Cyclist, fireman, founder of the Storytellers of Nottingham, and a lover of Notts County and teddy bears
by James Walker, originally published in LeftLion
Local writer and storyteller Pete Davis passed away on the 4 August at the age of 64. He specialised in oral histories, and particularly enjoyed working with the elderly, mentally ill and Notts County fans. He was a founding member of The Storytellers of Nottingham and could be found telling elaborate tales in the upstairs room of The Olde Trip to Jerusalem. He was the author of Under Bestwood, a Notts-based twist on the Dylan Thomas classic.
Pete was cremated in a wicker basket coffin at Bramcote in a non-religious ceremony. The entrance music was the Teddy Bears Picnic by Henry Hall. Apparently Pete was an avid teddy bear collector. I wish I’d known that when he was alive as I’d have taken the piss out of him something rotten. He’d have liked that.
Peter John Davis was educated at High Pavement where “they taught me to talk properly” but this wasn’t a skill required of factory life in hosiery nor his thirty year career in the fire brigade, the profession he entered in the seventies before being forced to retire at 55. Pete described his retirement as “a form of age discrimination” which may explain why his later storytelling work had such a heavy focus on the elderly.
Becoming a fireman would have a profound effect on him. He was entering a profession where “when everyone was running down the road, I would be walking up it”. In a previous interview with LeftLion he described being a fireman as “a weird mix of pissing about, constant training, talking to schoolkids and then short bursts of mayhem where you earn your money”. A large proportion of the job was “spent sitting around waiting for something bad to happen” and so ‘banter’ became an important coping mechanism. These skills would later come in handy when he turned his hand to professional storytelling.
Pete appears in this video Youtube Youth by MulletProofPoet which was commissioned for the Sillitoe Trail. He is in the yellow jumper with the Raleigh bike
I had the pleasure of working with Pete for the Sillitoe Trail where he took testimonies from former Raleigh workers to celebrate the 125 birthday of the bike manufacturer. He was a keen cyclist too and is the only person I know who parked his car on the drive because he needed the garage to home his six bikes.
He also had a very personal connection with Raleigh. When he was a teenager his father passed away and to try to cheer him up his mum asked a neighbour, who worked at Raleigh, if he could get her a bike on tick for Christmas. “Don’t worry, love” he said. “Your lad will have his bike”.
That Friday there was a knock on the door and the neighbour handed over a pedal. The following week an inner tube turned up, smuggled out of the factory under a coat. Other neighbours got in on the act – as half the street were employed by Raleigh – stealing to order from their respective departments. The completed bike was assembled in a neighbours shed and delivered, as promised, on Christmas Eve 1963.
The Raleigh Moto was a ‘lifetime guarantee’ which certainly applied to Pete. The kindness of his neighbours would trigger a lifetime obsession with cycling which would see him travel the world while raising lots of money for charity. He leaves behind his childhood sweetheart, Sue.