Well-known Sunderland businessman dies

The late Harry Thursby

The late Harry Thursby

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ONE of Wearside’s best-know retail names has passed away.

Harry Thursby died on Monday – he was 94.

The man whose name became synonymous with furniture shopping in Sunderland began his business from humble roots, as son Eric explained.

“He started up the company himself in 1947, when he came back from the war,” he said.

“He couldn’t get his old job back – he was an upholsterer – so he set up on his own in his mother’s front room in Olive Street, re-covering three-piece suites.”

It was to set a pattern for the family, with brothers Ron and Ken and sister Louisa – known as Louie – all starting their own businesses from the house.

As the business began to grow, Harry moved into premises in Wilson Street, Millfield, before hitting the road.

“After Millfield, he toured the country reupholstering cinema seats,” said Eric.

“He worked for J Arthur Rank – they used to work through the night and then sleep during the day in the cinema itself.

“He did that for many years until he got sick of travelling. Fittingly, the last cinema he did was The Gaumont in Fawcett Street.”

Returning to Wearside to settle down, Harry opened a workshop in East Moor Road, then moved to a site on the corner of Rutland Street and Hylton Road, where he first started to sell , as well as repair, household goods.

“His dad, who was also called Harry, actually worked for him in the shop,” said Eric.

In 1972, Harry took over the former John Lines Paints Store on the other side of Hylton Road, which became the business’ furniture outlet, while the Rutland Street shop sold carpets.

He handed the business over to Eric and brother Philip when he retired at the age of 62 and the brothers moved the business into Holmeside in the early 90s. They sold the shop to furniture retailer Michael O’Connor when Eric retired in 2006, though the Thursby name remains with Philip running a carpet business on the first floor.

“Dad was a real character and he was very well known in Sunderland,” said Eric.

“The amount of people that have come up to me, to us, since his death, just wanting to say what a gentleman he was.”

Harry’s wife Marion died 14 years ago. He is survived by Eric and Philip, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at St John’s Church in Ashbrooke at 12.15pm on Tuesday.

Twitter: @Sunderlandecho