St Helens 50 years ago this week

This week’s stories include a wave of Rainford telephone robberies, the end of the BICC strike in Prescot, the Nutgrove Brownies pedlars’ parade, Haydock Lodge mental hospital is given away, the Thatto Heath church that held services in a disused pit, the Parr man’s “publicity gag” for the Black and White Minstrels and Sooty returns to the Theatre Royal.

We begin on the 11th with the announcement that Parkside Colliery in Newton had produced 17,200 tons of coal during the past week.

The mine’s output of 47 cwt per man shift was a national productivity record, 2 cwt higher than the national average.

On the same day the month-long unofficial strike by 2,500 employees at the BICC factory in Prescot ended with a resumption of work.

The workers had been demanding a minimum wage of £15 a week and it was agreed that negotiations would continue based on proposals put forward by the management.

The decision to return to work had been taken two days earlier at a mass meeting held on Prescot Town’s ground.

The majority in favour was only about 100 and after the result was announced, there was angry shouting and some men tore up their union cards.

It was reported on the 11th that the Liverpool Regional Hospital Board had finally accepted Dr John Wootton’s offer to give them Haydock Lodge.

This was described as one of the largest private mental hospitals in Lancashire and twelve months earlier the Board had rejected the 88-year-old’s offer.

However they had now changed their minds, seemingly because a large sum had been spent making improvements to the building.

The hospital on Warrington Road in Haydock stood in 80 acres of woodland and was valued at over £500,000. Dr Wootton had taken over Haydock Lodge 54 years earlier and the Holiday Inn now occupies the site.

Spring might just be around the corner but the bad winter continued in St Helens.

A sudden blizzard struck the town during the evening of the 12th, causing two lorries to collide on the East Lancs. Fortunately nobody was hurt and more snow fell on the following day.

This week Ravenhead Glass launched a new range of whisky tumblers called ‘Diamonds’ that they claimed were comparable to crystal in their brilliance and clarity. A set of six was available for 14s 11d.

Joe Smith appeared in Liverpool Crown Court on the 12th seeking compensation from the National Coal Board for “most painful and alarming injuries”.

The 35-year-old had worked at Parkside Colliery and in 1965 was struck by what he claimed had been a metal bar protruding from an underground locomotive.

As a result Joe – from Pennington Lane in Parr – had to have forty-seven stiches in his groin and he spent twelve days in Providence Hospital.

Last year an article in the St Helens Reporter had stated that Joe had joined the Black and White Minstrels as a stand in for star performer Dai Francis.

However he admitted in court that much of what had been written was an exaggerated “publicity gag” and he had in fact failed the audition. The judge decided the NCB were not liable and dismissed the claim.

Howard Cubitt, the St Helens Director of Education, placed two advertisements in the Guardian on the 13th.

He was looking to recruit an assistant mistress to teach French throughout the Cowley Girls School within its large, modern language department.

Currently a grammar school, Cowley would become a comprehensive in 1970 as part of the St Helens education reorganisation scheme.

Mr Cubitt was also looking for an assistant teacher to teach maths to CSE and O level at the Central Secondary School in College Street.

This was a new school of sorts, as the former Central boys’ and girls’ secondary modern schools had combined last year.

Primary school teacher Kathleen Fletcher gave birth to triplets in the early hours of the 13th. The two boys and a girl were the first threesome to be born at the new maternity wing at Billinge Hospital.

The 26-year-old said she had been told she was expecting triplets in January and when she rang her husband Harry to tell him, he was so stunned he had to ring off to recover!

Read the remainder of  “St Helens 50 Years Ago This Week

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

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