1965, the year that changed my life
The adventure begins (10.30pm–2.30am)
Chris wrote in 1967: "The next day, we enquired again at Granada, and found out where Sharon was, and as instructed caught a number 81 bus from Albert Square in the centre of Manchester. Within a quarter of an hour, we found ourselves standing on Chorlton Road, outside Sharon. Then our hearts sank, because it was Thursday afternoon, and the only Divine Healing service was on a Sunday at 6.30 p.m. Pastor Williams’ phone number was written up outside the church. We rang him up and he invited us round to his house at 4.30 p.m. When we arrived he greeted us at the front door, and took us into the front room. We explained why we had come, and he said that he would pray for me. I stood up and believed as Pastor Williams laid his hands on my head. He prayed in the Name of Jesus that the affliction would leave me, and instantly something came over me, and I was unable to stand. I fell to the ground in a flood of tears not being able to do a thing, but instantly realising that Jesus had touched me and that I was healed. We left the house feeling overjoyed, and as it was late in the afternoon spent another night in the flat at Salford."
Thursday 14th January 1965
1. Early in the morning — perhaps 5am — Tom got up to do his bread delivery round. Later, we awoke again — although we didn’t sleep well and were stiff — to the sounds of gentle murmurs and sighs from the two remaining persons in the bed. We gestured to each other in mime about it, with amused amazement, and kept taking crafty peeps over the foot of the bed.
They eventually got up, and so did we. We had slept in our clothes, and I suspect that we didn’t take them off to wash, either.
2. My Mum has a vague memory of being in Thornton police station, and of the police taking my note off her. My Dad suggests that this occurred when they were reporting me missing. If this is, in fact, what happened, and the police didn’t visit and take the letter off my Mum at home, then this visit to the police station may have occurred on the Thursday.
My Mum wanted the note back, but she didn’t have the courage to ask them for it. She thought they might need it for evidence, or something.
3. After breakfast, we walked into Manchester. They had told us which bus we could catch to get back into town, but we walked anyway. We were a little apprehensive every time we saw a policeman, but none of them noticed us.
4. So, we went into town, found a post office, and phoned “Carrot” (my next-door neighbour, Mr. Harrop). At home none of us had a telephone, but I knew that the Harrops were on the phone. We wanted to let our parents know that we were all right, but we didn’t know “Carrot’s” number so we went to the post office to find the Preston Area telephone directory there. The number has stuck in my mind: it was OFY-135 3317.
5. Since my family was not on the phone, I was unaccustomed to using them, and the thought of ringing up “Carrot” filled me with dread. However, this time I couldn’t get out of it; I couldn’t pass the task on to Chris.
It was not long after Subscriber Trunk Dialling (STD) had been introduced by GPO Telephones; in Thornton the telephone boxes still had the old-style black telephones where you had to insert four old pennies (each worth about 0.42 new pence) before you could dial, and then you could only call local numbers; so-called “trunk” calls had to be connected by the operator. You put the money in, and when the call was answered you pressed “Button A”. If the call failed, you could press “Button B” round the side of the coin box to get your money back. In Manchester the new-style grey STD telephones had been installed; with these you dialled, and when you heard a series of rapid pips — “pip-pip-pip-pip-pip-pip-pip-pip” — you pushed one coin in. I noticed with disgust that the minimum charge for these telephones was a “tanner” (sixpence: a small silver coin equal in value to 2.5 new pence) twopence more than the old ones. The call was timed, and when the time was up the pips were heard again and you had to put another coin in if you wanted to continue the call.
6. It was about lunch-time when we got to the post office, and I picked up the phone to ring “Harrop the Carrot”.
“Hello, Mr. Harrop?” I said, heart pounding and voice shaking. “It’s John here. Can you tell my Mum and Dad not to worry, that we’re in a flat in Manchester.”
Then the call was interrupted; probably the “pips” went and I didn’t have another sixpence to put in.
(And of course Mr. and Mrs. Harrop were all agog, wanting to know from my Mum and Dad what it was all about. They didn’t tell the Harrops very much; they didn’t know much about it themselves, anyway. “What are they doing in a flat?” they all thought. “Where have they got money from to rent a flat?”)
