The Ellenroad Project as it had become known was functioning well by the beginning of 1986. I had obtained enough initial funding and manpower to press on with my programme and could devote some serious time to yet more fund-raising. The first thing to say is that I didn’t raise all the funds for the project. Alan Brett and Andrew Underdown, the local councillors and John Pierce were instrumental in obtaining funds, or triggering me off to approach funders that were local. I dealt with day to day matters on site and all the private sector and central government funding. It might be helpful here if I told you what my basic approach was.
The first thing to recognise is that if you are seeking funding from any source the most important thing to start with is a good cause. This sounds simplistic but is at the root of the matter. Ellenroad was a worthy case, it had so much going for it. It was the last large steam textile mill engine in its original house with all its artefacts intact and was so sited that it had a good catchment area. Because of the proximity to the motorway network, if you drew the isochrones for Ellenroad on the map, (these are lines showing travelling times) the 1 ½ hour line enclosed an area with a population of over 15 million people, one of the best ride times in Europe. In order to support this case you have to have clear objectives, a well worked out and costed overall plan and separate, clearly identifiable segments of that plan which you can cost accurately, give proper time scales for and use these as the basis for funding applications. Funding bodies like to have a menu. They also like to feel that whoever is applying the for the funding is in complete control, both by knowledge of the project and familiarity with all the technologies involved.
The next principle to grasp is that funding is almost always plural, in other words a partnership between the Trust and a number of funders for one segment. The most important funding in this segment is that which the Trust brings to the table which is the result of its own efforts. In other words, funds raised by volunteers dedicated to helping the project. A few hundred quid from jumble sales can trigger off tens of thousands, funders need to know there is local support
The next important thing to realise is that funders are in the business of giving money away. They are never happier than when they are handing out large cheques. The faster they can do this, the sooner they can get out on to the golf course! So, the essential thing you have to do is to persuade them that you are kosher. The best way to do this is to be able to show that one of the funders is so prestigious as to be a guarantee to all the other participants. I tackled this one early on and decided that apart from English Heritage who were high prestige but almost duty bound to fund, we needed something special. I remembered the National Heritage Memorial Fund which was initially funded after the war from the sale of war surplus goods. In later years it became the funder of last resort for national treasures or works of high art which, if not bought by a museum, would leave the country. The only industrial artefact they had ever funded to my knowledge was Clevedon Pier and I think there were some quite serious problems with that. When I approached them and invited the acting Director to come up and see what we were doing I was flying a kite. He came, he saw, we conquered! They became 25% funders of the main structural elements of the project like the back wall, the chimney and big refurbishing jobs on the structure of the engine house itself. The ability to say that you were funded 75% by EH and NHMF was probably the best commendation any segment of the project could have.
The next most important attribute that attracts funders is success. If you can reel off details of total cost of project, proportion funded in say three years and then give menu of projects left to accomplish you excite people and they want to be associated with success. A concomitant of this is the fact that you have to demonstrate that you are keeping the momentum, that the overall project is rolling forward like a juggernaut. This internal dynamism is a most valuable asset and generates confidence and funding at the same time. It is most damaging if the impetus is lost for any reason. A classic example was the failure of Pennine Heritage at Queen Street Mill, this was a tremendous set-back for that project and has never been entirely overcome. Strangely enough, the most likely source of loss of momentum is not some unforeseen need for funding, like the second asbestos clearance at Ellenroad but internal schisms in the management structure of the organisation. This is the reason why it is essential to get the management structure and responsibilities clear at the outset. Even with all this in place there is no guarantee that problems won’t be generated internally.
There was a case in point at Ellenroad. I was always on the lookout for new talent. People with special skills who we could co-opt into the organisation to give us the benefit of their specialist knowledge. Early in 1987 I found such a man, Ray Colley. He was a retired TV executive who was living in Rochdale who was looking for fresh fields to conquer. We approached him and he came to help as a volunteer, sitting on several committees and generally being a useful adjunct to the organisation. I can’t say that I got on well with him, he was a little too abrupt for my liking but there was nothing that said we had to like each other, just that we got on with our jobs.
