Tag Archives: Swadlincote

Fred meets a Flying Circus

My Dad, Fred, spent nearly all of his life in South Derbyshire. In the sunny summers and snowy winters after the First World War, his home was at Number 39, Hartshorne Lane, Woodville. “Holmgarth” was the last house in the village as you went down the road towards the neighbouring village of Hartshorne. Here it is today:

After Fred’s house, further down the hill, there were a couple of large houses near a small lake on the left. They were just a few yards beyond the massive blue brick railway bridge which carried the passenger railway line from Woodville Station towards Swadlincote. A half mile or so further on was the old Saxon village of Hartshorne. Hartshorne Lane itself was made of gravel, and there was so little traffic that it was perfectly possible to play football or cricket all day long without any interruption whatsoever. Boys regularly knocked their cricket stumps into the surface of the road.

Indeed, the whole area was still so countrified, that one day in the late 1920s, a seven year old Fred saw a stray cow walking around in the front garden of the house, and rushed to tell his mother. She was busy with her housework, and just told him that he was being silly and telling lies. Eventually, though, she looked out of the kitchen window and she too noticed the cow which had by now made its way around the house to the kitchen garden. She was very startled and cried out in genuine fear. Young Fred, though, thought that this was a good example of somebody getting their just desserts. Here is young Fred with his bike but just look at the empty field behind him. It used to belong to a farming family called Startin. Nowadays, their field is completely covered in houses:

One sunny summer’s day in the 1930s, perhaps in 1935, an aircraft came in to land in Startin’s field at the back of Fred’s house in Hartshorne Lane. It was an Airspeed AS4 Ferry, a medium sized biplane, and was registered as G-ACBT. It had even featured in a special painting in an aviation magazine:

The aircraft belonged to the famous Flying Circus of Sir Alan Cobham, although it had previously been owned by the popular author, Neville Shute. He had used it as a ferry aircraft in southern Scotland and Northern Ireland. Here’s one of the photographs which were taken of this extraordinary event. The three people are, I think, Fred, the pilot and the mechanic :

Sir Alan Cobham was one of the foremost proponents of the virtues of flying, and with his support for the National Aviation Day, he gave enormous publicity to British aircraft and to the still relatively young RAF. Here he is:

An excited young Fred talked to the pilot while the mechanic went off to find some fuel for the aircraft from a local garage. When he returned, they refuelled the plane and then took Fred for a short flight around the local area.

This adventure, amazing by the Health and Safety standards of the present day, was to inspire Fred, years later, to join the RAF.

Ironically, the year when Fred joined the RAF, 1941, saw G-ACBT being finally dismantled at the scrapyard, in the absence of any potential buyers for this sturdy old aircraft.

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Filed under Aviation, History, Personal

Football in the Old Days ; Derby County v Norwich City

Imagine it is the late 1970s. We are walking down to the old Baseball Ground, and about to turn into Harrington Street. The floodlights of the ground are just visible:

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My Dad, my brother and I used to park on what had been the Parade Ground at the old Victorian army barracks at Normanton, and then walk down to the football ground. If we were at all late for the kick off, Fred, my Dad, was quite capable of generating a punishing pace along the terraced backstreets. It was with complete justification that my brother would regularly accuse him of setting off like “a long dog” (whatever that was).
On one occasion, Fred was extremely late for the game, so rather than miss a second of the action, he just left the car on the grass verge of the Ring Road. He accepted as a necessary evil the inevitable parking ticket and fine he would receive, and paid it without demur, but both my brother and myself were advised, “Don’t tell your mother.”
This was not too dissimilar from an incident when he damaged his beautiful pale blue Hillman Minx quite badly by reversing it into an, admittedly, pale grey, well camouflaged lamp post, down near the bridge which went over the railway lines at Swadlincote Station:

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Again, he accepted the cost of the panel beater and a resprayed rear wing, on the basis of “Don’t tell your mother.”
Closer to the ground, Harrington Street was closed to traffic because of the thousands of people all rushing down to the game. The single floodlight is even more obvious:

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Here is a backlit policeman on his horse, and more terraced houses, looking back past the long demolished Baseball Hotel:C x police horses - Copy (2)

Two rather drenched policeman on their horses, walking down Shaftesbury Crescent. Look at the fashions! Look at the flares!

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At last! These two policemen have the sense to find a little shelter from the weather:

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They are at the back of the Normanton Stand, at the entrance to the Popular Side. The “Popside” was where hooligans of both teams would stand. There would be disorder at virtually every game.
Fred, as a man of some fifty or so years of age, was himself physically attacked, on two occasions, both of them by those lovable, loyal, warm hearted supporters of Newcastle United.

We had a period when we used to park the car in the playground of Litchurch Lane Junior School, for a mere 25p. One day, as we returned from the game, I was surprised to see large brown birds flying over our heads. Only when one of them crashed into the wall of the railway repair works, did I realise that they were not birds, but bricks, thrown by a group of discontented Newcastle supporters.

On another occasion, a group of Newcastle supporters set about giving a damn good kicking to an innocent young man and his girlfriend, who had the misfortune to be walking along Osmaston Road, just in front of us. My Dad, Fred, of course, armed with his RAF maxim of “it always happens to somebody else, never to me”, raced off to help out the young victims. I can remember how Fred grabbed one hooligan’s foot as he prepared to kick the poor young man, and then wrenched it around backwards as hard as he could. That must have hurt! Afterwards, I remember too how the young victim had been kicked so much that he had lost the face off his watch.

When I got home, I discovered a tear on my favourite green USAF war surplus jacket. That tear was present in my T-shirt as well, and my back had a long red mark on it. I have always reckoned that that was as close as I ever got to being stabbed, by somebody I did not even see, in a mêlée of whirling bodies.
The opponents for this match are, I think, Norwich City:

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They are playing in yellow shirts and white shorts, which was a slight change from their normal kit with green shorts:

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The problem was that in the early 1970s, lots of people still had black and white televisions, and Derby and Norwich would have looked very similar, as Derby were wearing white shirts with dark blue shorts, and Norwich yellow and green. Here Derby press forward with yet another attack:

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I can’t remember the score of this game, but I think it is safe to say that Derby probably won. They used to beat Norwich fairly regularly in the 1970s.

 

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Filed under Derby County, Football, History, Humour, Personal