Category Archives: Newspaper reports

We enjoyed this in years gone by

Britain has many ‘traditional’ activities that, in summer or harvest time, bring all members of the community together for a celebration – a celebration that can go on for the best part of a week or more.  The town where I now live had a reputation for their ‘Feast’ but, I’m afraid, those events seem to have gone absent of late.

The county magazine of 1936-8 tells us of earlier times in the community of the Deepings:

‘The village feast, lasting a week, still survives, and last year was greater than ever, two fields hard by the church being necessary to accommodate the entertainment kings, and people flocked in crowds from neighbouring villages.  A luscious yellow plum retains its name of “The Feast” plum, being ripe at this time, and “duck and green peas” is the time-honoured dish of the old “Deepingers” who rejoice at the homecoming of their sons and daughters.’

There is an interesting point in connection with this popular event, for although St. James’ Day is July 26th, “Feast Sunday” is the second Sunday in August.

The answer lay in the change made in the calendar in 1752 when the English date was 11 days behind the continent, but the residents did not alter their feast.  The Parish Constables’ Book settles the query. In 1751 we read “July 3, For watching at Deep Feast 2-0” and in 1752 “Aug. 13 Paid for ale watching 2 days at Feast, 3-3.” I can only assume that these two sums are shillings & pence and not pounds.

Just tagging on for all of this we have the ‘Court of Piepowder’ – a court of justice that was formerly held at fairs to deal with disputes between buyers and sellers.  The literal meaning is ‘wayfarer’s court’ – piepowder comes from the French ‘pied-poudreux’ meaning ‘dusty-footed’ or ‘vagabond’

The village attraction was renewed in 1945 and boasted not only a local plum, ready at this time of year, but also a local duck-and-green-peas dish.  Both were a welcome change from the stuffed chine mentioned at most other village feasts!  Ale must also have been plentiful as an undisclosed fee was paid for ale-watching!

Unfortunately this whole source of enjoyment ceased quite a few years ago and, although there are many activities for the community, I doubt if we will see the like of this again.

A Parliamentarian error?

I know that in this year the 14th July is on today – Friday.  However – amongst the bits and pieces I have gathered and horded over the years, I’ve discovered this fascinating sequence of comments that were published on Saturday 14th July 1990. The comments quoted were obviously made on previous days, but it was this day that a newspaper – probably The Independent – put them all together:

Nicholas Ridley – the then Trade & Industry Secretary – on German influence on the European Commission:  ‘I am not against giving up sovereignty in principle, but not to this lot. You might just as well give it to Adolph Hitler, frankly.’

Nicholas Ridley – when this remark was reported: ‘This time I’ve really gone and done it.’

Jessica Ridley: ‘My father is not all that important. I mean, he’s not the Prime Minister or anything, is he?’

An unknown senior Conservative on Ridley’s comments: ‘It’s the whisky and the loaded revolver for him.’

Saturday 22nd May 1954 – and Wembley Stadium is overflowing

It had been on Tuesday 23rd February 1954 that the American evangelist Billy Graham arrived at Southampton for the start of his first British religious campaign.  It was not an ideal arrival as he found himself in the middle of a storm about his political intentions and facing a press that was almost unanimously hostile.  Three months later when he departed, British newspapers were lavishing praise on the tall blond evangelist and a staggering 1,300,000 people had attended his meetings.

For six nights a week from March through to May, Billy Graham drew capacity audiences at the Harringay Arena.  At the start the arena seating had been increased to around 12,000 but he was so popular that an ‘overflow’ room was added so that another 1,000 people could hear the services.

As the campaign grew in success Billy Graham’s critics faded quietly away.  Originally the Bishop of Barking had been one of the few Anglican ministers to give Billy’s crusade his complete support.  By now the Archbishop of Canterbury had become interested and promised to speak at Billy’s closing rally at Wembley Stadium.  And they were right. On Saturday evening, 22nd May 1954 Wembley Stadium was filled to overflowing with around 120,000 people, some of them spilling out on to the grass. So great had been the number who wanted to be there that an extra afternoon rally was arranged at White City, attracting a further 65,000.

When the red-top Sunday papers feature religion, it is generally for the wrong reasons. But that was not the case over 60 years ago on Sunday 23rd May 1954. “Britain’s biggest religious meeting of all time” screamed the News of the World on its front page. “Billy Graham – Amazing Finale” echoed The People, adding: “Drama at Wembley: 10,000 converts surge forward in the rain.”