Earlier on, I had head-hunted another volunteer, Horace Longden. I needed someone to act as chairman of the Friends Organisation I wanted to found to provide the cadre of volunteers to actually run the engine eventually. This was a major stone in the foundations of the project because, in effect, because of the way I had written the Articles of Agreement of the Trust separate from the organisation of the Friends, the Friends would actually run the enterprise and the Board of Directors only control was over the broad policy, major funding and the Project Manager who was the buffer between the Friends and the Board. I tried twice to get the Friends off the ground and failed. It wasn’t until I got Horace to have a go and I stepped back that it succeeded. I was the wrong person for the job and it took two failures to convince me! Slow learner again.
Horace was a star, a gem and one of the most perfect gentlemen I have ever been privileged to meet. He was totally reliable, always absolutely correct and one of the most able organisers I have ever seen in action. His forte was people, he understood them far better than I and his management style was the epitome of the iron fist in the velvet glove. Indeed, the glove was so velvet that a lot of people who know him would not recognise that description. If Horace decided that a principle was involved he was a force to be reckoned with. By 1987 he was chairman of the Board of Directors at Ellenroad and I used to wonder at the members of the committee who mistook his measured and low key style for bumbling. I had no control over the Directors and wondered at times about some of them.
Back to 1987. I think it was sometime in summer, July perhaps, I got word that there was a move afoot to remove a lot of my power, reduce my wage and install Ray Colley as Project Manager. My attitude was that I didn’t want to play this game, if the directors were so disloyal, or dissatisfied with my work that they wanted me out that was up to them. I wasn’t going to argue because I had achieved my main objective, I had saved the Ellenroad Engine and made sure the buildings were stable. I was sure I had a lot left to contribute but I wasn’t going to go into a decline if they took that away from me.
I always attended the Board meetings to make my reports and give advice. Horace asked me to go up to see him on the day of the meeting. I went round to his house and he told me exactly what was going to happen. He said that Gavin Bone was going to back a motion that would result in me taking a back seat at a reduced salary and Ray Colley was going to be proposed in my place. I told Horace what my attitude was, I wasn’t interested, if they wanted me out I would go but there would be no back seat driving. My assessment was that what they were after was the job and the salary, they wanted me to stay on to do the same work I had done all along at a lower wage. Forget it! Horace gave me a long lecture about strategy and told me that I had to keep my temper and leave it up to him. I trusted him so I left it entirely in his hands.
The Board Meetings were held in the Gothic splendour of Rochdale Town Hall, a wonderful building designed by the same architect as the House of Commons and having possibly more wood panelling and encaustic tiles to the square foot than Parliament! Very soon after the meeting started Horace announced that a motion was proposed which affected my position and asked me to withdraw. I left and went for a beer in the Flying Horse, a nearby pub. After about half an hour I was asked back in and my new terms were announced, I was to get slightly more money and all my powers were left intact. Ray Colley was offered a minor role at a small salary but I think he eventually refused it. Later I asked Horace why he had backed me, he said he thought I was too passionate and headstrong to be a good manager in normal circumstances but the evidence was that it was these characteristics that had brought Ellenroad so far so fast. He also doubted if anyone else had the funding contacts and the basic knowledge of steam engines. I took this as a vote of confidence and carried on but after that I always watched my back. As for my mate Gavin Bone, I crossed him off the Christmas Card list and managed without the benefit of his company.
