Wednesday, 3 October 2012
1975 Police reported one of the busiest Hogmanys on record in Corby. Worst incident they had to deal with concerned a brawl which ended with two shop windows in the town centre being smashed, resulting with several people having to spend the night in police cells. One did happen to be a yuletide regular, according to Police Constable Taff Skinner. Davy Collins was a bedraggled infamous character who regularly spent the night sleeping on the bus station benches. "Davy would throw a brick through the Co-op window every Christmas or New Year" said Taff, "then wait to be arrested and taken to Bedford nick. Davy liked his Christmas pud as much as the next man! Even if it was porridge! One year when he didn't show up at Bedford, they actually phoned Corby Police Station to see if he was all right! Wanted to know where he was." No stranger to the cells Davy once thanked Corby magistrates who gave him a three month prison sentence when he was charged with malicious damage to a Corby police station window. Inspector H.Corner reported that Collins had entered the police station foyer at 11.20pm on Friday night and had laid down on the floor. He was thrown out after refusing to leave but returned. After being ejected a second time he was seen to kick in a large plate glass window. Inspector Corner added that Collins had a 'formidable record' including convictions for begging, larceny and drunkeness. Pleading guilty to damaging the window- worth £10-when Chairman Mr W.T.Montgomery told him "You'll have to spend the next three months in prison" Collins said; "Thank you, sir, thank you very much." Corby's New Year shenanigans was received with curled eyebrows around the rest of the county. Nancy Wilkins, a judge at Northampton Crown Court, condemned Corby as a town 'not conducive to respectable living,' adding, 'Corby has the biggest beer consumption in the country I am told.' This assumption followed the prosecution of a man for assault on another youth in the town and who had argued, "I don't feel I've had a good time unless I've spent half my weeks wages in a night's drinking," He was fined £110 for his trouble. In defense of the town, Civic leader Kelvin Glendenning retorted; "I can't believe Miss Wilkins has any first hand knowledge of Corby. The council would be delighted to welcome Miss Wilkins as a guest for a day, and let her judge for herself what the town has to offer. Corby has the best living environment in the county in terms of quality housing, cultural and recreational facilities. No other town in the country can match our modern town centre, festival halls complex and sport amenities." Which was slightly missing the point of Miss Wilkin's observation. Kelvin's attempts to promote Corby as 'a town with a friendly community' was dealt a further blow, which undoubtedly didn't escape the reverent judge, when another Corby man was charged with assault, after dragging his wife down the stairs by her legs when she refused to leave after he'd told her to pack her bags. Apparently the gentleman had returned home from an afternoon session in the Pluto pub and couldn't believe his eyes when he saw his wife sitting nonchalantly with her legs over the arm of an armchair watching Take The High Road on the television. A neighbour in Leighton Road bore witness to the events; "I heard him bawl 'You still here?' and then obviously looking at the tele, he yelled 'that's what you can do..take the high road!' The row rapidly escalated and I called the police cus' I thought he was going to kill her!" On top of the assault charge, the man was also arrested for foul and abusive language when he told the police politely 'to do wan!' A venue that gained almost legendary status as the years rolled by was at the Corby Rugby Club, situated near the top of Rockingham Hill on the outskirts of Corby. Rugby player Alan Wetherell brought up the idea of staging a weekly disco in the hall to raise more revenue at a meeting; and it exceeded all his expectations. Taking on the job of resident DJ and calling it the Touchdown Disco, punters were flocking to the outpost in their hundreds by the end of the summer. Such was the demand, Alan was soon operating three discos a week at the club and calling in budding DJ's Ian Bateman, Jim 'Gillie'Gilfillan and Terry Woolmer to help share the workload. The disco nights proved to be a boon to the local taxi companies as well, a stream of black cabs racing back and forth up Rockingham Road was soon a familiar sight. Many having to be turned away by doormen Clive Smith, Willy Gray, Ricky Wade, Alan Clarkson and Joel Jacklin taking it in turns to apologise and turn them around. The mayhem, particularly on the Saturday Night, was described best by Ricky or as he was better known, Wad. Sadly no longer with us, Wad was a well known character, working the doors at various clubs around town, a very likeable feller with a smile that spread right across his face. "He was also a very handy feller to have working on the door with you!" Clive confessed. 