John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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My first visit to Grimsby — Thursday

Early Days

 1. As long as I had known Chris Woodhead, I was aware that he came from Grimsby and that he regarded the place with affection. I’m not saying that he was always going on and on about Grimsby, or that he claimed it was better than Thornton; he never did that, no—with one exception: when we had fish and chips! With Thornton’s neighbour Fleetwood and Chris’s home-town Grimsby being fishing-ports, one might expect to find fish and chips of similar good quality in either location. Certainly, I didn’t have any complaints, strolling from Ellwood’s in Victoria Road on a chilly and dark autumn evening, holding my portion, newspaper-wrapped with vinegar beginning to soak through, and blowing on the chips I was about to eat to avoid burning my mouth. But Chris maintained that the portions were bigger in Grimsby, and cheaper too: in Thornton they cost sixpence, but in Grimsby, he claimed, they were only fourpence. That was his only brag about Grimsby that I can remember.
1979 photo
 From time to time he would go back there to visit relatives and friends he’d left behind; and indeed I accompanied him on one such visit, for the first time, at the end of October 1964. My memories of the visit are now only fragmentary and vague, and do not include whether I resolved my doubts concerning Chris’s claim for Grimsby’s fish and chips.

Thursday 29th October 1964
 2. We travelled over to Grimsby on Thursday 29th October 1964. For me, that whole week was a half-term holiday from school. I went to Fleetwood Grammar School, but Chris went to Baines’ Grammar School whose holidays did not always correspond to Fleetwood’s. In fact, Chris had to be excused on this day, which was Baines’ Grammar School’s annual Speech Day. That suggests that his half-term holiday started the following day, Friday.

 3. We walked to Blackpool Central station to catch our train. I assume, then, that we got the 14 or 14A bus from Thornton to Talbot Road bus station and walked from there. On the way, we passed the Winter Gardens, and Chris spoke to some school-friends who were beginning to gather around the entrance, waiting to go in for the Speech Day—in particular, a lad called Peter Donoghue. There were two entrances to the Winter Gardens, one in Church Street and the other round the corner in Coronation Street; it was at the latter where the Baines’ boys were gathered. We then turned into Victoria Street to continue our journey to Central Station.

 4. If the Speech Day proceedings started at 2pm, as they used to do at Fleetwood Grammar School, then we would be in good time at Central Station for a train leaving at 2.20pm and arriving at Manchester Victoria station at 3.45pm (or thereabouts).

 5. From Victoria we made our way to Manchester Piccadilly railway station. I’d heard Chris speak about the three-mile-long “Woodhead Tunnel” on the main line between Manchester and Sheffield, significant because its name and his surname were one and the same, and now I was about to travel through it. Chris remembers that the departure-time of the train from Piccadilly was 5pm, for it was one he had travelled on before, and the timing remained unchanged for a number of years. Originally, when Fido put him on this train to return to Grimsby in 1960,
[1] it ran through to Cleethorpes; this involved a change of locomotive at Sheffield Victoria. Now, however, when we made the journey, we had to change at Sheffield and continue our journey by diesel multiple unit. In those days, the trains from Sheffield Victoria to Cleethorpes, which travelled via Worksop and Retford, took about two hours to reach Grimsby. So, allowing time for changing trains at Sheffield, we perhaps arrived at Grimsby Town station at just after eight—maybe 8.15pm.
[1] See The Woodheads move to Thornton.
 6. We were met at Town station by Chris’s eleven-year-old cousin Brian. I had met him briefly when he visited Chris in Thornton some months previously.[2] We continued our journey on the No.4 bus, which we caught outside Evington’s, a toy shop in the Bull Ring, to the bus’s terminus at Clee Crescent, Old Clee. It was now a walk of 330 yards or so to the home of Chris’s Auntie Joan and Uncle Gordon Hall, whom I was meeting for the first time, and with whom we were staying. They lived in a bungalow on Clee Road, Grimsby. When we arrived, we decided to play a joke on them: we hid, while Brian rang the bell. When his Mum appeared at the door, he just said, “No boys, Mum!” After a short pause, during which she made some expression of concern, we then jumped out to a chorus of laughter.
[2] See Brian Hall meets David Jones.

This image is from Francis Frith, and can be purchased here.

It can be seen from this later picture, taken by “Uncle Gordon” during what Chris and I have termed “the destruction of Grimsby”, that Evington’s was one of the last shops to survive in the Bull Ring at that time.

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