Looking back, all this was a big shock to me. I discussed it at length with Mary and others who’s opinion I respected and came to some conclusions about it. Cast your mind back to West Marton Dairy and what I said about the reasons why it was so enjoyable working there. We all knew our job and apart from day to day adjustments of timing or priorities, we were left alone to get on with it. We never had to worry about our mates wanting our jobs, nobody was looking to use us as a stepping stone to greater things. The same applied at Bancroft. What I was experiencing at Ellenroad was a symptom of what was happening in industry outside my zone of comprehension and experience. There was no such thing as loyalty, everyone was expendable. I recognised what I called Management by Attrition creeping in at Coates. People were being pushed to deliver more for the same money. Posts vanished overnight and the workload was spread amongst the survivors. The whole ethos was accountant led, the bean counters were coming to the fore and as far as I can see are still in charge. I was having a conversation with Tom Clarke, the founder of Silentnight,, the bedding company in Barlick once in his hi-tech office at Salterforth. I asked him what it was like to be heading the biggest bedding company in the world and how things had changed since he started making mattresses in his back yard after the war financed with his gratuity. He told me it had gone to hell in a basket. In the early days he had been in control but now, as head of the biggest mattress makers in the world he was powerless. He put it down to his accountants and gave me a definition that I have always remembered, “An accountant is a man who turns the radiators off as he passes them in a corridor.” I like that, think about it!
I made up my mind then and there that I would never do anything where I had to rely on other people again. Basically I function best as a loner and that was the goal from now on. For the time being however, I had a project to run.
My biggest single task was chasing funding. I drummed it into the directors time and time again that it wasn’t the project manager’s job to get the funding, the directors should be responsible. They never saw it that way and left the subject alone because I was doing so well. On the quiet, this suited me because it made me the single most important asset the Trust had got. I loved standing up and announcing that we had gained additional funding of X thousands of pounds for such and such a segment of the work. Nobody ever said “Well done!”, they just sat there and noted the figures. At one point I was advocating that we should register for VAT but kept being put off by the Borough Treasurer who said it would be no advantage. Eventually I persuaded the directors to let me have a crack at it. I applied for VAT registration, got it and told the directors we had a refund coming on all the capital spending we had done, I forget the amount now but I think it was £28,000. You’ll laugh at this but this was actually fairly small beer at the time. I was pulling funding in as though there was no end to it!
What very few people realised was the amount of work that went into getting this money. I used to go home at night and do six hours letter writing and application building almost every day. When things got bad I’d leave Graham Riley my manager in charge and spend all day on funding, say 16 hours! All these letters are in the files at Ellenroad but I don’t suppose anybody actually reads them. One thing I did religiously, every morning, first thing before I did anything else, I’d pull one file out and sit there and read it right through. I used to mark the position of that file with a card and the following day I’d read the next one. I can thoroughly recommend this to anyone in the same position. It was the single most valuable task I did in the day. Apart from reminding me what the original objective was it triggered off the back half of my head and a couple of days later a thought would pop up from nowhere which was useful and often productive. Read the files!
Mention of Graham Riley, who succeeded Peter Cunningham as manager of the MSC team reminds me that I should say something about his contribution. He was a wonderful site manager. He knew where the bodies were buried in the council and many a time would come to me with a thought or suggestion that usually led to a van load of materials or equipment landing on the site. I always used to describe him and me as ferrets, we always had a piece of chalk in our pockets and if we went anywhere that could be a source of plunder we marked up what we wanted and then got permission to send the lads in to get it. Our targets were council departments, hospitals, engineering firms and any demolition site in the area! I always said that the bald figures in the accounts only told half the story, we stole as much as we bought. I used to get into trouble for describing it as stealing but it seemed more romantic and dangerous that way! A good example of Graham’s contacts was when he came to me one day and said he knew where there was some ‘interesting stuff’ in the foothills of the Pennines beyond the motorway on the way up to Rockingstones. He was a bit cagey about it but I told him to get a van, take the lads and go looting. He came back with most of the biggest set of cylinder boring tackle I have ever seen in my life, including the steam engine that drove it! It was reputed to be the boring tackle used at Ellenroad between the wars. When he started at Ellenroad Graham was a typical, play-it-safe council employee but I soon corrupted him and he became one of the best foragers I have ever seen. He was worth tens of thousands of pounds to the Trust and they never knew it!
