Maurice Raff: well known market stall holder

Maurice Ruff: 1972
Photo courtesy of The Evening Argus

An extraordinary man

I am Maurice Raff’s only surviving child. My Father was an extraordinary man, highly intelligent, wonderful sense of humour, and overcame his blindness in the most remarkable way. I have very vivid memories of those years I spent, as a child, acting as his guide. I would accompany him around Patcham, selling door to door, from a suitcase. He sold combs, elastic, hand knitted cotton dishcloths which were knitted by a totally blind family friend; in fact anything that would help out the meagre civilian blind pension. In the war I was evacuated with him, to Yorkshire, where we had a stall in the local town square market, consisting of a wheelbarrow with a tarpaulin over the top.

The Open Market

When he had his stall in Brighton market days, I helped him there very often. I left Margaret Hardy school the day I was 14 so that I would be able to be with him there more often. He was fantastic, the way he could tell the denomination of a note by holding it between his fingers. He would also rub his finger around the edge of a coin to find out what it was, and it would upset him dreadfully, when someone stole from him. I remember there was a fish stall next to my Father’s stall. I think the man’s name was Frank Smith, and he would ask me to look after his stall while he went to the toilet or get a cup of tea. I absolutely loved it, weighing up the fish and wrapping it up.

The café and the smelly toilets

I remember the farrier well, the smelly toilets, and the café I would take my father to. He also had a stall in Upper Gardner Street market on Saturdays. Rose, my Mother, was so hard working too, and between them, they managed to eke out enough to bring we three children up without ever going hungry. I left the UK in 1953 to live in New Zealand. I returned home when I could to visit them, and I still, when I am in the UK, go to the market for old time’s sake, but unfortunately it is now all so changed.

Comments about this page

  • Dear Barbara, What a moving account of your father. I do have memories of him but mostly from lunching at the cafe in Baker Street where Lucy would serve up his meal and whisper, ‘Pie 12 o’clock, potatoes at 3 and vegetables at 9’. Or something similar to that. Is that the cafe you mean? It was a lovely place to eat with Lucy’s husband serving through the hatch and one of their parents cooking further back. I believe they were an Italian family. Steak and kidney pie was my favourite, with mash and carrots. Mmmmm! I can still remember the taste to this day.
    Do you recall the name of the cafe, Barbara? It has escaped my memory completely.

    By Sandra Bohtlingk (nee Baldwin) (10/01/2014)
  • My stepfather, Joe Fielder or Arbiter according to who he was that day!, had a bric a brac stall at the other end of the market – No. 92. Later on he also got the stall next door (94) which was the last stall. l had to go every Saturday to get the stalls from Diplocks yard just round the corner, help set them up and then stay there till we packed up. We usually made good money for a morning’s work if you had the right gear to sell. And, yes, we were friendly with Harry Cowley – he was a very interesting character.

    By Dennis Fielder (11/01/2014)
  • There was a café in the open market very near to Maury Raff’s stall in the original market when I was a kid in the 40s and 50s. There was also a café in Francis Street run by a woman called Win (spelling?) and her husband, where I got my dad’s tea in a pint mug.

    By Mick Peirson (12/01/2014)
  • My name is Kevin Iles and I am a grandson of Maurice Raff. My mother is his daughter – Barbara. I was born in New Zealand and at the age of 9 our family travelled by sea back to England where we spent 12 months. It was a chance for my sister Lesley and I to meet our extended family, as well as for Mum and Dad to reunite with their families. My first meeting with Grandad Raff was in the sitting room of their home in Patcham, he was sitting in his favourite chair, it was 1966 and if I recall he was listening to the radio, which was never far from his side. It was my first experience meeting a blind person , so I was unsure of how to act, as it was so foreign to me. He spoke to me and asked me to come forward and then said he wanted to see me. He ran his soft hands over my face, ears, eyes etc and said I looked like Basil, my father! What a remarkable man he was. We would often go to their house for meals and Nana Raff would shower me with huge wet kisses and hugs when we arrived, which I dreaded, and she would fuss around in the kitchen preparing wonderful meals, while telling everyone what to do or how to do it. She was a wonderful lady and they made such a lovely couple. I was given the opportunity to go to the market with Grandad on a few occasions, sometimes we got dropped off at the gate, but the best was when we caught the bus. I would guide him to the stall, I felt really proud that I could help him. Everyone knew him and would say hello. He would introduce me to people; I could tell he enjoyed that. For a boy, his stall was one huge playroom, full of Tonka cars and toys.  He knew where everything was and would move around running his hands over the rows that were neat and tidy, he new exactly where certain things were located. I used to marvel at how he felt the coins or notes, and gave out change. He gave me a minature of the James Bond Aston Martin, the one with pop-out machine guns , ejector seat and bullet shield for helping him out. I wish I still had it. The highlight of my days with him was lunchtime. He would have me guide him to the cafe that was just outside the market – I think it was Francis Street – it was more like an old house in a terrace of houses. We would often sit upstairs and iI would have baked beans on toast with an egg and chips with a bottle of Fanta. He would ask me about what I was doing and share some of his stories with me. He was very engaging and genuinely interested in what I was doing and had to say. After lunch I would guide him back to the stall, although he didn’t really need the help as his internal radar was perfect.He was a wonderful man supported by an equally wonderful wife.

    By Kevin Iles (30/01/2014)
  • Hi Barbara,
    I knew your Brother Jack Raff quite well and remember your late father’s stall in the old Open Market. I had a neighbour when we lived in Mayfield Crescent, Patcham, who worked on his Dad’s Fish stall – David Marmory (could be Marmorie). I used to pass your house in (I think) Winfield Avenue, Parcham as I used to walk to the Old London Road School down the “Twitten” at the side of your garden next to the playing field.
    I would love to hear from you, especially about Jack.

    By John Snelling (10/10/2019)

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