Born in the wonderfully named Chocolate Hole, a small town in Jamaica, his father,a maker of trousers, left for England whilst George was still a small baby. His mother left the following year, leaving George to be brought up by his extended family.
His parents sent for him when he was 4 years old. When he got to London, the family lived at Lyndhurst Grove in Peckham. His father was in the building trade and had already got his foot on the property ladder. He had bought a dilapidated 3-storey house with a 100 feet long garden. He did all the renovations himself.
The family occupied the middle floor and let out the floors above and below them to tenants.
In London, George had three sisters born, all of whom he remained incredibly close to throughout his life. His parents were determined they would all get a “good education”, – something they had missed out on.
George went to Peckham Manor Secondary School, where his best friend was Trix Worrell (who later went on to write ‘Desmond’s’). They were both was present when reggae singers Bob Marley and Johnny Nash came and did a concert at lunchtime in the school hall. This event was televised.
George then played football with Bob Marley in the playground. In the 2020 documentary ‘When Bob Marley Came to Britain’, George can be seen with the musician. He admitted that all the kids knew Johnny Nash but nobody had any idea who Marley was. “He was a nice, friendly guy though.” On the film Bob Marley says “Me – know -a” to George, Jamaican patois for “I understand you.”
As a small boy he was besotted with a Jamaican girl called Colline, who lived on the next street to him. He rode his bike past her house every day for years – and she never spoke to him. He didn’t know she was extremely shy. When they became teenagers, she finally spoke to him – and they started going out together.
When he left school, George got a job as a shelf stacker at Tesco, before getting a job with ‘Dombey and Sons’ a chain of men’s outfitters owned by brothers Jerry and Sam Roseman. They owned 38 shops in London. He made a really good impression with his hard-working attitude.
After just one week he was given a brush and told to work on the suits. He later learned trainees were not normally allowed near the fabric for 6 months.
One day, Jerry Roseman came up to him and said, “Young man, I’ve had good reports on you – would you like to learn more at London College of Fashion?” Thus began George’s 18-month apprenticeship as a tailor.
Once qualified he was sent to work at their Fleet Street branch, before being sent firstly to Brixton and then to his home area of Peckham (and he filled in at any branch that needed him).
At the Peckham shop his boss was cockney Italian Jimmy Nash. One of their customers was boxer Henry Cooper. George got on really well with Jimmy. When the Roseman’s retired, Jimmy bought the Peckham shop – and asked George to be manager.
He finally married Colline and they had one daughter, Deniece.
Men’s outfitters began to go out of fashion, but Jimmy was very positive. He decided to sell up and move into the West End of London. He asked George to go with him, but George had experience of this part of the city, with his spell in Fleet Street. West Enders were not his kind of people. He declined the offer.
George was extremely skilled and he decided he was going to set up his own shop. A shop on the Walworth Road came up. The elderly tailor who owned it had decided to retire. George could just about afford to buy it. The premises had been a tailor’s shop for 80 years with three previous owners.
His shop was named ‘Threadneedle Man’. Initially it was a real struggle to stay in business. There was an economic recession. He had to survive by doing repairs – “shortening trousers, adjusting jackets”. He had built up a stock of suppliers working for Jimmy Nash, and they were happy giving materials, knowing his reputation for honesty, safe in the knowledge he would pay them back as soon as he could – and he always did.
Very gradually he began to establish a reputation as a superb, stylish tailor. This started when he designed ‘mod’ suits (which of course were cheaper than Saville Row). His business finally took off after three very hard years.
Many celebrities started to use him for their clothes including musicians Suggs, Paul Weller and Kelly Jones, actors Martin Freeman and Ray Winstone and boxer David Haye. Asked who his favourite celebrity was, he would say, “all my clients are celebrities.” Bob Hoskins called him the best tailor in London and would use nobody else.
The shop was tiny – “not enough room to swing a cat”, – but he managed to find room for a photo of each of his famous clients.
George was undoubtedly, a workaholic and said he would continue making suits as long as he lived. He admitted his suits were not cheap but pointed out you would still pay thousands less than Savile Row. “I want to make the best suit and the plainer the suit, the better it is.” He said he aimed for the razor-sharp look.
He was a charming man who loved to chat. Going to his shop was a real experience. He had the local nickname ‘Freddie Needles’. When asked why, he explained in the South London accent the word ‘thread’ sounded like ‘Fred’.
In 2012, artist Ed Gray created a large painting of George at work in his tailor’s shop, entitled ‘Rock of Eye’. His best friend, the writer Mark Baxter was also depicted, alongside George.
George became a local hero and was proud when he became a ‘Listed Londoner’ on Robert Elms’ BBC Radio London show. He was interviewed many times in local and national papers and magazines. He said, “I’m happy to make a suit for anybody, male or female.”
He was also given a Blue Plaque for his shop when it was 100 years old – the plaque only mentioned the 20 years George had owned it.
He did all his trade online during the pandemic and was determined to keep his business going. But he did despair when a ‘Sports Direct’ shop opened next to his recently, although he conceded they had as much right to trade there as he did.
His daughter Deniece became a speech and language therapist. George became a proud and doting grandfather to Isla.
George died of a heart attack – doing the job he loved. Deniece said, “He would do anything for anybody.”
But there was nobody in the family to take on the business, so it has been put up for sale.
RIP – Revered In Peckham