From extreme poverty and humble beginnings, to a life of plenty, retired businessman, artist and author, Frank Canning, was born in 1935, in an old disused railway carriage along Marsh Lane in Thorne. “It had no wheels or axles as they had been removed for the war effort. It stood there, as it had stood for many years, slightly tipped at one end as it sunk into the marsh.” Frank remembers drinking tea out of jam jars, they only had two cups and they were for ‘Mam and Dad’, they used newspapers for tablecloths and had “enough food to fill their bellies.”
In 1939, when war broke out, Frank recalls seeing the skies full of war planes flying over to Germany on bombing missions, hearing sounds of explosions as the nearby city of Hull was bombed and hiding under the kitchen table on the sounding of the air-raid sirens. “Were we frightened? No, of course we weren’t. We were only kids. We were all too young to understand what had happened and it all became another exciting adventure.”
By the age of around 11-years old, Frank had embarked on his first entrepreneurial venture, expressing his creative skills he made animals out of plywood, selling them in the local shop window for three pence each. School days were also work days, as Frank helped at a wood yard, cutting logs and holding the bags open to be filled with wood. “They gave me two shillings and sixpence for my efforts, which I gave to my Mam. I felt so proud when I gave it to her.”
Coming from a large family of 12, the older siblings helped with the finances too. Pea picking, and potato picking were a family favourite to bring in that little bit of extra cash; pea picking was a Summer job, potato picking or ‘spudlugging’ was done in the autumn and only suitable for the eldest and strongest children. It was hard and backbreaking work for them.
Frank’s artistic talents held no boundaries, as a pit worker, his job was a ‘clipper’ he began to draw cartoons and caricatures with chalk in the ‘coal tubs,’ and after a few months, nearly every tub in the pit was covered with one of Frank’s drawings. His ambition to be a cartoonist, saw his first published pictures in Coal magazine, a publication specialising in the mining industry. He went on to sell his artwork and later to be awarded Best Professional Artist – SAA Artist of the Year 2001 and 2002 (Flowers Category).
In 1965, Frank founded Canning Conveyor Co. Ltd, in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. Now a family owned and run company, is well known globally, delivering quality products to a diverse range of industries.
Now aged 83, Frank suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, and has had to adjust his life accordingly, he is a great believer in luck, fate and coincidence, believing things always seem to happen for a reason, fortunate or not. He has lived through a rollercoaster of experiences and survived, being driven along by his determination and start in life, defined brilliantly in his wonderful book “Opportunity” A True Story.