The two meetings were the culmination of the 12-week Greater London Crusade, during which, every night, thousands filled the 11,400-seat Harringay Arena, in north London, to hear the American evangelist.  When all the numbers were counted, it was estimated that attendances had exceeded 1.5 million, and that 38,000 people – nearly two-thirds of them under 18 – responded to the invitation to come forward at the close of the message.

A walk round the streets can do you good.

As a youngster Tim had been a loner – partly by choice and partly because of circumstance. Dad had always seemed to be changing jobs – changes that caused his son to be continually changing schools. He coped very well as a loner. On leaving school he went to Technical College to learn extra skills and from there earned a place at University. It was not one of the top ones – Oxford, Cambridge and the like were beyond him – but it was a pretty good one.

Today was the first time that Tim Peterson had been back in this University town since he had graduated. In those long gone days his life had been beer in the pubs by the river, rowing with the girls on the river and late-night combinations of beer, girls and a trad-jazz band of some quality in the bar close by the river. Oh, he had studied as well and had obtained a reasonable 2:1 at the end of it all.

He had arrived late yesterday, checked into the hotel, sampled the mini-bar contents and then fallen asleep.

His alarm told him it was eight o’clock already – and reminded him why he was there. He had a 10 o’clock appointment with the local college selection board for a teaching post there. Julie, his wife, had seen the advertisement in the Sunday paper and had convinced him that it was a post that fitted him to a tee. He wasn’t so sure but he had humoured her by applying. The college, much to his surprise, had invited him for interview – and here he was. Not only that – he was determined to make a good case for the powers-that-be to hire him.

To be honest – he could not really care less about it, but Julie did. She was getting fed up with his frequent changes of jobs. It was not too bad while she was working as well – between them they had a more than adequate income for their needs. Now things were changing. Julie was six months pregnant and it was time Tim got himself a stable job; one of security, stability, and a decent income. Today was the day he was out to prove that he had what it took. Julie deserved it.

A church clock struck twelve noon as Tim stood outside the college gates. He was disgusted, disappointed and extremely angry – and that was an understatement. The optimism, ambition and determination he had felt when he had left home were all gone. The dismissive interview had destroyed all that. He had forced himself to believe that this opportunity would make a fresh start for him and Julie and their soon-to-be little one. Now it was crushed; he was crushed; he had let Julie and himself down. He could blame the ‘interrogation board’ but they were just doing their job, even if it seemed a bit one sided.

He felt that it was him – Tim the failure again. He walked across to the taxi rank – ‘Station please’ he said as the driver opened the door.

When he reached the station despondency, fear, self-loathing hit him. It was made worse by his mobile ringing. It was probably Julie. He didn’t answer it. How could he ‘face’ her? He had failed.

When the call had ended he played it back. It was Julie. ‘Hello Tim; just wondering how things went. Give me a call when you pick this up. I love you – and little one has just wriggled in my tummy. Bye.’

Tim turned the mobile off; put it in his overnight bag and put the bag in one of the security boxes at the station. He just couldn’t face going home just yet.

He wandered out of the station and meandered along a street he hadn’t seen for years. West Street had changed in many ways since he had seen it last. There was a lot more traffic for one, but it was still recognisable in others. It was certainly more appropriate to his feelings than a stroll through the ancient colleges of the city centre. As he walked, the ‘feel’ of the street began to merge into his mood. He became aware of the tattooists, the bicycle repair shop, an Asian general store and a couple of Chinese restaurants. He stopped and looked at the low-cost furniture shop’s display and thought of the conversation he had with Julie about moving and refurnishing when little-one arrived. There were estate agents – no need of those now, they wouldn’t be moving to this town after this morning’s debacle.

He walked on to a road junction. Across the road was ‘The Blue Boar’ – a sleazy looking pub that told all and sundry that they were ‘open all day’. It didn’t look much like the pub he would normally frequent – but he needed a drink. To his left and right was a narrower – much less busy –street. The one to his left headed to ‘who knows where’. To his right was a street of drab looking houses. Tim forgot about the ‘Blue Boar’ across the road, and his plan to drown his sorrows, and turned up the street of those drab houses. They matched his feelings, so he thought he would join them.