Any account of Ellenroad funding would be incomplete without mention of the close links I always had with the Chief Executives office at the Town Hall. In the beginning it was John Towey who saw the potential of Ellenroad and was instrumantal in setting up the Steering Committee which got the project off the ground. He made John Pierce, the Chief Planning Officer chair of the committee and in 1986 John retired and John Pierce took over as Chief Executive.
Rochdale was always a forward thinking council, largely because it was Labour controlled in my opinion, and they had a very strong twinning policy. There were regular visits between Bielefeld in West Germany and Rochdale and Ellenroad soon became a essential venue for a visit as the guests toured round the borough. It was good for the town to be seen as sponsors of the biggest industrial archaeological project in the country and full advantage was taken of it. I soon got to know some of the regular visitors, Klaus Schwickert, who was the mayor of Bielefeld was particularly impressive. I remember that the first time he came he listened to all we had to tell him, looked carefully at everything and then took me on one side. “Do you know the German phrase that Audi use in their advertisements?” he said. “Yes.” I replied, “Vorsprung durch technic.” “Do you know what it means?” “Yes, ‘Progress through technology’” “Good! Do you know the meaning of the Yiddish word chutzpah?” “Yes, one definition is a man who throws himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan after killing his parents!” “Good, I suggest you should have a similar expression as a slogan at Ellenroad, Vorsprung durch chutzpah!” I think that was possibly the best definition we ever got of our corporate management style!
Years later John Pierce told me about the first visit made to Bielefeld by Rochdalians. He said that one man was in conversation with a local lady and she asked him whether he had ever been to Bielefeld before. He answered yes, he had been many times years ago. She asked if he recognised any of the features from that time, he said not really, all German towns looked the same from 3,000 ft. when you were bombing them! On the same visit the mayor took his guests to the top of a turret in the castle from where there was a magnificent view of the country around. One mill owner was heard to say “By heck, I’ll bet you had a good view of the bombers coming in from here!” Like Stockport, Bielefeld had a strategic railway viaduct and we were trying to knock it our right through the war. It was eventually destroyed by one of Barnes Walliss’ ‘Earthquake’bombs.
John was a wonderful ally in the fight to keep the Ellenroad Project going. I was always conscious that he was actually CEO of a company that employed 10,000 people and there were tremendous demands on his time but he always responded when I called for help. He will reappear when I talk about the Whitelees Engine.
I could go on to very boring lengths about funding but I shan’t. I think in the end the figure for actual cash was something like £3 ½ million, add in gifts in kind, the MSC contribution and indirect subsidy through MSC from the council and I think you reach a figure of approximately £4 ½ million. I still boggle at this figure myself, it was an enormous sum and as someone once pointed out to me, if this had been on a national monument in London I would have got the OBE! No chance of this happening in Rochdale, my version of it is that I upset too many people in the drive to accomplish our aims.
HOTELS AND CAR PARKING
You may well ask what these subjects have to do the conservation of Ellenroad. I would have had difficulty answering this question if I’d been asked at any time in the first 18 months at Ellenroad but it soon became obvious that the long term success of the Ellenroad Project depended on factors which at first, seemed entirely separate. Some explanation is needed.
When I had my first meeting with Tony Welton and Gavin Bone in 1984 I set out an overall plan for the project. Two key parts of this plan never got done. One was the provision of the residential educational facility which would have given academic and financial depth to the project. The other, and more pressing matter was the provision of an external service building to give the facilities necessary for the day-to-day running of the engine house.
This latter was, to my mind, crucial to success in that we would be able to raise the quality of the experience of visiting the engine and, in the short term, would give us room for some community based activities. What we were looking at was a building that could provide space for an office for the Trust, toilet accommodation, a café, a meeting room and a small reception and exhibition area. It would become the main entrance to the engine house and the final layout of the conversion of the boiler room was designed with this in mind.
