Jack and Louise`s Family History



My Dad, Jack [Isaac] Sabel, the son of Barnett and Minnie Sabel, was born on 1st January, 1902 in  East Ham, London. Jack had three other brothers, Charlie, Abraham(who died young) and Jim and a sister, Hannah. Barnett Sabel was a master tailor and Jack was initially apprenticed as a teenager to  follow in the same field. Jack however had other ideas. He was a good all-round sportsman and was especially gifted at soccer. He played for East Ham schoolboys and was spotted as a potential player for West Ham United.


The fly in the ointment was that being a member of the Orthodox faith, his Dad found it difficult at the time to reconcile his son playing soccer on the Jewish Sabbath and this obviously led to family tension. This came to a head and led Jack, at the tender age of 14 or 15 to join the Merchant Navy where he made an eventful journey to and from Montevideo at the height of the German U-Boat campaign in the 1st World War. At one stage it was reported [ incorrectly I believe]  that the merchant ship was torpedoed and all hands on board had perished but mercifully [both for Jack and me] this proved not to be the case.


On his return to England, Jack was ,as they say, ‘re-united with his family’ since he was still very much a minor. It didn’t take Jack long however, to open another chapter in his wanderings, this time volunteering for the Army by telling fibs about his age. Having nearly completed his basic training, he was [reluctantly] rescued from active service on the Western Front by his Dad eventually tracing his whereabouts and convincing the Army that ‘ Jack’ Sabel [his nomme de guerre] was in fact Isaac Sabel! Unfortunately, in the medium term this did little to reconcile Jack to life at home and around 1920, Jack having reached  the age of 18 went to the U.S.A ostensibly to visit relatives [I think in Delaware and Pennsylvania] and after a while spent some time on the construction site of the Niagara Falls Hydro Scheme. From the accounts I received, this sounded like a pretty rough environment even by the standards of civil engineering and Jack returned to UK to re-enlist in the Army but this time legally. Initially trained in a cavalry regiment, he was posted to Ireland at the worst possible time in terms of the conflict  which had re-emerged there. 


About 1923 , he was posted to India and latterly spent time in the R.A.M.C. The Indian Army environment gave full reign to Jack’s sporting talent and he played for the Army at soccer and for his Corps at Hockey. Having completed his service period, Jack returned to England around 1930 which was not the best time to be in the market for work in ‘civvy street’! He spent a period as a Cinema Manager where he met my Mum, Louise who worked as a cashier in the cinema. The rest, is history and they married in 1930; I arrived on the scene in 1934.


Louise was the eldest daughter of Thomas and Louise Mersham both being Publicans by calling. She was the oldest child and had two brothers, Fred and Leslie and two sisters, Dolly and Thelma. At that time it was hardly the done thing for a Jewish lad like Jack to marry outside the faith and it was only into my early teens when I recall the odd visit to Grandad Barnett. Jack, after a substantial period of unemployment where Louise was the only breadwinner, managed to obtain a position as an ambulance driver at Hillingdon Hospital in Middlesex. There were well over 100 applicants - what a commentary on the times ! Jack had the unique experience of being appointed to the position in spite of not having a driver’s licence ; his saving grace being his knowledge of first aid and emergency procedures and his sporting ability as the hospital was keen to establish a sports club and put themselves on the map in this field.


Having been a rolling stone for much of his early life, Jack settled in Hillingdon surviving countless Health Service and Local Government re-organisations [as well as driving in London throughout the Blitz]  until his retirement in the mid 1960’s. For several years, Jack was a Conservative Councillor and was also a member of the Conservative Trade Union Group. He died in January 1972. Louise was for many years a Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages but has been retired from local government for in excess of twenty years. She is well, having regard to her age [94 in June].


I am an only son and was blessed with very caring parents who did not hesitate to go without if it helped me. Growing up in Hillingdon, I was in the ‘comfort zone’ and didn’t need to be evacuated in the War. After attending Hull University and National Service in the R.A.F., mainly in W. Germany, I joined the Overseas Civil Service to serve in Northern Rhodesia [now Zambia] . The decade there was spent principally in the Ministry of Labour. During that time ,I met Maureen [maiden name ‘Matshiqi’] and we married in 1963. We came to UK in 1969 and settled in Coulsdon, Surrey until my retirement in 1996. During that period, I worked in the field of Human Resources in the engineering industry, the Health Service, the Civil Service and in plantation agriculture mainly overseas. In 1997, we moved to an area 20 miles from Cape Town, South Africa. Maureen’s Dad, Sydney came to Northern Rhodesia from South Africa as a lecturer in Social Work at the new University of Zambia. This was a  prestigeous and in its’ day uncommon appointment for an African. He took his Master’s at Yeshiva University , New York and eventually worked there as an Associate Professor until his retirement He died in  1989.


We have two daughters, Fiona and Nolly and a son Vuyo all of whom live in UK. Fiona is a PA and Admistrator in Croydon and Nolly is a full-time Mum to Finley and  ‘JB’ and wife to Rob who helps to manage the family engineering firm in Leeds. Vuyo is a  Senior stylist in a salon in London.


We try to spend the major part of our retirement in South Africa but for obvious reasons visit the UK fairly regularly.                 


Clive Sabel

14th April, 2004.