If you thought the Proclaimers were nuts for walking 1000 miles (just to fall down at your door), then consider the achievement of Phyllis Pearsall MBE. Back in the 1930s, she single-footedly walked three times that distance in order to map every street in London, thus creating the first A-Z (it’s not recorded if she fell down at any doors, or felt the need to repeatedly sing ‘baa-bda baa’). The A-Z company she founded and supported until her death in 1996 is, of course, still going strong.
Southwark Council yesterday unveiled a blue plaque to Ms P at her place of birth in East Dulwich (3 Court Lane Gardens; check your A-Z).
If ever someone deserved the recognition, it’s her. Pearsall covered 23,000 streets, working 18 hour days and founded her own company at a time when working women were still ridiculed. Even then, she initially had to personally fulfil orders by running round town with a wheelbarrow – kind of putting the cart back into cartography.
The A-Z may one day be surpassed by GPS or Google Earth-style handsets, but her heroic achievements will not.