'The Highland Gathering Weekend' was always a nightmare" Ricky Wade once said Clive; "He was right, a committee member, Dick Tee-Boon came down to the door one night to tell us that people were climbing up ladders to get onto the balcony at the back of the club, because we'd had to call a halt to letting people into the disco at the front. I couldn't believe my eyes when I followed Dick up. It was like the Alamo! Moreoften then not on this weekend a fight would break out between rival pub 'gangs' from the Phoenix and Kingfisher who were well tanked up from drinking all day at the Gathering on the Welfare grounds. One memorable battle took place on the rugby pitch with the guys fighting with cricket stumps, bats and whatever they managed to get hold of from the club. Crazy thing was, most of them were mates, they'd be drinking together and having the crack the next day!" Wad's prowess was in evidence the night a group of Jocks down from Glasgow for the weekend turned up and were refused entry. Willy Gray; "They looked like trouble and there was no way we were going to let them in, until Wad took sympathy with them and talked the rest of us into admitting them. After a bit of debate, they were let in with the provisio that if there was any trouble, they'd be out on their ear quick style. Sure enough. Twenty minutes later, one of the regular punters, a young lad with his girlfriend came bursting through the double doors from the disco, crying and telling that he'd been threatened by these mad drunken Jocks, who were also trying to chat his girl up. We looked at each other, sighed and three of us went in to get the guys out. Fair enough, they came no bother, but then started mouthing off and making threats and wanting to have a scrap in the corridor. Before you could blink an eye, Wad took matters into his own hands, and flattened the three of them! One by one they went down. Amazing! Along with Clive and Big Alan, we dragged the three of them out and threw them into the car park. As they picked themselves up, screaming and threatening retribution, their other mate turned up, he'd been in the toliet while all this was happening. 'Where's my effing mates!' he shouted. To which Wad duly obliged by decking him too. He was also tossed out and the four of them went way bruised and battered, claiming they were coming back to get us all the following night! That was Waddy, never seen anyone so fast with his fists." Riding on the success of the discos, Alan Wetherell set about organising a 'marque' gig on the club grounds in September along with club members Aivors Zakss, Roger Clark and Rob Purdie. It would feature a host of local bands as well as the Touchdown disco. Purdie's friend Franny Lagan was also called in to help with the promotion. Franny was on his way to becoming one of the town's leading entrepreneurs over the next decade, organising gigs and trips to festivals all over the land.set about. Born in Coleraine N. Ireland, 1952, Fran left School (Pope John) in 1969 with 4 O Levels. "Didn't have a clue what I wanted to do. I was supposed to be doing my A levels but I just got more and more bored with it which didn't go unnoticed by my teacher. That's when I decided to jack it in and look for a job. I wasn’t interested in being a welder or fitter, more a white collar worker. I tried for three, one of which was a trainee manager at the Fine Fare supermarket in Corporation Street. Somehow though that didn't feel right, I thought I’d probably spend half my time as a glorified shelf stacker. I ended up taking an office job at the Cold Draw Plant (CDS), in the Tubeworks. That was a good little number and became even better when my gaffer, a Welshman called Ron Lyden, called me and said 'I've got just the job for you.' He realised I was good with figures and thus gave me a job sorting out percentage sheets and such things. It also gave me plenty of free time and inadvertently led me to a career path I hadn't visualised. Coming up to that Christmas, Ron asked me if I would be interested in organizing a festive bash for everybody in the CDS. I thought I’d give it a go and the first person I contacted was my friend Tom Howarth who apart from being a DJ with his own disco was also involved with the Hamblin’s set up at Corby Bowl, which obviously incorporated the Exclusive Club, the forerunner to Shafts. 'Do you think you’ll get enough people to fill the club?' Tom asked. I was confident, 'watch me,' I told him. Back at work, I began to phone up everybody I knew who worked in offices all around the works. Tickets were a modest 10p and leading up to the big night, the phone was red hot as more and more people heard about it and wanted to go. It was a great success and sparked off my interest in an entrepreneurial career. I was asked to help in the ‘marquee’ gig at Corby Rugby Club by Rob Purdie and Aivors Zakss, both keen and enthusiastic members of the rugby team. Rob asked me if I could sort the tickets out, which were priced at the princely sum of 30p, and I printed them off on a cheap printing machine, which with hindsight, anybody could have copied with ease. Rob couldn't believe it when I showed them to him. 'Is that it!’ They were good enough though. The marquee itself was organised by the club's entertainments chief, a guy called Roger Clark. No idea how much or how, but apparently he was known affectionately at the club as Roger the Dodger!" A fact that club captain Bob Smith concurred with. "We also called him the silver fox. He'd done the rounds at Rugby Clubs, involved at various times with Kettering RFC and Kibworth RFC, as a player and entertainments manager. An effervescent character, Roger liked to emit he was in control and at the hub of all that was happening off the pitch. Sadly, for whatever reason, he left the club under a cloud." Searching for a good title for the Bank Holiday gig, Franny later admitted he stole the name, Midsummer from the Wembley Stadium gig of same name featuring the Beach Boys and Elton John on June 21st. "Though the local bands, Stutz, Auction, Harry Garter and so on could hardly replicate Elton John and the Beach Boys, interest in the gig intensified once we got our teeth into the promotion. I spent days handing out flyers to everybody that happened to be passing through the Town Centre. 