I will always have a particular regard for the Hillsborough Leisure Centre, the third and smallest of Sheffield’s World Student Games sports facilities, because members of its staff saved my life when I had a cardiac arrest in the gym. It’s because of Mel who pressed the panic button, Ryan who ran for the defibrillator and John who kick-started me to excellent effect that I’m here to write this.
Until the Centre was built in 1991, Beulah Road was lined with typical Sheffield artisan terraced houses, which before they were demolished figured as a location in the gloomy, award-winning Barry Hines/Mick Jackson TV film, Threads (1984). My mate Phil’s uncles lived here, and there are glorious family tales of their fanatical devotion to Sheffield Wednesday FC. One of the uncles apparently threw himself in the River Don once when his team lost. The river is at least a foot deep at this point.
Sheffield Wednesday is so-called because it was originally a butchers’ side, and they played on early-closing day which was, in the late-nineteenth century, Wednesday. Though the ground is officially called Hillsborough, it more or less stands in Owlerton, which is why the team are called the Owls, and devoted fans go to considerable lengths to acquire car-registrations ending in OWL.
(Sheffield United’s colours are red and white, apparently because of the red headscarves of the formidable buffer girls who polished the blades of Sheffield-made cutlery, which is probably why their team is known as the Blades.)
But the Beulah Road landmark that means most in Sheffield’s history and popular culture is the factory of George Bassett & Co, whose salesman accidentally tipped his display box of liquorice sweets all over a customer’s shop counter, and before he could replace them neatly in their compartments was offered an order for them as they were – “all sorts”.