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Chris moves to Thornton

Early Days

February 1961
 1. Having taken his “eleven plus” examination, Chris Woodhead finally went to live in Thornton
[1] in about February 1961. He moved into his parents’ semidetached house at 19 Ascot Road; and he was enrolled at Baines’ Endowed School, starting there probably after the half-term holiday, around February-time.
[1] Chris finally went to live in Thornton: He cannot remember the details of his journey back to Thornton. It was not by car; his Dad did not yet have a car at this time.
Timothy Leech and Alan Fairhurst
 2. So, Chris went into his new class, the top class, and he sat in the corner near the door with Rodney Greenhall. It was a mixed class—of both boys and girls—which Chris had not been used to
[2] in Grimsby, of about thirty to forty children.[3] Two girls would sit at a double desk, or two boys, never a combination of boy and girl; and right in the centre of them, so it seemed, sat Timothy Leech[4] and Alan Fairhurst. For some reason they seemed more prominent than anybody else—probably because Leech was a noisy person.

Timothy Leech and Alan Fairhurst from a photo taken at Baines’ Endowed School in the late 1950s or perhaps even early 1960
[2] A mixed class, which Chris had not been used to: In Grimsby, Chris had attended a junior boys’ school, Yarborough Road School. Now, for the first time since infants’ school, Chris suddenly found himself in a mixed class.

[3] Thirty to forty children: Piecing together the information supplied by Chris on one or two occasions, it would seem that there were desks for thirty-two children: four rows of double desks across and four down:

   x — x  SC— A  x — x  RG—CW

   x — x  TL—AF  x — x  x — x

   x — x  x — x  x — x  x — x

   x — x  RH— x  x — x  x — x

However, the photo of an earlier class, from which the above portraits are taken, has 41 children in it. Perhaps there was another row of desks across somewhere. The identity of the people, whose initials are given, can be ascertained from the text.

[4] We have already met Timothy Leech in the stories Timothy Leech and Trevor Davies.
 3. Let us look at a photograph of Baines’ Endowed School:

Baines’ Endowed School, called for a time, as in this 1979 photo, “Baines School”
 It shows the view from the entrance to the school grounds in Station Road. Directly ahead is the original school building, and to the left can be seen the beginnings of a newer block with very tall windows; it is linked to the old school by a low entrance hall. If we imagine now going along Station Road to the left, before long there is a road—School Road—leading off Station Road; and from further down School Road, we get a view to the right of the newer block across playing fields; it has similar tall windows on that side. It was in a classroom on that side of the newer block, facing School Road, that Chris now found himself. Entrance was gained from a corridor which led from the older school building; the door was in the corner of the classroom.
Rodney Greenhall
 4. Let us now imagine Chris in his new classroom. The desks are arranged in pairs, in straight rows across the room—perhaps four pairs of desks to a row. In the forward right corner is the door; the blackboard is on the same wall as the door, to the left of it. Chris’s desk is the one nearest the door, at the very front of the class. Next to him, to his left, sits Rodney Greenhall, a stocky and tough-looking little lad, who, unbeknown to Chris, used to be in my class at Church Road school. To the left of them, on the extreme side of the room, are the tall windows looking out towards School Road across the field. There is perhaps a line of double desks to the left of Chris and Greenhall before the one where Fairhurst and Leech sit, and then the final line adjacent to the windows. The room is wider than it is long; it is further from the door to the window than from the blackboard to the back of the room. So, in the third line of desks, in the middle somewhere, is where Fairhurst and Leech sit; Fairhurst is nearer to Chris than Leech.

Rodney Greenhall, from the above-mentioned class photo
Susan Coope
 5. It was a mixed class that Chris was in; and they seemed to arrange it so that two boys were seated together, then two girls—two boys, two girls, and so on.
 In front of Fairhurst and Leech, on the front row, there sat a girl called Susan Coope. Chris found her very attractive, and immediately developed a bit of a crush on her. He remembers having quite vivid fantasies about her, right into his teens; he must have seen her around, later on. Her father owned Marsh Farm, a big farm which separated Thornton from Cleveleys; that is where they lived. You could get to it by means of a track or lane across the fields from either Anchorsholme Lane or Victoria Road. Chris remembers that he went there one night with Leech, over the fields from Anchorsholme Lane.
[5] The Coopes used to deliver milk in the area, and indeed Alan Fairhurst’s parents were customers of theirs.[6] After leaving Baines’ Endowed school Susan Coope went on to a school in Blackpool—to a school where not a lot of people, relatively speaking, went to: Montgomery, perhaps; it had a purplish school uniform. Most girls who passed their “eleven plus” went to Fleetwood Grammar School; the boys went either to Fleetwood, or mostly to Baines’ Grammar School.
[5] Chris wrote to me (19 May 2011, 18:02):
I can’t remember whether it was my idea to creep up on the farm, one evening, to spy on her, and that Leech readily agreed to join me, or whether it was all his idea. Anyway, we set off that evening along Anchorsholme Lane, from where we gained access into the fields; we then walked to within a short, but safe, distance from the farm itself. There we lay in the grass for a while, and spied on the place, hoping to see something of Susan Coope. All I can remember is that we saw somebody walk into a bedroom and turn a light on. Whether it was Susan or not, I really can’t remember. Soon after that, we must have felt satisfied with our mission, and gone home.

I suppose it was inevitable that we would say something about our adventure the next day at school. As I recall it, however, Leech was doing most of the bragging, in a rather careless way, and word got back to Susan Coope about it. A day later, she approached us on the subject, and asked us if we would like to repeat the exercise, saying that this time she would meet us. Naturally, we were delighted with this suggestion, and immediately agreed on a time with her.

