A Grandad's Life

Jimmy Humble set out to record key events in his life for his grandchildren but with help and encouragement kept going until he had produced this impressive autobiography. He rose from ‘Humble’ origins in Oldham, Lancashire to ‘a grand suite of offices at the top of Millbank Tower’. En route, he enjoyed a successful career as a professional rugby player and spent half a century at the forefront of consumer protection regulation, both here in the UK and in Nigeria. Were his achievements mere ‘luck’, as he himself suggests, or was there something more? If the answer is anywhere, it is in the pages of this book.

telling the children

A child's view of the life of a grandfather is — as we can see from the cover illustration — one of a person essentially located in the home, ensconced in an armchair surrounded by familiar homely objects, wearing specs and slippers and wielding a newspaper and a television controller. Jimmy knew of course that this was only part of his life and set out to tell his grandchildren about the rest.

He began simply, addressing his grandchildren as if they were sitting next to him, telling them about his family in Oldham fifty or a hundred or more years ago — describing a way of life which has now been lost — but soon found himself wrestling with material that would be beyond his grandchildren's comprehension.

Reminded that they wouldn't always be children, he pushed on and got to grips not only with his ‘Humble’ origins but also with his school days, his sporting career in Rugby Union and Rugby League, his national service and his ‘day job’ in weights and measures, consumer protection and the Office of Fair Trading.

And now that Jimmy has written the book, Cockasnook thinks it is something that will appeal to a wider readership than just his grandchildren.

lost way of life

“In what way has the way of life changed? When my mother was a child, a horse and trap would deliver milk to the door in a churn and people would go out with a jug for however much they wanted. Everyone worked locally, often in the cotton mills, and shopped locally. People lived out their lives in the same area where their parents and grandparents had lived, with people of different generations mixed together. When I was a child, we played out all the time, in the street or on bomb-sites. There was little or no traffic. We made our own toys and played traditional street games…”

still there

“But some things haven't changed. The three houses in which I lived as a child — Wellington Road, Werneth, Oriel Avenue, Coppice and the shop on Gainsborough Avenue, plus my grandmother's house on Hanson Street, Clarksfield where I spent a lot of time — are still there, as well as the house at Link Lane, Garden Suburb, where I lived after I was married. I make a sort of pilgrimage whenever I go to Oldham: I drive from one end of Oldham to the other and pass them all…”

‘Oldham Humbled’

“What have I done in my life that I am most proud of? I might say… survived. But I don't think I feel proud, except for individual events. Some things in my life have given me a real kick…”

“The first came in rugby when Leigh beat Oldham. I hadn't had the slightest thought or ambition of ever becoming a professional but found myself vulnerable to a stout man in a cloth cap who whispered, 'Would you like a game with the other code?' And there I was playing for Leigh against my home town team, full of professional stars, guys I had admired for years… I had a good game and scored the winning try. When I got back to Oldham I found the headline ‘OLDHAM HUMBLED’ across the front page of the ‘Green Final’ of the Oldham Evening Chronicle…”

proud father

“But the proudest moment of my life was when Josephine arrived in Nigeria five months old. I took her into the Kano supermarket on my hip proud enough to burst… She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.”

treated as an equal

“The third high moment was when I was recruited to the Office of Fair Trading. I came from local government where I was a chief inspector straight into the civil service at assistant director level. I suddenly realised I was being treated as an equal by senior officials with very bright minds. It was a big watershed to be treated in this way… Of course, Nigeria had changed everything, working in a different environment and taking responsibility at a very young age…”

the cutting edge

“Have I made a lasting contribution to consumer protection? I don't know… It's mostly teamwork… Changes happen when you hit the right note at the right time. But I suppose I have been at the forefront — the ‘cutting edge’ — of changes in consumer protection for the last fifty years… Often the way to soften up the opposition was a voluntary deal, because when that failed, the case for legislation was clear…”

moving with the current

“But I've been very fortunate in that for most of my public life I have been moving with the current of popular opinion. People like being protected from cheats… dishonest coalmen, dodgy second-hand car dealers, cowboy builders, market traders who use false weights or put elastic bands under their scales… The Metrication Board was different. I became vilified by a very vocal minority…”

mad cows to timeshare

“The interesting thing about my work is that it spanned a lot of areas: from mad cows and food labelling to banking fraud; from overloaded lorries to short weight; from timeshare and catastrophic holidays to counterfeit videos; from phony advertising to dangerous toys. This was helpful when I went to Europe because each country organises things differently. I was able to cross-fertilise from one area to another…”

What people have said about A Grandad's Life :

I'm enjoying the book. A 'gradely read' as they say. Bringing back memories of growing up with the austerity of the immediate post-war years; and we can all remember our family Co-op 'divi' number…”

- Bob, Mid Wales

Fascinating and a great read. Brought back many memories… family life in a northern town… rugby league… weights and measures… names from the past… your life devoted to consumer affairs…”

- David, Oxfordshire

The book is quite fascinating. I started to read it on Monday night and had to force myself to put it down.”

- Dorothy, Oldham

An enlightening and compulsive read. Well done.

- Mike, Cubert, Cornwall

Just read your musings. It came today and I couldn't put it down. Thought it fascinating and the cover brilliant. I'll certainly recommend it at every opportunity. Your grandchildren will treasure it, I'm sure.

- Lynne, Gower, South Wales

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Book Details

A Grandad's Life

James K Humble OBE


Age Range
All ages


(Uk Delivery : £1.49)