Although it was the month of St Valentine, there was little sign of love between Tom Walker, the Regional Officer of the Building Workers union UCATT and the head teacher of Waterhouse High School Brian Nicholson. The saga began when Mr Nicholson contacted the Army as he was involved in developing the railway line at Rudyard and thought that he would use some of the pupils to help re-open the line which has since become a very popular tourism attraction. He contacted the Army, as their expertise was required to clear the area of accumulated rubble. They wrote back to Mr Nicholson informing him that he needed the approval of the relevant trade union before the work could be carried out. The Head teacher wrote and Mr Walker promptly turned him down in acerbic terms “ No doubt the Council would like the Army to complete the D road or build hospitals”. Mr Walker pointed out that there were 200,000 unemployed building workers who needed jobs. The Post and Times produced a front-page editorial attacking Walker. National newspapers then joined in reporting what they perceived as another example of union bullying. Walker was rightly outraged that private correspondence had been leaked to the media and concluded another letter to Nicholson with a furious outburst subsequently reported “ your childish ignorance disgusts me”. It’s probable that there was no exchange of cards between the parties on 14th February.
Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday in 1976 and there was an opportunity for lovers to hasten to the Countryman club at Newtown near Longnor to see Pete Conway serenade the audience. Pete is the father of Robbie Williams who would have been exactly 2 in February 1976. North Staffs in the 70s was an excellent place to see top entertainers. Gloria Gaynor- the Queen of Soul was at Baileys in Hanley following the Fatback Band- the Spanish Hustle was a UK top ten hit in 1976 the previous week. And the Post and Times advertised that Ken Dodd was coming with his Laughter Show to the Grand in early March. No doubt the bleary-eyed audience met the local milkmen on the way home the following morning
The year was an Olympic year the Montreal Olympics started in the summer. The Leek Athletics Club was set up on a snowy February day at Westwood High School, the international runner Roy Fowler was present to put 50 runners through their paces including Mayor Josie Heath. The establishment of the club was enthusiastically received and amongst the hopefuls was 14 year old Andrew Wilton from Longnor a junior cross-country runner. Amongst the first decisions made by the club was to select the clubs colours of green and white and fix up weekly training sessions. Kit could be obtained from Bourne's Sports which had a full page advert in the paper detailing some of the bargains that could be obtained such as a Wilson Brinylon track suit at £6 or training shoes at £3.50 O the joys of wearing brinylon for sport! . The special designed Nike running shoes were still some years off.
It was a memorable time for 13 year old Julia Poyser of Hillswood Avenue, Leek who had won a competition to see a rehearsal of “Blue Peter” in London which starred John Noakes- not forgetting Shep- Lesley Judd and Peter Purves. The programme, which had been going since 1958, had a regular audience of 7 million in the 70s. Julia won a Blue Peter annual- there is no record of a badge in the newspaper report.
One of the iconic films of the 1970s was on show for one night only at the Grand” Badlands” with a very young Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. The 70s, in my opinion, was one of the great decades of cinema