He hadn’t walked far when he began to feel at home – not that it was anything like his home with Julie. This street had a ‘feel’ that suited his present mind-set – depressed, frustrated, yet now becoming determined.   All the houses opened straight on to a narrow pavement no more than a single stride wide. He walked on, then, without warning, the pavement did widened. A low wall filled the gap and behind that was a single cottage with grass that needed cutting and some shrubs that had seen younger days. The building was something tangible, cosy in its’ own right yet seemingly unoccupied and lonely; a house saying ‘you’re welcome here, I know how you feel’ to Tim.

Tim stood and looked – something in the back of his mind was trying to get out. Something was beginning to establish itself when an aged man stood behind the window – staring at him. Before Tim could react the man had thrown open the window and shouted angrily in a dialect Tim didn’t recognise. He didn’t need to know what was being said – it was very clear that he was not welcome standing and staring just there. Tim mouthed a silent ‘sorry’ and moved on. The man reminded him of his grandfather who didn’t like people ‘gorping’ at him either.

It also brought back the interview he had attended that morning. The interviewers had not really wanted him. Tim was convinced that they knew the one that they wanted from the beginning. For them Tim – and probably one or two others – was ‘cannon fodder’. They were just going through the motions to make it look legit.

This street – strangely devoid of traffic – was taking hold of him. Was it showing the same depression that he felt? Was it in need of a ‘pick-me-up’ to bring it back to life? Tim mumbled ‘I know how you feel’. He walked on a short way then saw a welcome sign. ‘The King’s Arms’ it said. Tim still wanted a drink and went in. The place was empty apart for a middle-aged woman behind the bar – and she seemed to have the same amount of drive and humour as Tim felt – ZERO. He looked around – the place had seen better days and could do with a clean. He settled for a bottled beer and a bag of crisps. The woman served him then turned her back – she obviously did not want to talk. Tim drank his beer straight from the bottle, finished off his crisps and was just leaving as half a dozen men pushed in. They were obviously regulars as the woman started pulling beer as they walked in.

Outside the pub Tim looked at his watch. He should retrace his steps and get back to the station and his journey home but something in his mind told him – ‘not yet – walk a little further’. He looked again at his watch – ‘ten minutes more he said to himself’ then I’ll head back.

Twenty yards or so from the pub there was a road joining from the right. Sandison Street – a new name as far as he could recall from his past time here – looked like it should head back to the railway station. Tim turned into it. He hadn’t gone far when he saw a house that was so different from everything thing else he had seen.

It stood back a little from the road – there looked as if one or two cars could park there – and had been spruced up. The large window facing the road did not have a domestic look about it.   Moving a little closer Tim could see that interior was a workshop – a workshop with a very cluttered bench inside. It may be surrounded on either side by houses, and behind the workshop there may be a house as well – but in front it presented itself as ‘Peter Barker – Bow Maker’. Tim went closer. The workspace was crowded but not scruffy – and the bows were very obviously not for shooting arrows. Lying on a table were five musical bows for strung instruments. On the door hung a handwritten sign ‘Back soon’.

Tim stood there. Hadn’t there been a Peter Barker at his time at the Uni? Hadn’t he been a musician? ‘It can’t be the same guy can it’ Tim thought. With a shrug he looked at his watch and walked on.

The road turned to the left – it wasn’t heading to the station it seemed so Tim turned round and began retracing his steps.

The ‘Back soon’ sign on the door had gone and Tim paused and looked through the window. A man – presumably Peter Barker – was there, putting on an apron. As Tim watched he selected something from his bench before sitting down with a work-in-process bow on his lap. There was something about him – the way he’d walked; the way he held his head – that reminded Tim of the past. Could this be that fellow student of days gone by? Certainly the Peter Barker he remembered was musical with both voice and instrument. This one looked at ease with his work – work that no doubt he enjoyed. He looked up, saw Tim, smiled and nodded to him, then carried on with his shaping of another bow. Tim smiled, raised his hand in acknowledgement and headed back to catch a train. ‘If only I had more time’ Tim thought.

At the station he retrieved his bags and caught the next train heading homeward. Once on his way, Tim tex’d a simple message to Julie – ‘Been here; done it; taken a walk; home soon. Love you – and little wriggly-one’.

