St Helens 50 years ago this week

This week’s 19 stories include the father who gave his son the most severe thrashing of his life, a strike at Greenall Whitley, a shocking case of gang rape on a 14-year-old girl, the Reporter’s feature on the new Rivington Comprehensive, Prescot Council controversially donates cash to Radio Merseyside and a noble ufologist gives a lecture in the Theatre Royal.

We begin on the 4th with Pilkington Glass Museum announcing in the Echo that they would be showing a new film made by the firm called ‘Looking at Glass’. This would be screened every Wednesday in February at 7.30pm.

The museum in Prescot Road was then open on weekdays 10am to 5pm (Wednesdays 8pm) with weekend opening from 2pm to 4:30pm.

A police inspector told the St Helens Juvenile Panel on the 4th that a father had given his son the “most severe thrashing of his life”. However he was not the one in trouble.

It was the 16-year-old boy who was facing charges of common assault on two girls during the evening of Christmas Day.

The incident happened outside the Springfield Hotel in Thatto Heath when the lad pushed one of the girls down the hotel steps.

He then dragged her down an entry, punched her and banged the girl’s head against a wall. The boy also struck her friend.

One of the girl’s fathers went to see the lad at his home and in the man’s presence, the father gave his son a thrashing as punishment.

In mitigation it was said that the two girls had been calling the boy names and wouldn’t leave him alone. He was fined a total of £6.

Over 60 draymen at Greenall Whitley began an unofficial strike on the 4th because some of their colleagues were behind on their union subs.

The members of the Transport and General Workers Union were furious that these five men at the Hall Street brewery would not pay their dues.

The draymen said they were refusing to work with these men as they were now effectively non-union but would allow them to take other jobs in the brewery.

While on strike each man was losing about £4 10 shillings a day in wages and they warned Greenall’s that if they were sacked for striking, all the other workers would come out in support.

One of the men told the Reporter that the union had had talks with the brewery for three weeks but these had led nowhere and so they had reluctantly taken the decision to strike.

The newspaper warned that many St Helens pubs faced a dry weekend as a result of the industrial action – including ironically the George Hotel, which was the striker’s meeting place.

A festival of music was held at Cowley Girls School on the 4th with members of the St Helens Folk Dance and Song Society performing a display.

On the 4th until the 8th the St Helens Catholic Amateur Gilbert & Sullivan Society performed ‘The Yeoman of the Guard’ at the Theatre Royal.

Two young men from Haresfinch and a third from Prescot Road appeared in Liverpool Crown Court on the 5th to face charges of raping a 14-year-old girl.

She had been to the ABC Savoy with a friend to see a film but they had been so pestered by the men sat behind them that they moved seats.

After the performance they realised that they’d missed their bus and so began walking along Corporation Street to catch another.

The men from the cinema began following them and one – a 21-year-old coal packer who had only got married a week earlier – grabbed one of the girls by the throat.

He dragged the 14-year-old down several side streets and entries, stifling her screams by holding his hand over her mouth.

The terrified girl was then told her skull would be cracked with a stone unless she agreed to sex. Crying and struggling she was then raped by the other two men on some waste ground, where the police found her after being alerted by her friend.

The men’s defence in court was that they had not realised the girl was so young and when she gave in so readily they had not realised it was through being terrified.

The 21-year-old man was sent to prison for four years and his 18-year-old brother and a 17-year-old were both sent to Borstal.

Prescot Council decided this week to donate a sum in the region of £250 to Radio Merseyside to help with its running costs.

This was despite some opposition, with Councillor Herbert saying it was a waste of ratepayers’ money, adding: “If people want to hear about local news they can read the Reporter.” The station had begun broadcasting in November 1967.

The Newcastle Journal wrote on the 5th that Pilkington’s representatives would be at Durham University on the 18th and at Newcastle on the following day looking for new recruits.

These universities were just two of the fifty that Pilks would be visiting during the Spring in their hunt for 130 graduates and post-graduates.

That would be the highest graduate target the company had ever set and the men chosen (no women apparently!) would join the 800 graduates already on the Pilkington payroll.

Three men from St Helens appeared in court in Wigan on the 6th facing charges in connection with a £43,000 payroll robbery that took place a week earlier.

The men were from Jackson Street, Boundary Road and Furness Avenue and one was a Securicor driver.

The St Helens Camera Club held their usual weekly meeting in Central Library on the 6th. Their cine section was planning to make a comedy film and had lined up actors from a local amateur dramatic society.

Cowley Girls’ Grammar School was advertising in the Guardian on the 7th for a Head of Geography. The headmistress then was Miss E. Jackson and in 1970 the boys and girls schools were set to become comprehensives.

Plans for the first intensive campaign against TV licence dodging in St Helens were outlined in the Liverpool Echo on the 7th.

The GPO believed up to 25,000 households in St Helens, Widnes, Warrington and Runcorn had a television and / or radio but had not taken out a licence.

Initially an enquiry form would be despatched to these houses and then the television detector vans would come calling.

The GPO said they were expecting a dramatic increase in the number of new licences that would be taken out and post offices had been given extra supplies.

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‘St Helens 50 Years Ago This Week’ is written and researched by Stephen Wainwright.

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