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Generous Sherman brothers should not be forgotten; Time to remember.

Byline: Dan O'Neill

HE DIED 40 years ago today, a man who earned his place in Cardiff history - even folklore.

He was one of four brothers, part of a family as remarkable in its way as that more celebrated trio of siblings - the Cudlipps.

They went on to win fame as national newspaper editors: Percy, Reg and the immortal Hugh, who transformed tabloid journalism. Born, we have been relentlessly reminded over the years, in a terraced house in Lisvane Street.

But what about the four brothers born in a terraced house in Gloucester Street, sons of an immigrant from Eastern Europe?

Isaac, Jack and Abraham. With brother Harry, who died on November 18, 1961, the fourth and perhaps most visionary. It's odd that he has never received the acclaim in his home town that other entrepreneurs have been given.

Men who founded department stores or factories seem to have had their names embroidered into the tapestry of our town's history. Yet for years the name Sherman echoed more resoundingly than most around South Wales.

Just whisper those words "Sherman's Pools" to ladies of, as we say, a certain age, and they will be whisked back down the years to a time when Sherman's was one of the biggest employers in the city - the firm's founder Harry, one of the most generous philanthropists.

Think about it. Why did the Sherman Theatre get its name?

Anyway, back to Gloucester Street where Harry was born in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, the year when Sherlock Holmes made his first bow.

Which, sort of, puts things in perspective.

Harry, the son of a tailor from Eastern Europe, went to Wood Street School, right across the road from where the Millennium Plaza now hides the view of the Millennium Stadium. He ended up a millionaire in plush Cyncoed - but always liked to be known as a Riverside Boy.

With his brothers, he began a bookmaking business in Cardiff before World War I. Then he went to the United States, that Land of Opportunity, with Isaac and Jack. But he came back to carry on the bookmaking business from Victoria Buildings in Tudor Street, a walk away from his birthplace. Those were the days when every community, every factory, had its bookie's runner - the bloke who collected bets on street corners or in the workshop.

Illegal, of course. But as the toffs could do it by phone or on course, the feeling was, if it's good enough for them . . .

But coming up in those years between the wars was the big bonanza - no, make that the BIG BONANZA.

Otherwise known as the football pools, as enticing and attractive in their day as the National Lottery is now.

Harry, with brother Abe, founded Sherman's Pools Ltd. They never looked back. Sherman's weren't the biggest - but they were ours. A Cardiff company employing Cardiff people - and thousands from the Valleys as well.

At one point they were collecting 10 million quid in stakes a year.

Hundreds of thousands of coupons fluttered into the old Western Mail headquarters on St Mary Street and, later, into Womanby Street and a huge building where the great Currans works once thrived.

All through the week the regular staff made sure that every coupon was filmed, stamped and sorted. On Saturday nights and Sundays an army of part-timers moved in, checking the coupons, holding the hopes of thousands in their hands.

And presiding over it all - Harry and Abe.

A spot of trouble arrived in 1949 when Harry was questioned during what became known as the Lynskey Tribunal. It was alleged that his company had done "favours" for politicians and others in return for an increased allocation of paper, rationed at the time.

That year ill health forced Harry to resign as managing director but Sherman's came through and the company prospered, becoming one of the biggest and most successful football companies in the world.

Those were the days when a top payout of pounds 75,000 was like a lottery win today. Winners became instant celebrities - like the effervescent Viv Nichols. She collected the cash and when asked what she'd do with it trumpeted: "Spend. . . spend. . . spend."

She did!

And so did Harry Sherman. But his money, and there was a lot of it, went to others. He gave at least pounds 50,000 to the Penylan Synagogue and, with Abe, set up foundation trust funds for numerous charities. They also contributed pounds 100,000 to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and financed the Sherman Theatre. And each Christmas he sent a tree and presents to Catholic Nazareth House.

Sherman's pools was taken over by Littlewoods in June, 1961.

Harry died a few months later.

Typically, 11 charities were included in his will.

A man, then, worth remembering.


KIND HEARTS Harry Sherman, governing director of Sherman's Pools, Cardiff, and Lily Sayliss, leaving the New West Synagogue, Bayswater, after their marriage.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 19, 2001
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