7. We went our way from the post office. We probably used the toilet in the gardens in the square at Piccadilly; at any rate, we noticed the statue of Queen Victoria which presides over the public conveniences there, because I exclaimed, “Oh, look: Jones’s Grandma!” (One would have to take this to mean Jones’s paternal grandmother; his grandmother on his mother’s side, on Mums’s side, who lived with them, looked like an old version of Mums and nothing at all like Queen Victoria. Jones came from Manchester, and had in his ancestry, so he told Chris, a trace of aristocracy; so it would have been entirely appropriate for the Mancunians to have honoured such a noble family with a statue of one of its eminent ancestors.)transport café opposite Piccadilly railway station, and had our dinner there.
9. We went back to the Granada studios, and this time Chris got the information we wanted; the man told him, “Yes, it’s in the district of Hulme,” and he told him which bus to get: “the No. 81 from Albert Square.” He said that the bus stopped outside the church, and that the conductor (or perhaps “guard”, as they were called in Manchester) would know where to put us off.City Hall, in Princess Street. A red double-deck bus, with the Manchester coat-of-arms and the motto “Concilio et labore” on its side, and with the words “City of Manchester” written underneath, came; and we asked the conductor if it went to Sharon. He said, “No, you want to be on the other side — bus to Southern Cemetery.”
We crossed over, and as we waited I sat in a rectangular recess (which we called “the hole”) in the marble, aluminium and glass-faced building society office — was it at that time the Burnley Building Society? — and waited for the correct bus.
When it came, we asked the conductor: “Can you tell us where it is?”
“Oh, the Sh’ron?” He pronounced it with the stress on the last syllable. “You want to be off at Cornbrook Street. It’s just over the road; you can’t miss it.”
11. The bus went along Stretford Road and turned into Chorlton Road. We got off opposite the high-rise flats to the left of us, just before Sharon, which was on the next street corner to our right on the other side of Chorlton Road. It was a modest-sized church building, its stone façade blackened by city grime.
The telephone number of Pastors Barratt and Williams was also given on the notice board, and Chris was again elected to use the telephone box which was on the opposite corner, across Chorlton Road, outside a second-hand shop.
13. The call was answered by Mrs. Williams, who told Chris that although Pastor didn’t usually see enquirers midweek, since we had come so far he would see us for half an hour at half-past four. That was in an hour.Peter couldn’t comment because he hadn’t seen the television programme. After our wandering we walked back along Moss Lane, beside empty shop fronts with broken or boarded-up windows, and wondered whether the Pastor, who on the programme at least once had been able to tell what sickness the person had, even though it was not obvious — whether he was even then “tuning in” on us psychically and was aware of our every move. We felt very nervous indeed.
14. We crossed Brooks’ Bar and carried straight on into Upper Chorlton Road, as directed by Mrs. Williams, at half-past four, and found the address, No.69, some way down on the left: a large, old semidetached house with a bay window at the front and the front door to the right of that. The front door was in an arched recess in the wall, but a glass porch door had been constructed in front of it, more or less flush with the wall.Blackpool to find Sharon; this time, he did not invent an alternative location for our origin. As Pastor Williams nodded sympathetically, I was aware that in fact he had no prior supernatural knowledge of us. When Chris had finished, Pastor explained briefly that he himself had no power to heal, but that he would pray for Chris. “Is that all he’s going to do?” I thought. To me, praying was the soulless repetition of words from a book: “Teach us, good Lord, to serve Thee as Thou deservest: to give and not to count the cost…” and so on.
16. What happened next was incomparably different from these notions that I had.
Pastor Williams told Peter and me to kneel and pray for Chris. So we knelt on the floor in front of the settee, and Chris stood up and stepped over towards Pastor Williams, who was by now on his feet. As Chris moved across towards him, Pastor Williams turned so that his back was to the fire.
I remember that as I knelt there with my hands clasped in front of me, I was whispering, “God heal Chris. God heal Chris.” Pastor placed his hands on Chris’s head — I imagine, one on his forehead and the other behind his head — and began to pray. His voice rose in a crescendo as he commanded the “evil spirit of epilepsy” to depart in the name of Jesus. Immediately, Chris fell to the floor and wept in sobs. I started in alarm because of Pastor Williams’s sudden shouting and what followed.
If Pastor Williams was, in fact, “the rough one who pushed them down”, there was no pushing involved in Chris’s case. This is the marvellous thing about it, that Chris just found himself on the floor. The falling started from below, rather than from above: Chris felt his legs give way, or had a feeling of being unable to stand. It wasn’t being pushed, or even what one could conceive as being the source of the power, that made him fall; Chris didn’t feel anything knock him back from his head, although that is where Pastor Williams had his hands. He felt his legs give way — that was the sensation. His eyes were closed — he didn’t open his eyes — he felt his legs give way, and there he was on the floor. Then he started to cry.
