Photographer revisits famous Hull Rag and Bone man 40 years later

The cry of ‘Battery! Boiler! Bike frame! Lumber ! Cloth, Bone! that has echoed in the streets of Hull for generations will soon be silenced.

In 1983, student photographer Russel Boyce caught up with 19-year-old George Norris to get some insight into Rag and Bone’s scrap metal business.

George Norris Senior, 81, has been a Rag and Bone man for 68 years, and once he passed away, the cry of “Battery!” Boiler! Bike frame! Lumber ! Cloth, Bone! that has echoed in the streets of Hull for generations will soon be silenced. Almost 40 years ago Boyce took pictures of 19-year-old George helping his father and recently decided to see the couple again in Hull.

Russell said: “In 1983 I attended Hull Art College and lived just off Hessle Road. I met George Norris and decided to follow him for a few days so I could photograph his work in the scrap metal trade.

“He was the best person to photograph because he completely ignored me, which always makes for the best photos. Years later I got a call at my work and it was George who asked me if I remembered him. Since we’ve been friends, and he’s now a photographer himself.”

After making the decision to recreate photos of George and his father George Senior, Russell wanted to document how things have changed in the business 40 years later. George Norris Junior told Russell: “My father will never retire. When my father leaves, he will be the last of the original junkies in Hull.”

George Senior started a part-time cardboard and paper collecting business with just an old pram when he was 13 years old. He told Boyce: “At 16, I had managed to raise enough money to buy a pony and a cart.

“Once I had that I started picking up scrap metal and rags, anything that gave me some money. At that time I could make up to £3 a week, well more than working at the dairy.”

These days, George Senior has ditched the horse and cart for a modern truck, but “misses” old-fashioned scrap collection. Trucks have more mileage and don’t require as much maintenance as horses, but despite these changes, his famous cry remains the same.

Russell Boyce wrote a blog about his decision to take on this photo essay, which you can find here.

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