Matching a name with a face

Alan Muhr
Alan Muhr
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A MAIL reader has come forward with information about a rare matchbook dating back to a huge fire that destroyed a factory.

Hartlepool man Malcolm Field, 52, appealed for Mail readers for information on a matchbook he believes may have one of the last to survive the huge fire that destroyed the North East Match Company in Hartlepool in 1954.

The matchbook had the name AV Muhr printed in it, which we now know was the managing director of the firm.

Retired solicitor Edward Bunting contacted the Mail with reams of information about Alan Victor Muhr, who was also a keen golfer and president of Seaton Carew Golf Club.

Mr Bunting, 76, who was a partner in the Gilwick Bunting and Co law firm in Church Street, which is now Tilly, Bailey and Irvine (TBI), said: “He called himself managing director, but I’m not sure whether he had a part ownership in the company.

“That was his job for 30 or 40 years until the fire and it never re-opened afterwards. He was then an agent for match companies.”

Mr Muhr, who never married, was born in 1906, died in 1985, and lived in Hutton Avenue for most of his life.

He was a member of the golf club for more than 50 years and was club captain in 1938, 1958 and 1974, as well as being president from 1975 until his death.

Mr Bunting, who lives in the Elwick Road area of town, added: “The matchbook would have been standard issue that you could have got anywhere like in pubs and hotels that stocked them at the time.

“He was quite a friend and I played golf with him many times.

“It was quite a huge fire, I remember getting off a train and I could see it.”

The blaze, on August 30, is remembered as one of the biggest the town has ever seen and reduced the match factory to a mere shell.

Every available fire engine in the area rushed to the blaze in Victoria Terrace and the reserve Naval Fleet was moved from the nearby Swainson Dock, while Dock Fire Float and tug boats were used in a desperate effort to save the building and prevent flames spreading to surrounding buildings and boats.

Malcolm, of Stephen Street, Hartlepool, found the matchbook after in a box of his father George’s belongings after his death in 1990.

He is not sure how the matchbook found its way into his father’s possession, but thinks he may have been given it by a former factory worker.

Malcolm’s dad had kept it for up to 30 years, unaware of its past.

The gold coloured box carries the North East Match Company motif and despite his best efforts, Malcolm was unable to unearth much information about the find or its original owner.

Malcolm would still like to know how his father got to have the matchbook and anyone who can help can contact the Mail on (01429) 239381.