Frank Doel 1908 - 1968

Frank Percy Doel was born in Wallasey, Cheshire on July 14th 1908 the youngest of three children. By 1916 the family had migrated south taking up residence at No. 309 Wightman Road, Hornsey, London N8.
Frank was educated at Hornsey County Grammar School which had opened in the early 1900's as the first co-educational school of its kind in England. Frank followed his elder brother, T.D. Doel who had started at the school in 1916, into 'Kelland House' at Hornsey County in 1919. It was customary for members of the same family to be placed in the same 'house'.

In 1924, on leaving school, Frank started his first, and only, job with Marks and Co. Its likely that he began working at either 106 or 108 Charing Cross Road. From the outset and up until his untimely death he was always known as "young Frank"

He quickly became absorbed in the book trade gaining invaluable business expertise from the experienced Ben Marks whilst benefiting from Mark Cohen's comprehensive bibliographical knowledge. In later life Cohen would describe him as the shop's 'anchor man'.

Frank met, and in the summer of 1936 married Mary Price, their daughter Sheila was born in 1939. Within months of this happy event Frank was called up for military service and spent most of the Second World War in the Middle East, a Private in the RAOC (Royal Army Ordnance Corps). During this time Frank's friend and colleague John Watson, himself exempt from call up on health grounds, deputised for him at 84.(Watson later became a director of Francis Edwards, at the time one of London's leading antiquarian booksellers).
Sadly Mary died in 1945 and two years later Frank married Nora Flynn, daughter Mary was born in 1948.

In common with most good bookmen he was immensely knowledgeable about books that he had never read. For pleasure he enjoyed reading thrillers, which he borrowed from the library, choosing books not by author but by publisher! (However there is evidence to suggest that he owned a copy of The Seven Blue Diamonds by Charles B. Stilson, click here to see Frank's signature inside the front cover!)

Although passionate about his work Frank did have other interests, he knew and liked a good deal of classical music, the result of attending concerts during his army days. He was a keen Tottenham Hotspur F.C. supporter, and went to most of their home matches often accompanied by his elder brother.

 

Sometime during 1952 Frank bought a car which, in the context of the times, must be seen as a major acquisition.

This 1939 model, believed to be a Morris was purchased from none other than Leo Marks!

Frank had many good friends and colleagues in the antiquarian book trade, not least John Watson (Details for John to be added later). Much of his and Nora's social life centered round them and the couple were leading lights of The Society of Antiquarian Booksellers Employees otherwise known as the Bibliomites (it is recorded that Frank was a Committee Member in 1963). They met about six times a year for social events such as dinners and dances, visits to places of interest such as college libraries, and an annual cricket match against the 'Guvnors', with Frank as Umpire. Wives and families were involved, and a good time was had by all. Frank also turned out for the Bibliomites in the Annual Darts match and was on the winning side in 1960 when they beat the Employers team that included Peter Kroger. The latter was imprisoned the next year having been convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.
Closer to home Frank often enjoyed an evening playing snooker at Christ Church Social Club in Crouch End

The picture on the left shows Frank with his family at a social event in the early 1960's, quite possibly a Bibliomites 'do'.

Left to right: Nora, Mary, Sheila and Frank.

Family friend Maurice Vidowsky remembers Frank..

"My family lived in a block of flats (apartments) in Oakfield Court, Crouch End (North London).
I remember Frank who lived in the flat downstairs with his
wife Nora and daughters Sheila and Mary. In those days in the late 1950's we all kept our doors open and we were always in and out of each others homes.
I was closest to Mary who was nearer my age and we exchanged books all the time.
When I was about ten I found out that Frank worked in a bookshop in the West End. It seemed very glamorous and important at the time. I would watch him going to work, he usually wore a blue pinstripe suit and more often than not carried a pile of books under his arm.
One day Frank said that he needed a hand carrying some books up to the shop in London. I helped him with his books first on the tube (London Underground) then on the bus. We went to a dusty looking old wooden shop which was, of course, Marks & Co at 84 Charing Cross Road.
I guess I was about fifteen when I heard Frank died, subsequently the Doel family moved away and I never saw much of them after that.
When I was about twenty five I was employed as a buyer in a
bookshop. Publisher agents would come in to sell me all the new books for the shop.
One agent showed me a new title called 84 Charing Cross Road. I
flicked through it and found it contained correspondence from an address in the flats where I grew up and also included Mary, Sheila and Nora. It had lots of letters from a very funny woman in New York."


click here to see copy of a letter sent by Frank to Maurice on the latters 13th birthday

Frank and Nora (pictured right) enjoying themselves at Maurice Vidowsky's Bar Mitzvah


Well liked and widely respected within the book trade Frank Doel has been described as quite and unassuming, discreet and reserved but he had his 'moments' as daughter Sheila remembers:

"One day a fire broke out in the basement - a potential disaster, as you can imagine. Fortunately, the fire station was only a stone's throw away, and as soon as it had been summoned the fire engine appeared. However, to Dad's horror, it then proceeded to race up the road at top speed, bells ringing, and disappeared, leaving Dad jumping up and down on the pavement until it reappeared five minutes later, when the fire was finally dealt with."

By the late 1960's Frank was running the business virtually single handed, Ben Marks having died and Mark Cohen by this time an old and frail man.

Frank Doel died on December 22nd 1968. Such was the high regard in which he was held almost the whole of the London antiquarian book trade attended his funeral on a bitterly cold New Year's Day 1969. click here to see details of Frank's last resting place

This announcement in The Clique for January 4th, 1969 sums up the depth of feeling, it reads as follows: " It is with deep sorrow and regret we have to announce the death on the 22nd of December of MR. FRANK DOEL, who has been with us for over forty years. He will be greatly missed by us all and his many friends throughout the country. - Messrs. MARKS & CO., 84 Charing Cross Road, London, W.C.2." .