'Give one to your friends, take them to work', that was besides me telephoning everybody at work and sticking flyers all round the Works and the town. It worked. I sold around 330 on my own. They reckon that nearly a thousand turned up!" Corby RFC Lock Forward Bob Smith helped out on the day; "What I remember is that we worked our socks off behind the bar, it was bedlam. Tenants lager, we sold them by the sleeve, 24 cans in a pack. It was crazy! Next day during the clean up, the hedgerow along Rocky Road was awash with empty yellow and blue cans, millions of them!" Franny; "There was only one scuffle as well. Surprising for Corby! Danny Quinn, a well known likable character with a disposition for enjoying a scrap, stuck one on a guy called Dave Green for no apparent reason. Dave was clean out but nobody made a fuss about it. That was Danny! Thing was he always had a smile on his face, though that was the sign to beware of him I guess!" The 'Marquee' afternoon was recalled by singer Pat Lavin of Harry Garter's Elastic Band; "It was a hot day and I'd suggested to the rest of the band that we should wear shorts, just to be different. We decided to start with Ian Hunter's Once Bitten Twice Shy and I walked up to the mic and said 'Ello!' which was Hunter's trademark. The crowd, who'd been drinking all afternoon, instantly pelted us with beer cans and took the piss! We had to take cover. It was all a bit of fun, nobody got hurt. In fact, everybody thought it was a great laugh! I dived off the stage at the end, right into the crowd. Years later everybody was doing it!" Pat and his band were often courting controversy and it was this summer they were in the headlines again following a Lodge Park School Leaving Party. Headmaster Mr Rumbelow thought they were disgusting, lurid and promoting sex, too explicit. Years later Pat met a girl up the town centre who reminded him about the dance, 'I remember that night,' she said, 'it was brilliant!' Pat;" We played regularly at The Flying Fox in Lutterworth, a bikers pub, a right rough joint. This was a gig arranged by our keyboard player Pete Dyne. They thought we were a right bunch of queers! We had all the mod gear on. They always gave us a good shout though." Pete, who was a self confessed 'rocker'; "I was right into that scene, had the bike, the gear. The Fox was great hang out which our gang used to frequent regular. I booked the band in and Pat nearly wet himself when he saw the punters. There was a hall up these narrow stairs and once you were up there, there was no other way out. Never thought of the fire hazard when I think about it! A ritual these Lutterworth rockers had was at the end of the night they formed a circle, like a huddle, and started jumping up and down on the dancefloor, which would vibrate and looked as if it was ready to cave in at any moment. Course it never did but the the first time you experienced it, it was pretty scary. The people in the bar underneath must have been sceptical though!" Harry Garter and His Elastic Band apart, a report by the Clothing Manufacturers Federation of Britain was scathing on the attitudes of the male half of the population. 'Our sloppy dress style make the British the worst dressed men in Europe. The British male once prided himself as the Peacock of Europe but is now falling way behind his rivals in the world sartorial league.' The extensive Federation report concluded that on average, a British male spent 74p a week on suits, jackets, slacks etc. whilst the average German spent six times as much and as a result, 'is usually immaculately turned out.' Which probably explains the decline and disappearance of so many men's outfitters from the High Street down the years. In Corby, the Town Centre once boasted an array of shops, which included George Allan, Hepworths, Burtons, Abingtons, Roadnights, Millets and John Collier. Only Allan's remained into the millennium. If this was typical of the average urban town, the Federation could have had a point! Bip Wetherell wasted no time in getting stuck into attempting to return the Open Hearth to it's former glories; introducing 'progressive discos', Sunday dinnertime 'jam sessions', live rock entertainment featuring the top local bands, Bumper, Scenery, Chrome Molly, Honey. 'Its all happening at the Open Hearth' Bip promised. Bip also formed new 'Pool' and 'Darts' teams in the Bar, later admitting; "I didn't consider dominoes teams; I wasn't old enough!" Bip's forte was undoubtedly in the entreprenurial business and the Hearth would prove to be just a stepping stone on his career path. When Jim Tibbs announced he was leaving the Nags Head in the village, Bip was quickly installed to carry on Tibb's good work in the disco and cabaret field. Even if his wife Elaine had her reservations. The Nags was one of the oldest pubs in town, and in the direct flight path of the winds and smoke drifting across from the steelworks. Elaine;" Life was a nightmare, with two young children there was always baskets full of washing and the only place I could hang it out was on top of the building. I was in despair when the clothes would end up dirtier than when I put them in the washing machine." Bip and Elaine remained in the Nags for a further five years before moving on to more adventures with a resurrection of the Stewarts and Lloyds Welfare Club in the early 80's which had fell into decline with the steelworks closure. But that's another story.