Shops & Businesses

Here we take a stroll down Main Street and a walk into the past

George Matthew ‘Tin Tack’ Barkby - cobbler, 45 Main Street. Kirby’s last boot maker

George Matthew Barkby was born on 29th May 1898. He was the son of Matthew Barkby and his wife Kate, who lived in the Belgrave area of Leicester. The first few years to George’s life must have been traumatic, as his father died when he was one year old and after living with his mother and her family for the next nine years, sadly in 1909 his mother also passed away. By 1911, George was living in Kirby Muxloe with his paternal grandfather, Thomas and his wife Hannah. Thomas and his family had previously lived in Leicester where Thomas was employed as a foreman in a shoe making establishment. It is not clear if Thomas was still an employee at this stage, or if he had already opened his boot maker business in Kirby Muxloe. In the 1912 Trade Directories, Kirby Muxloe had a boot maker named James Barkley. This is such a similar name, it is not clear if this is a spelling mistake on the part of the editors of a Trade Directory or was he, in fact, a different person. By 1922, Thomas Barkby is certainly recorded as a ‘boot maker’ in the village and his grandson George would most likely have also been working in the shop.

The first shoe menders shop run by the Barkbys was in a workshop behind George Upton’s stable, which was situated down a jitty almost opposite Harry Ireland’s shop. By 1932, the workshop had moved to number 45, Main Street and George Matthew Barkby had become the village boot maker. He is remembered as having a large treadle machine for sewing the leather shoes and boots and also a buffing machine. Children were quite fascinated by the large machines, and often stood watching George while he worked. He continued in this role until 1950.

As the year went by, George became more of a shoe repairer than a maker. He is well remembered by many as a man who always had a mouth full of tacks, using them one by one. This earned him the pet name of ‘Tin Tack’. There are stories told of young children, having been sent to get a pair of shoes or boots resoled, standing and counting the number of tacks that George put into each shoe. If there were twelve and not thirteen, the boots were returned. George was a member of the British Legion and, we are told, was a ‘drinking man’, as most men were in those days. He is remembered as always having his pint glass of beer right on the edge of the bar.

George was a WW1 veteran, serving in the Army Service Corps. He served in France and Belgium and was eventually discharged in 1919, whilst not in the best of health. According to WW1 records, he suffered a broken left ankle, a sprained right ankle, eye weakness and general debility. At the end of 1919, a few months after he was discharged from the army, he married his wife Gertrud Emily Nash. They had three children. During WW2, George served as an Air Raid Protection Warden, helping to alert the village to incoming air raids, a very important job.

George Matthew Barkby died in 1966, aged 67 years, and with his passing, we lost Kirby Muxloe’s last boot and shoe maker.

George Barkby

George 'Tin Tack' Barkby

Photograph courtesy of the Wilshere Collection