Personal reflections on ‘Arthur and May’

Arthur and May Hollins are both remembered fondly in interviews with friends and colleagues from bygone days. Many pay tribute to their ingenuity, hard work and eccentricity, to name but a few of their qualities. Here are some reminiscences with brief introductions.

May’s niece Mary Cowen was particularly struck by Arthur and May’s powers of persuasion:

“Arthur was such a charismatic, persuasive character. My father once said of him, Arthur can get anybody to volunteer for anything and work really, really hard for nothing and then turn around and thank Arthur profusely for allowing them to do it.”

“He did not waste a minute and he didn’t expect anyone else to, and you didn’t. You know, he was such an example, but you just did whatever he wanted you to do. That was his way; he could persuade anybody to do anything.”

“She was energetic and friendly. She was a lovely,lovely person and everybody loved May. She would speak well, she would address Women’s Institutes and things like that, she would demonstrate and drive the van. She was an absolute joy. I adored her.”

Terry Healey was impressed by May’s almost evangelical zeal for converting people to the benefits of Fordhall’s organic products:

“If you were to spend a couple of hours in May’s company,… you would learn loads. You’d just listen to her, she was just amazing. She was an amazing salesperson … she would convince people, because she believed so much in it… She was friendly… she was over the top, very much over the top but, eccentric is probably about it,… but because of her enthusiasm, people got dragged along… once they’d tried it, and realised that it actually tastes quite nice, the health side of it was just a bit of bonus. And she would grab people, I mean literally grab people. If it was quiet she’d go to the other side of the stall into the alleyway and stop people! Grab ’em! “Come on, try this!” She was brilliant.”

“She (May) was the drive behind it all – I’ve never known anyone so enthusiastic about a product in all my life! Nowadays she’d be a multi-millionaire. She was so driven because the story as I heard it, she was very ill as a child, and it was these health food products that helped her through, so she really did believe in them. I think she was the driving force and the inspiration behind them, and I think Mr Hollins went along with it. Well he was just a tornado! With the pair of them it was just non-stop.”

Terry also remarked upon how Arthur was always busy:

“Mr Hollins? A lovely man, you couldn’t not like him; he was a lunatic at times! I never saw Mr Hollins standing still, never – and I had to follow him round, all the time, he was always doing something. He was really a super man, a really nice man. He was a pioneer. I think he was ahead of his time, without a shadow of a doubt.”

Particularly in his later years, Arthur’s stood out from the crowd with his flowing hair and tweed hat. John Kirkpatrick and Terry Healey remember how striking his appearance could be:

“He was very odd looking. It was hard to believe, seeing how he looked, that he was the person who had done all this work, because he looked for all the world as though he was a tramp, perhaps! (laughs) A very eccentric appearance… He always chose his words very carefully, he didn’t just come out with rubbish. He took great care about everything that he did and that he said. I wish I’d spent much more time with him.”

“I think Arthur was viewed a bit as the local eccentric. Unless you’ve actually seen a photograph of him, it’s difficult to imagine… he was quite small, he’d got, shall we say, rather a large nose and he’d got long hair, which for a sort of middle aged man to have long hair was a bit shocking. And he used to run everywhere, he used to rush everywhere. So he looked like the mad professor at times, he really did.”

Arthur’s “make do and mend” approach to household and farmyard maintenance provided Terry with some humorous anecdotes:

“He built a wall over a couple of days when I was there, and when he was getting to the top of it, I thought, ‘Mr Hollins, you haven’t put any footings in this wall.’ He really hadn’t put any footings in it, and of course somebody pushed it and the wall went down! And you think, ‘This man is a genius, but he hadn’t thought to put any footings in it.’ My brother and I used to say that he was the Heath Robinson of his day.”

“He (Arthur) was not a house proud, fussy person. He bodged things if he could. You’d see him charging around with pieces of rope. And you’d think, ‘What’s he doing with that?’, and he’d come up with some concoction. I saw him dragging a pallet across the yard, building a gate. He could have nipped into town and bought a gate. But oh no, he’d built this thing which he leant up against two posts.”

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