McCabe the Pawnbrokers
McCabe and Sons were pawnbrokers, jewellers, outfitters and furnishers. Known to its patrons as "Uncle's", it was very busy shop. Local people who were reluctant to enter from the High Street were able to sneak in by a back door. The painting (right) of Mortlake High Street by Sydney Iredale shows McCabe's on the left with its pawnbroker's sign.
Felix McCabe, an Irishman, opened the place in 1889. The manager, Steve Prahl was known as "Uncle Steve". He was there from 1902 until the firm closed in 1969. Before the war, a seedy looking youngish gentleman in a shabby raincoat and a gangster style trilby hat used to patrol on the other side of the street to keep a watch for bandits and shoplifters.
Fred Windsor, who worked as a young draughtsman at the Electricity Works in Mortlake High Street in the 1930s, described McCabe's: "The shop seemed to cater for a variety of customers, selling clothes (including second-hand ones hanging on hooks around one of the doorways), furniture, glass, chinaware, jewellery etc. There was also a Pawnbroking Department."
Fred recalls going there with his boss, Mr Ellis, to buy a silver tankard as a retirement gift for one of their workmen. "The man in the office at the time was examining a not inconsiderable pile of yellow diamonds on a black cloth which impressed me at the time. Mr Ellis asked whether we could have the man's initials inscribed on the tankard. His rather cynical answer was that he advised against it since it would reduce the value of the tankard when in a couple of weeks' time it (as apparently was the usual practice) turned up at their Pawnbroking Department."
Fred goes on: "One recollection I shall always have in connection with this shop, was the regular Tuesday afternoon visit of the owner to the premises. He arrived in a magnificent Minerva Limousine driven by a chauffeur in a grey uniform to match the paintwork of the car."
The business moved from its old premises at numbers 82-86 to the ground floor of the newly built flats in the 1960s at numbers 68/70. It finally closed in 1969.