Terry Hardy, 65, a lorry driver from east London, was 18 when he first spotted a group of Teds at Walthamstow market and was beaten. Before that, he had been, as he puts it, “normal.”
It was the music, of course – he repeats the names like a catechism: Elvis, Gene, Buddy – and the style. The suit he wears – like all of his drapes – was made to measure: emerald green with mustard velvet trimmings. “It’s something a little different…”
He shows me his tattoos. Aces, swallows, rock ‘n’ roll skull and Confederate flag. “I know a lot of people are now saying it’s racist. All this does not interest us. It represents the South where the music originated. We have black Teds, Asian Teds. It’s a big family.
As we speak, he and Maggie, his wife of 37, have just returned from the Barnstaple Rock ‘n’ Roll Club weekend at a holiday park in Westward Ho! – dancing, drinking and “taking the Teds’ walk”, an age-old ritual at seaside gatherings where the Teds walk the hands of the crowd along the ball, turning heads and plunging into pubs. After 47 years as Ted, his banana is gray, but still standing. ‘I’m lucky. Many have lost theirs…” We pause for a moment of respectful silence. Time does its work.
I have a memory, I say, of my visit to Pontins 40 years ago. The Teds there were electricians, bank workers, municipal workers, but it struck me then, as it strikes me now, that those occupations were mere disguises for their true and enduring vocation as defenders of the faith.
‘Defenders of the faith…’ He pauses in thought. ‘Yes I like that.’
Sean Gilbert, 57
Of Ilkeston, a furniture maker; pictured left, alongside fellow Teddy Boy Joe Murphy