There was a piece of land between the engine house and the motorway which was owned by the council and had been earmarked in the Town Plan as the site for a hotel catering for traffic on the motorway. This made it into a potentially very valuable piece of land. Remember the catchment area I mentioned earlier. Under Treasury Rules the council had a duty to obtain the best price it could in any disposal of the site so their hands were tied, they couldn’t let the Trust have the land at an advantageous rate. It soon became obvious that the route to getting what we wanted on the land was by participating in the planning process connected with the sale of the land and the building of the hotel. The council recognised this and made it a condition of any sale that the building had to be designed sympathetically so as not to clash with the engine house and that the Trust should get some land and car parking out of the deal. This was the best we could hope for and Peter Dawson, the Trust’s architect and myself joined the process and fought our corner for the Trust.
Little did we know what we were letting ourselves in for! We spent five years in meetings and learned a hell of a lot about the economics and designing of hotels but fate always snatched victory away from us at the last minute. I’ll give a very simplified version of the course of the negotiations. Take it as read that there were many more firms and people involved on the periphery.
We started with a French company called Campanile who were never a really serious starter because all they wanted to do was put up a concrete box and sell cheap grub to motorway travellers. After twelve months of desultory negotiations they fell out of the frame.
The next approach was from a firm called Pleasureama who operated casinos but had a subsidiary company called Commodore Hotels. They were looking for sites and one day Peter Dawson and I found ourselves in a meeting with a bloke called Tom Keegan. The purpose of the meeting was to establish the basis for negotiations between Commodore and the Trust. I think that when Commodore came they thought that they were paying a courtesy call to smooth the way to pursuing their scheme and regarded it as a PR exercise more than anything else. They got a bit of a shock when they realised just how much control we had over what happened on the site. However, we weren’t in the business of raising obstacles and soon convinced them that we weren’t a threat but an ally. We were raising the possibilities of co-operation, mutual promotion and laying the basis of a fruitful partnership. In the end we convinced them that there was merit in having a major heritage attraction on their doorstep and the meeting relaxed. It got so relaxed that Tom Keegan started to tell us his life story which, if it was true, was quite incredible. The facets of his career bounced from British Leyland, General Motors, entering a monastery and running a housing association on the Wirral to his present position as a major shareholder in a casino operator. Peter and I were enthralled. When we came out of the meeting I told Peter the guy was either the best con-man I had ever met or a genius, I didn’t know which, the jury was out.
Negotiations with Commodore moved slowly forwards and we got to the stage where we had the whole thing buttoned up. Peter had put a lot of time and effort into designing the exterior of the hotel and laying out the site and we thought we had quite a good result for the Trust. Then came the bombshell. Pleasureama were the subject of a take-over bid and yet another developer fell out of the frame.
Back to square one but so many firms had been helping to develop the plans for the hotel, all at risk, that the only way they could recoup their losses was to encourage another developer to take over the scheme. It wasn’t long before a bloke called Julian Peck from Manchester turned up with another prospect, British Airports Authority. I think their subsidiary which managed their hotels was called Associated Leisure. We started another round of negotiations on another hotel!
We went through the whole weary process again. In my efforts to get the best deal for the Trust I gave as much help and advice as I could. I brought everybody’s attention to the fact that when the culvert under the motorway which carried the River Beal had been designed the design criteria had been inadequate and there was a danger that what was known as a ‘Fifty Year Event’ , in other words a flood that could be expected once every fifty years, would overwhelm the culvert and that the way out for the water was via the hotel site along the side of the motorway embankment. The brownie points I got for pointing that out and saving a costly mistake in the design enabled me to get my way in siting the provision of water and gas supplies to the hotel. My interest in this was dictated by the fact that the engine house was running on an inadequate water supply and no gas main.
