Alf Dole was born into a family of north London costermongers in 1930. He was the grandson of the very first Pearly King of St Pancras and his proudest moment was putting on his own suit as the Pearly Prince at the age of seven.

His story vividly recounts London life in the time of horses and trams, pubs where sing-alongs around the piano happened every weekend and summers were spent hop-picking in Kent. Alf was an evacuee during the Second World War and was conscripted into the army in the late 1940s. The Second World War threw everyone’s life into chaos, but plucky Alf survived and thrived, living on his wits and a lot of luck. He finally returned to spend the remainder of his long life in London, continuing the Pearly tradition of raising money for charity, playing the spoons and impressing everyone with his singing and beautiful adorned-with-buttons taxi.

The Pearly Prince of St Pancras

Capturing the camaraderie of London’s street markets in the middle of the 20th century, Alf’s memoir also serves as an important slice of social history from a time when working-class communities were proud to celebrate their traditions. The book contains a wonderful selection of photos spanning over 50 years. Sadly, Alf died in 2013, but his daughter and ‘Pearly Queen’, Diane Gould, is available for interview.

Alf's stories of old London leaves you with the feeling that you’ve been on a wonderful journey in a time machine

Chas Hodges (CHAS & DAVE)