Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Do you remember Feb 1957?



 Earth tremors hit the area on Tuesday 12th February at 3.45 in the afternoon. The force of the quake caused the office of the Post and Times to rock and light fittings swung. A woman in Abbots Road was flung from her chair, passengers on a bus on Blackshaw Moor were shaken and perhaps Fred Bailey of Alder House, Endon experienced the luckiest escape when a 9-foot chimney stack collapsed at the back of the house. No one was injured although Keele University seismic unit recorded the movement of the earth. Students of the geology of the area would not have been surprised, as earth tremors in the area have been recorded since the 16th century. In September 1777 James Boswell the biographer of Doctor Johnson witnessed an earthquake when he stopped in Leek on the way to visit Johnson in Ashbourne. The intensity of the quake led to the congregation of St Edward’s Church running into the streets.

 Leek’s welcomed its only Hungarian refugee who began work as a textile technologist at the Churnet Works. The 38 year old man had escaped into Austria with his two small boys and his wife following the failure of the uprising against occupying Soviet forces the previous October. The Hungarians had suffered much repression since the end of the Second World War with 1 in 3 of the population falling foul of the authorities. The revolt against the Communist regime was bloodily crushed and many fled including the Leek man's family. A local Councillor Gilbert Tatton helped the unnamed man find work and he was looking to bring his family from London to Leek. He was lodging in Beggars Lane.

 The newspaper celebrated the work of the local rural postman. It focused on Fred Ward who was not only a joiner but also a school caretaker, wheelwight, painter and village postman in Meerbrook. Fred who had been doing the job for 24 years was a very fit 64-year-old. He had to be as delivering letters meant a 12-20 mile walk visiting 35 farms daily. Fred was a feature of the landscape and local farmers sang his praises. He carried out other tasks for the farmers, which were not part of his official duties such as passing on messages. One farmer thought that he deserved a medal for his efforts. Fred Ward seemed to be a model of public service, an integral part of the community. Post Office of 2013 take note.

 An intriguing lecture was given by Rev Daniel Rashid the vicar of Onecote at the Swan in Leek. The vicar was unusual, as he was a convert from Islam. He spoke on his former religion to the local Rotary Club giving an in depth analysis of the history of Islam and the role of the prophet Mohammed. We now live in an age of mutual suspicion between Islam and the West and its worth noting that in 1956 the British, French and Israel had been involved in conflict with a Muslim country Egypt. It is interesting why the Vicar abandoned his previous religion and the pressures he might have faced in doing so.

 Ridgways of Longton had a large advert in the Post and Times featuring the makes of motor bike they were selling. The names were a roll call of a great industry. Recall these names and weep at the fate of British manufacturing since the 1950s: - BSA, Triumph, Royal Enfield, Frances Barnett, Vincent, James and Douglas.

 On the subject of 50s icons one was appearing at the Majestic James Dean in “Rebel without a cause”. The film had already legendary status amongst teenagers and the newspaper recognised the mythical impact that the dead film star- he had died 18 months previously- had on the youth of the area