Chris remembers that he tried to get up then. Feeling self-conscious because of what had happened and the fact that he was crying, he felt that he had to stand up. But Pastor Williams crouched down, touched him on the shoulder, and said, “No, don’t try to get up. Don’t fight God’s power. Just stay there for a minute, and just say, ‘Thank you, Lord’, and let him finish what he’s doing.” Peter and I were still on the floor, kneeling in front of the settee.
My chief recollection is of seeing Chris lying there, motionless. He lay on his back in the space between the settee and the armchair, obliquely so that his feet were towards the fireplace and his head towards the door. I thought that he was dead or that there was something wrong with him.
But Pastor Williams took him by the hand and helped him up, and asked him how he felt. I seem to remember Chris putting his hands on his chest and saying something about feeling easier or that a tight feeling or tension inside had gone.
 I thought that he was dead or that there was something wrong with him. But Pastor Williams took him by the hand and helped him up: I sometimes wonder if this recollection of mine was unconsciously influenced by the account of the healing of the epileptic boy in Mark 9:26,27: “And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.” However, my source, Johannine Writings, is quite early; I wrote it in 1969.17. It may have been there, and before he led us upstairs, that Pastor Williams spoke with us and urged Chris not to say that he had healed him, but that “by His stripes I am healed.” I didn’t understand this saying; I associated “stripes” with a sergeant’s stripes. Pastor Williams’s pronunciation of the letter r was strange to our ears; he spoke it with a trill which seemed to come from both the front and the back of his mouth, both alveolar and uvular at the same time. “By the strripes of Jesus Chrrist I am healed,” he said.
 “By his stripes I am healed”: A reference to Isaiah 53:5 (“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed”) or 1 Peter 2:24 (“[Christ,] Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed”).18. Upstairs, in the cosy living-room-cum-kitchen, Mrs. Williams prepared baked beans on toast for us, and we ate gladly. (Whenever my Mum gave the family this for tea I used to complain, but here it was a welcome feast. I later learned that Mrs. Williams gave us baked beans because she had nothing else to give us.)Leeds, Wakefield, Sheffield…”
“Any moment now,” I thought, “he’s going to say, ‘Barnsley’.” (Chris’s form master at Baines’ Grammar School, H. Ellis Tomlinson or “Toss” as he was called by them, was known to lampoon Barnsley; he said things like, “The palm-fringed beaches of sunny Barnsley.” Barnsley thus became a trigger to great mirth between Chris and me.)Doncaster, Barnsley.”
At his mention of Barnsley I had to bite my lip because I couldn’t help smiling. I seem to remember looking over to Chris at this point and seeing my expression mirrored in his face.
Pastor Williams spoke of his being very tired because of so many people coming for prayer since the television programme.
Before he showed us out, he said, “Will you write to me and tell me how you get on, and how things work out when you get home?” He was quite concerned about that. He may have mentioned the possibility of our coming back for a weekend, but it seems more likely that that was done by a later letter.
20. It must have been dark when we left. Chris remembers coming out and thinking, “Everything feels so real! so crystal clear!” All he can liken it to, is having his ears syringed and suddenly hearing things louder or clearer. Everything seemed more vital, more real, as though they had previously been dulled in some way. That was his feeling as we walked: “Things just feel real, somehow different!”
As we went along, we were thrilled and happy and overjoyed, skipping and jumping with inexpressible joy, and said, “We don’t ‘believe’ any more, we know!”
21. What precisely we did next, I don’t remember. We decided that it was now too late to start for home, so we returned to Tom’s flat. But Chris recalls also that we went for a walk around, in Manchester, for he remembers “lighting up” in the doorway of the Marks and Spencer store in the centre of the city.
Tom, presumably, had told us the previous night that if we needed to, we could go back to his place. Just beyond the building where Tom’s flat was situated, there was a grassy plot of waste ground; and when we came back we walked round there to the back of the building, and then we whistled up to the top window to attract Tom’s attention. With enthusiasm we told him of the day’s events, and Tom seemed impressed, because to us there was now no “if” to Chris’s cure. Before we slept, records were played on a portable record player, including one by Peter, Paul and Mary.
 Lighting up: i.e., lighting a cigarette. I remember that when we got home, when I emptied my pockets, there was a cigarette packet; I think it was a pack of 20 Capstan. My Mum looked a bit askance at me: but really, it was no surprise to her; it merely confirmed a suspicion that she already had, that I smoked.We return home
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