Once home he told Julie the whole story of the day. She cursed the appraisal board; said it was their loss not Tim’s; and then changed the subject to what the ‘little wriggly-one’ had been doing.

Tim decided that the board’s decision was their loss, and that the walk round the streets was his gain. There were more educational establishments around that needed staff – and anyway, there were more important things pending. One of these was only three months or so away.

Over the following days Tim found himself having a more positive attitude than he had enjoyed for ages. The forthcoming ‘little wriggly-one’ was a great boost, and if he started to feel down he recalled watching Peter Barker.

He envied that man’s apparent self-sufficiency and every time he began to feel down Tim looked for ‘the Barker effect’. It worked – but he didn’t tell Julie that; she might get the wrong idea. In any case – when little William Timothy Peterson arrived there would be more pressing needs anyway.

One thing Tim never did tell Julie was that he had toyed with the idea of having their little fellow christened William Timothy Barker Peterson in memory of a day that began a change in his daddy’s view on life.

2,042 words



Strange happening one Christmas in Peterborough

Apologies for the delay in this second story – I have had a battle with certain elements of my computer and Windows 10.  I think I am getting on top of it – so let’s move on:

This second ghostly story is much different to the first one. When I first started the ghost walks this was one of my favourites but it’s quite some time since I told it so here goes: it was on Saturday 9th January 1892 that the Peterborough Advertiser told the story, headlining it as:-

The opening paragraph reads:
‘Alarming nocturnal noises have compelled a family to dessert their home in Mayor’s Walk, Peterborough, have terrified residents on either side of the house, and have filled the neighbourhood with fear.’
So – what was happening? 22 Mayor’s Walk had become vacant and a Mr Rimes [a worker on the railways], his wife and their three boys moved in. Soon after they took in two lodgers – her brother Mr Want, and a brother-in-law Mr Easy, who both also worked on the railways.
The Advertiser picks up the story, recording that they were: ‘much surprised soon after their settlement in this particular quarter of the city at being saluted at various hours of the night with most unwelcome, and unexpected, rappings at the front door and against the partition wall of the building – noises most unmistakable and unwelcome. The boys – so goes the story – experienced midnight intruders, and on one occasion both lodgers and boys were suddenly deprived of their bed coverings.’
Things got worse – on the Friday before Christmas 1891 the noises were so bad that they woke the neighbours on both sides of number 22. One described the sound as ‘a noise like a cannon going off’. Another described it as being ‘like a giant ripping up a kitchen table and hurling it down the stairs’.
Messrs Want and Easy called upon a Mister Arthur Wright – a friend of theirs who also worked on the railway and was sceptical about the whole story they had told him.  He offered to lodge with them for the night to convince himself of the story. That night ‘the house was carefully locked up, windows fastened, and the occupants of the rooms duly regarded.’ The report says that a few minutes after 12 midnight there was a hum along the bedroom passage followed by a fearful smash – described as being like ‘a giant sack of coal being tipped downstairs’! Wright and all the occupants of the rooms rushed out – but there was nothing to see. The whole passage looked as if nothing had happened!

They then all got together in one room but noises continued. Then there was another crash – described by Mr Butler the neighbour as being ‘like the fall of a house into the passage’. Mrs Goode on the other side of the Rimes’ house described it as ‘like the explosion of a great gun which shook the house and all in it. The noise before it was like that when a boy rubs the string of his toy telephone.’

The Advertiser goes on to tell its readers that: ‘On Friday the family left, and are now living in Monument Street, and whilst Mrs Rimes declares she has had no sleep at night for six weeks, Want and Easy give similar testimony, that for nights and nights they have never closed their eyes, and neighbours corroborate this probability of this evidence. The house, it should be mentioned, has no cellar and no attic, and the noise in the passage and rattling of the interior doors seemed altogether disproportionate to the average strength or movement of any human individual.’

So that’s the end of this spooky story. The Rimes had no more ghostly problems and there has been no repeat of the events for any residents since in this Mayor’s Walk cottage. Oh, and by the way – don’t go looking for the house. It’s still there but the number has changed!
If you want more on this story you can read the Advertiser’s full-length report in the library archives and Stuart’s telling of it is on pages 60-62 of his book that’s available at the Museum, various shops in Peterborough and on-line.