We got to the point where a date was set for the start of the works and the surveyors moved in to start pegging the site out for the groundworks. Another bombshell dropped. BAA decided at main board level that all future hotel developments would be on their own land, in other words, at airports. The whole scheme went into the bin! Peter and I were annoyed to say the least. The only interesting thing that sticks in the mind about this set of meetings was the day that we were privy to a decision on how large the hotel was going to be. Peter and I sat in a meeting and had what was probably the best seminar in hotel design anybody could have. We noticed that they had brought a very old man with them. He was slightly infirm and they had to assist him into his seat. We wondered what he was doing there because he sat there and never said a thing. That is, until they got down to the specifics of room sizes and allocation of space within the building. Then the reason why the old bloke was there became clear. He had the answer to every question on the tip of his tongue. He knew exactly how big rooms had to be, how wide the corridors, how much space should be allocated to the different functions in the hotel and utility areas. In other words, he was a walking encyclopaedia on hotel design. It was a treat to watch him work. Another interesting thing we learned was that in the first year of operation the hotel would have 50% more staff than in subsequent years. This was to ensure that a reputation for service and efficiency could be built up quickly.
The bottom line was that Peter and I never cracked the problem of the exterior services for the Trust and this was to be a major stumbling block for the Trust. At the time of writing it still is so. I hear that Coates have managed to buy the land now but I have doubts whether enough corporate memory of the original concept remains embedded in the Trust to drive forward a final solution to the provision of the external services let alone the residential complex. Until this is done, Ellenroad will remain yet another amateur operation clinging on to the plot by the tips of its fingers and relying entirely on nostalgia to keep it afloat. It makes me sad but it’s not my problem any more.
All the time, while the hotel planning was going on I was looking sideways to find other ways of extending Ellenroad’s options. I heard they were going to re-design the motorway junction to give access to the biggest piece of undeveloped land in the Greater Manchester area, the Kingsway site on the other side of the motorway. I suggested a link road between the Ellenroad site and Kingsway which would have opened up a lot of possibilities for us but it was never taken seriously.
Then I got wind that the Metro Link system in Manchester was to be extended to Rochdale. I suggested a station at Ellenroad and the use of the dead land inside the motorway junction as a car parking area for a park and ride facility at Ellenroad. Everybody agreed it was a good idea, especially if combined with a link road to the Kingsway site but again, the idea died for want of support.
Finally, my biggest plan was that Ellenroad should build an exhibition centre and start a firm of exhibition designers and builders as a way of generating funds for the Trust. In this latter I was aided by Bruce Robbins who had the original idea of the design facility and took it on himself when the Trust decided they didn’t want anything to do with it. I shan’t go into all the details but Bruce and I got the backing of the Arts Council and I drew up a spreadsheet to test the viability of the project. I got a result which showed that even if we gave away the exhibition space for six months of the year we still finished up with an amazing profit. I found a developer who would get us the funding and asked John Youngman, the Chairman of Coates Brothers, if he would get his finance director to cast his eye over my calculations as I didn’t trust them. He did and came back to tell me I was wrong, I had made a mistake, I had underestimated the profits! It was a licence to print money! However, when I presented it to the directors they refused to have anything to do with it. End of another brave try!
It was round about this time that Coates were taken over by the French firm Total Oil and I soon got them interested in supplying us with oil and looking favourably at our operation. Another prospect was the Co-operative Wholesale Society who had announced they were going to build their new headquarters in Rochdale. I started corresponding with them and laying the foundations of a funding approach to them. Time and time again I drove it home to the directors of the Trust that they should be looking for funding and further, that they should recognise that the leadtime to substantial funding was often measured in years. It’s eight years since I severed my connection with the Trust and it would be interesting to see what funding they have that couldn’t be traced back to the seed corn I was putting down ten years ago.
