John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Chris Woodhead, September 1961

Early Days1965, the year that changed my life
Chris begins to suffer from fits

Chris, undated (mid-1960s)

September 1961
 1. The school summer holidays in 1961 were a bad time as regards the fits Chris had started to have. He should have started at Baines’ Grammar School in Poulton-le-Fylde in September 1961, but he didn’t; he was poorly and was kept off school.

Baines' Grammar School, High Cross Road, Poulton-le-Fylde, is a 6-km. (3¾ mi.) bus ride from where Chris lived in Thornton.
 2. Chris would go with his Dad to where he worked. Both of Chris’s parents went out to work; his Mum worked at Stead and Simpson’s, the shoe shop in Lord Street, Fleetwood; and his Dad worked on the docks. So Chris went along with his Dad most days.

"His Dad… his Mum" (1972)
 His Dad ran a small office, with just him and his assistant there. He was in charge, and so it was all right for him to take Chris there with him. There were two rooms, the one where he worked, with the typist/secretary, and there was another small room where Chris could go and keep himself amused by drawing and such things. It was like an office within an office, a square room separated from the rest of the office by a wood-and-glass partition. Presumably, it was for Chris’s Dad to see people in private, if he wanted to.
 Chris’s Dad was the Ministry of Transport marine surveyor at Fleetwood docks. He was responsible to his superiors in Liverpool — the next step up from Chris’s Dad’s grade was that of his boss in Liverpool — and people from Liverpool used to come up from time to time. Fleetwood was only a smallish port, and had but one marine surveyor. He was responsible for carrying out various surveys on the ships, and checking fire appliances and life-saving equipment and that kind of thing. And as we have seen, he was his own boss most of the time, so he was free to take Chris with him.

 3. Chris spent quite a bit of time wandering round the docks. His Dad used to take him on board ships when he did surveys; nobody seemed to mind. And he got to know people on the docks — people whom his Dad knew, whom he himself would then see as he walked around looking at the ships.
 He saw that each ship had its own company’s distinctive livery on the funnel, and had its name and registration number on the side. So Chris became very familiar with the ships, and the different companies and the different funnels. He had his favourites; the Margaret Wicks was his favourite trawler: “FD 265”. She had an orangey red funnel with a black top. Chris can’t remember seeing any other trawlers with the same livery, so she must have been the only one. She was an oil-fired steam-ship. Oil- and coal-burning trawlers had long, tall funnels.
"Margaret Wicks FD265"
It saddened Chris to learn only two years later that in the early hours of 8th December 1963 the Margaret Wicks ran aground on rocks at Islay. Although she was subsequently refloated, she was declared a “constructive total loss” and sold to be broken up.
 He got to know all the vessels of Wyre Trawlers Ltd.: the Wyre Mariner, the Wyre Gleaner, the Wyre Revenge… They had black funnels with two white stripes on them. The company had some diesel boats; the Wyre Revenge and her sister ship were diesel motor-trawlers. But the others — the Wyre Gleaner and the Wyre Mariner — were tall-funnelled coal- or oil-fired steam-trawlers.
"Wyre Mariner"
"Wyre Gleaner"
"Wyre Revenge"
 Perhaps because school classmate Timothy Leech had told Chris about his Dad’s being a “bo’s’n” on a trawler, Chris would have noticed the boat George Leech sailed on, the green hulled Broadwater — a “nice little boat”, as Chris later commented. According to Chris’s Dad, whose job it was to know about such things, she bristled with fire extinguishers, far exceeding the legal requirements.
Chris goes to Devonshire Road hospital

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