That evening, we repeated our trek across the fields until we eventually saw her: she was standing on the edge of the fields near to some trees, waving to us and beckoning us to join her. In no time at all, we found ourselves standing next to her in the farmyard. To the left was a kind of outhouse, and she suggested that we all go in there. Following her instructions, Leech and I went in first. Almost immediately, the door closed behind us and we heard the key turn in the lock. There was no other way out, so it was then clear to us that we had just walked into a trap!

Within a matter of minutes, however, the door was reopened, and there stood Mr. Coope holding a plimsoll in his hand (or a pump, as it would have been called in Lancashire). It was now clear that he was going to give us a ticking off. “I understand that you lads have been trespassing on my land!”, he said sternly. We mumbled some kind of apology, to which he replied, “Aye, well don’t let it happen again, otherwise there’ll be trouble, OK?… Right, off you go now!” So, this time, we went home disappointed and with our tails between our legs.

The next day at school, it was Susan Coope who was bragging about her triumph: how she had lured us into a trap, and how scared we looked when we thought her dad was going to give us a leathering with his pump! All this didn’t put me off her, however, and my obsession with her beauty continued well into my teens.
[6] See The Fairhursts and the Leeches.


Susan Coope, from the above-mentioned class photo


(1950’s map taken from Lancashire County Council Maps and Related Information Online)
Andrea
 5A. Next to Susan Coope sat a girl called Andrea, who later went to Fleetwood Grammar School. She lived in Cleveleys Avenue, a long street in Cleveleys which runs from Victoria Road, crosses West Drive, and continues on beyond Cumberland Avenue.

Location of Cleveleys Avenue, with Marsh Farm for reference.
The A585(T), Amounderness Way, had not been constructed at this time.
(Modern map taken from Lancashire County Council Maps and Related Information Online)
Richard Hartley
 5B. So these two sat at the front, in the same line of desks as Fairhurst and Leech. At the back of the classroom, at the next desk but one behind Fairhurst and Leech, sat Richard Hartley, whom Chris got friendly with.

Richard Hartley, from the above-mentioned class photo
Interrogation and “enfriendment”
 6. It seems that Leech lost no time, and interrogated Chris at the earliest opportunity, during the first break. Leech was a nosy sort of person; he wanted to know where Chris came from and what he was doing there.

 7. And after this initial “grilling”, Leech was walking home the same way as Chris, so Leech just walked along with him; and it was during that first walk home that the initial “enfriendment”
[7] of Chris happened.
[7] Enfriendment: I think it was I who coined the word “enfriend” to describe Timothy Leech’s tendency to approach people, talk to them, and become their friend—whether they wished it or not.


The entrance to Baines’ Endowed School, looking towards the level crossing, 1979 photo


Looking back over the level crossing, 1979 photo


Shops, not the shops referred to below, though: 1979 photo


More shops, still not the shops referred to below, though: 1979 photo
 8. Chris and Leech had in common that their fathers were or had been seamen: Chris’s Dad was ex-Merchant Navy and had come to the area to work in Fleetwood as a marine surveyor; and Leech’s Dad was a fisherman, so Leech knew all about ships and docks and trawlers. What is more, it turned out that Leech’s family even knew Chris’s Dad’s predecessor at Fleetwood.

 9. Leech told Chris that his Dad was “the bo’s’n” on a trawler called the Broadwater. However, it is thought that Leech’s Dad was really the mate. Why Leech should substitute “bo’s’n” for “mate” is not clear; perhaps he thought “bo’s’n” sounded better than “mate”. This kind of deliberate disregard for strict accuracy seems typical of Leech!

Broadwater
(FD208), built 1958 in Goole, owned by Broadwater Trawlers; transferred to Mason Trawlers; later to Boston Deep Sea Fisheries Ltd., renamed Boston Crusader; sold to Colne Shipping Co, Lowestoft as an oil rig safety vessel, renamed Jamaica; scrapped 1986.
 10. So, Chris and Leech, or Timmy as he was known, walked down Victoria Road, with Chris walking on the outside near the kerb. They had just crossed Hawthorne Road, when they suddenly encountered Mrs. Leech. Leech’s Mum just happened to be coming out of one of the shops,[8] probably the hairdresser’s, as they passed. Leech introduced her to Chris (or Chris to her), and told her straight away that Chris came from Grimsby, that his Dad had come to work at Fleetwood on the docks, and that he was “So-and-so’s” successor.
 And Mrs. Leech immediately said, “Oh, yes, we know old ‘So-and-so’!” She and her son seemed to be authorities on anything to do with seafaring and dockland and such like, on account of Mr. Leech’s occupation.
[8] Leech’s Mum just happened to be coming out of one of the shops: The shops extended along Victoria Road from the corner of Hawthorne Road. The first was a ladies’ hairdresser’s (?Lennie’s). Other shops included a barber’s (Moody’s), an ironmonger’s, a grocer’s (Fell’s), a coffee bar (The Zanzibar), a wool shop and a baker’s (Doughty’s).


The shops, 2009 photo


Further down Victoria Road, towards Wignall Memorial Methodist Church, 1979 photo
 11. So they reached the top of Sandown Road, where Chris had to turn left and left again to get into Ascot Road, and the Leeches had to carry straight along Victoria Road a house or two, to reach their home at 129 Victoria Road. And Chris just became Leech’s friend. He didn’t have much say in the matter, really.

Someone is crossing Victoria Road just beyond the entrance to Sandown Road in this 1979 photo.


Sandown Road in the foreground, with a view of Ascot Road in the background. Chris’s house can just be seen behind the telephone-pole in this 1979 photo.


Chris’s house, 19 Ascot Road, 1979 photo


The Leeches’ house, 129 Victoria Road, 1979 photo


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