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Camden New Journal - OBITUARY
Published: 19 March 2009

Jo Hanrahan
Jo’s half century serving eels, pie and mash

HER shift started on January 20, 1940, and finished 54 years later.
Jo Hanrahan, the cornerstone of Castle’s Pie and Mash shop in Camden Town, passed away two weeks ago aged 88.
She had spent 54 years working for the popular pie, mash, eels and liquor cafe in Royal College Street.
Ms Hanrahan’s family hailed from Ireland and she grew up in Queen’s Crescent. She lived near Castle’s first branch of the pie and mash shop in Hanover Street – a Victorian terrace which was demolished after the war to make room for the Lismore Circus estate. She would eat there before she came to work for the Castle family when she was aged 19.
The family established a cafe in 1934 in a shop opposite the current Castle’s. After two years, Lil Castle, the family’s matriarch, decided she wanted to be in the parade opposite and when a fish and chip closed in 1936, Castle’s moved in.
They have been there ever since.
Jo mainly worked on the counter, greeting and serving customers, but colleagues remember her taking control on the cooking of the eels, too.
In the old days, the eels would arrive whole and be put in pots of boiling water. After simmering them in water infused with peppercorns, Jo soon learnt when the eel flesh was ready by prodding a fork into it and seeing if it would easily life off the bone.
Today, the eels come from a supplier in Canning Town and are often jellied, although they are still cooked on the premises and the mashed potato comes from the sacks of spuds delivered daily – which Jo would help peel, wash and cook.
She lived in the flat above the shop and took responsibility to open up first thing to clean and bring in the day’s deliveries.
The shop used to stay open until midnight and Jo worked long hours. But the shop was her life and she loved gossiping to her regular customers.
Away from her work, she had an abiding passion for photography. She had bought a Box Brownie camera when she was a teenager and her love of taking pictures stayed with her until her death – friends recall her taking snaps of “everything and anything”.
She was a fan of Coronation Street, went to the movies with friends and in quieter moments at Castle’s enjoyed zipping through the crossword.
As she got older and following her retirement in 1994, the Castle family ensured she was well looked after.
She moved in with them as she grew more frail.

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Your comments:

SO sorry to hear of Jo's passing. She was always THE face of Castles and served my friends and myself all through the late 60's, 70's and 80's.
Castle's served the best pie and mash in London, I know 'cos I have tried them all.I am now in Bedfordshire so don't get down that often but I will make it my business to visit in July '09.
T. Shanahan
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