Although he lives in Enfield, Gordon Elliot’s is a familiar name and face in the Village. He was born, one of six children, in Gaskell Road and attended Highgate Primary School. At the age of 11 he moved on to Muswell Hill’s William Grimshaw Seondary Modern School, where he was a contemporary of those other local success stories - Rod Stewart and the Davies Brothers, Ray and Dave. He had also by that age begun what seems to be his wider education by spending much of his free time in the employ of the owner of North Hill House. He worked as a gardener and, when the family was entertaining guests, a waiter - ‘it was all proper silver service’.
On leaving school at 15 he was told that although he had ‘good general knowledge’ his academic prowess left much to be desired. His future lay either with the Gas Board or the building trade.
He fancied the building trade and was taken on as an apprentice plumber by the local firm, McInley’s. His master there was on course to spending 60 years in the same job with the same firm. After one year Gordon left, having acquired the necessary skills. He can still explain exactly how to seal the perfect joint using paste and hemp and he still has his tools; nor has he ever forgotten the horrible initiation ritual suffered by all the apprentices at McInley’s. He was spreadeagled on the floor of an empty room, pinned down by the nails which had been driven through his clothing. Before leaving McInley’s he announced to the astonishment and derision of his work-mates that by the time he was 20, he would buy his own house.
He took a job with Fleshers, another Highgate builder, and worked there for the next 16 years. George, the older of the two brothers who owned the firm, won Gordon’s respect as a stickler - not only for time-keeping; he insisted that the last ten minutes of their day should be spent by his workmen collecting, checking and cleaning their tools, tidying them away and sweeping up after themselves with a dustpan and brush. To this day, a dustpan and brush is kept in G K Elliot’s van. At Fleshers Gordon extended his range of skills to cover pretty well everything a builder needs to know, but his preferred speciality was roofing. He became familiar with the roof-tops of Highgate - including Highgate School. He had to lift and shift three-tier wooden ladders by himself and manipulate single-handed the the old lead guttering, much of which was ornamented. He tested slates and inspected gutters - and he liked to work alone.
After a day’s work at Fleshers, Gordon would go to Enfield where he would work on house extensions. It was, he says, ‘work-eat-sleep-work-eat-sleep. This 7-day week was to be the foundation of his professional life; he was building his reputation.
One of his Enfield customers wanted to sell him her house but he could not raise the necessary £200 deposit, so the owner herself offered him that sum as an interest-free loan. In 1964, at the age of 20, he bought his own two-bedroom terraced house, complete with Anderson shelter in the garden. He lived there with his wife, adding two more bedrooms and raising their two sons.
Gordon must have been held by some to be an uncomfortable workmate, with his list of accomplishments, his self confidence and ambition. He attracted resentment and there was an unjust accusation, a court case which he lost and, after 16 years, Gordon left Fleshers. He smarted under the injustice but fought back, calling on support from his loyal Highgate customers. Fleshers was absorbed into the firm of C P Roberts and the name G K Elliott became a familiar sight on distinctive red boards and vans around Highgate. By 1976 he was self-employed and after both his sons had left school and joined him in the business, the firm became G K Elliott and Sons.
His respect for skills and for the workman’s tools of his trade are in accord with his taste for the historic. The Goat Inn had occupied a corner of Enfield’s Forty Hill since the 17th century and in 1980 it was up for sale. Gordon decided it was time to move house. It had old timbers, huge oak doors, ancient floor-boards, leaded windows and a mysterious cellar. The restoration was a massive undertaking and has been carried out to Gordon’s specification and under his watchful eye.
He now had enough space and out-buildings to indulge some hobbies - animals and old vehicles. He thinks that llamas have become ‘a bit commonplace’ so does not keep any, but several generations of emus, reindeer, goats, camels and donkeys have lived as part of the Elliott household. He has a good relationship with his huge, white pig called Porky Houdini who likes an occasional swim in the lake.
He works tirelessly for his charities and that is where his animals come into their own, accompanying him on his outings. To the delight of Enfield children, Gordon can be found in town every Christmas morning, dressed as Santa Claus and in the company of Dobbie the Reindeer. Dobbie is himself a keen traveller and has appeared inside a 1960s taxicab and on the London Underground. That event was captured by a fellow-traeller and found its way into ‘all the next day’s papers.”
It seems to be the goats with whom Gordon has the greatest affinity. He puts this soft spot down to his being born under Capricorn. He lives in the Old Goat Inn, where the goats used to provide the neighbourhood with milk. He discovered an ancient goat bell in his cellar and once unjustly became a scapegoat himself. It is small wonder that he chose to have his favourite goat, Zoltan, represented on one of the stained glass door panels in his house. The Skyscript website tells us that ‘Capricorns are noted for being patient, prudent, determined, reliable and disciplined. The sign is known as the most ambitious of the zodiac”. And in Chinese Astrology goats are said to be ‘of a nature resistant to change’.
Gordon makes no apology for his lack of interest in digital technology and is currently resisting a Smart Phone in favour of his ‘useful’ old-fashioned mobile. He just doesn’t have time for it. ‘I shall never retire’ he says and although he seems never even to sit still he insists that he takes proper, though short, holidays. He looks youthful and fit while not being particularly careful about diet and exercise - although he ‘always knows [his] pulse rate and blood pressure’ and will still occasionally throw a bag of soil across his shoulder and take a run with it.