Today, I should have been writing but it was spent instead stuffing my face on steak pie, chips, cabbage and gravy whilst helping the magnificent Minksy celebrate her 91st birthday at the legendary E Pellici cafe in Bethnal Green. Minksy bashed out a nice rendition of Danny Boy with her pal Kevin from Dexys Midnight Runners.
Henrietta from Bethnal Green, or Minksy to her friends, is pictured here on her wedding day in 1947. Like her lookalike and East End neighbour, Barbara Windsor, vivacious songbird Minsky also dreamt of stardom. During the Blitz she and her sisters (in the photo below) would entertain the shelterers sleeping in the Underground by singing harmonies, to drown out the bombs. After the war, she caught the eye of handsome coal-delivery man, Joe. ‘Hello curly,’ he’d shout down from his horse-drawn cart during deliveries. ‘Every day he’d throw down an orange for me and some free coal for my mum to keep her sweet,’ chuckles Minksy. ‘He was so strong he could carry a two hundredweight sack of coal on his back up the stairs of the buildings with ease.’ Minksy still longed for the bright lights of the stage, but poverty thwarted her dreams. ‘I’d started work at fourteen in a factory because we was dirt poor and my mother relied on my wage to help put food on the table, but I never stopped singing.’ Joe was a ‘good provider’, and they had fifty happy years of marriage and three beautiful daughters before he passed away.
‘I’ve only got another nine years to wait until I get my letter form the Queen’ she winked as she tottered off into the night with her daughter Lesley and he microphone. Happy Birthday Minksy!
Minksy is one of the East End women who feature in my new book, The Stepney Doorstep Society.