.
He worked on various barges moving timber and cement and ballast. He was on one called the Kentish Hoy, a 120-ton motor barge, which had been built originally in 1904.
Horace belonged to the river and it was obviously ‘in his blood’, but he realised he needed to get himself established. He was good at catching the fish and had a natural talent for selling the fish door to door.
His opportunity to allow his love of sharing ‘the catch’ with the local population of Rainham came in 1984 when he established Hales and Moore fishmongers in Station Road to build a business with his family.
Horace loves to tell wonderful tales of old Rainham, one of which he has shared.
When talking about old friends he was relating tales of how to ensure they managed to get safely across the mud flats.
Apparently to stay safe the boots had to be a very tight fit so that the feet were secure and you could get a better, more solid grip on the mud!
So what better way than to get some old bits of rag and wrap them tightly round each toe to fill out the boots?
Who knew? That was where the term ‘toe rag’ originated.
(The best bit though is his description of walking into the kitchen in his little terraced house to find all these’ toe rags’, hanging up to dry over the fire on washday)
The Hales and Moore Fishmongers is still thriving and is one of local businesses who have carried on serving the local population during these recent months.
Until relatively recently Horace was still the delivery boy, driving the van with orders to local customers and restaurants, but still never happier than when he was on a boat on some water, somewhere.