I think that’s enough about fund-raising. When I started at Ellenroad I knew next to nothing about site management, fund-raising and managing complex relationships between the Trust, the Council, Coates and the various funders. By the time we had finished I was pretty impressive. It was all new, a very steep learning curve and exactly what I was suited to at the time. I was lucky Coates found me, they were lucky they got the right bloke.
1986 and 1987 ODDS AND SODS
Once again, we need to dispose of a few small matters. 1986 was a very busy year apart from funding.
You will have noticed how much time I was spending writing grant applications, letter, minutes and memoranda. I’m sure you will also remember that I saw my first Apple computer in California in 1979. I was driving home one night and as I passed through Burnley a sudden thought came to mind and I parked up and walked into Dixons the electrical retailers. Ten minutes later I walked out with an Amstrad Word Processor with a massive 512k memory! I took it home, plugged it in and started my love/hate relationship with computers. It was a quantum leap forward but anyone who started with computers at that time will remember the trials and tribulations we had to go through. I can remember more than one occasion when I lost half a days worth of work and had to start all over again. Even so, productivity leapt up and I can remember how impressed everyone was when they realised that the Trust had embraced the computer age.
It was 1986 when I made another technological leap on the engine. I persuaded Dave Jones of SOS NDT at Bury to do a Non Destructive Test of the vital parts of the engine and charge us nothing. He came and did the same job for us he would have done for the Central Electricity Generating Board on one of their turbines. The engine passed with flying colours, there were no flaws in any of the rods or cranks. I asked Dave what his overall verdict was and he said that if the CGEB could get the same results with their turbine shafts they would be delighted.
Susan, my middle daughter married Paul Norman and they went to live in Bovington on the outskirts of London. Mary and I went down to the wedding and Georgie and Daniel came up from Wales. All the family was there and they had a splendid reception in W S Gilbert’s old house. A very happy occasion and the first of the daughters to get married.
While we are on the hatched, matched and despatched, David Moore got divorced in May 1987and in July he and Dorothy Hartley married and there was another splendid reception at Gawthorpe Hall. It was wonderful to see David and Dorothy so happy. He was still Principal at Nelson and Colne College but had his own firm, Sovereign Education which Dorothy ran from Broadclough Hall in Bacup, her home. David eventually retired from the college in May 1989 and we had a suitably drunken send off for him. He said that during the inevitable paperwork necessary to end his tenure and pass the baton on to the next principal it transpired that his appointment at Nelson and Colne had never been ratified by the Governors. Technically he had been unlawfully in post all those years! The sad thing was that within 18 months David had been struck down by a massive stroke which left him paralysed down one side, almost dumb and with no short term memory. I visited him over the years but of course, never enough. It was terrible to see him locked inside his body, unable to communicate fluently and he was so angry about it. All he wanted to do was die and it was to be five long years before a massive coronary attack took him. Dorothy was a star through all this time. She nursed David right up to the end and it must have been terrible for her. I was glad when David died and I think he was as well. I remember that when Dot rang me to tell me he was dead I told her that wherever he was he was jumping in the air, clicking his heels and shouting yippee! He had escaped from his prison. As I have said before, someone, somewhere has a very strange sense of humour.
David Moore was possibly the most influential person in my life. I was not alone in this. There are countless people like me who were touched by David at some time in their lives and things were never the same again. I look at what I am doing many a time and recognise that the root of whatever it is can be traced back to DJ. He was a wonderful, flawed, human, exasperating friend. I miss him and I shall never forget what he did for me.
In July 1987 Mary and I had two visitors at Overdale, Mary’s house at Addingham. They were John Robinson from the Science Museum and a bloke called Eberhardt Wechtler who was in charge of the Industrial Museum in Dresden in what was then the DDR, in other words, East Germany. He was over here to lecture and see some of the developments in British museums and John had brought him North to see Ellenroad.
It was while we were having a splendid meal in a Greek Restaurant in Ilkley that Eberhardt made a request. Evidently he had some sterling from lecture fees which he wanted to change into West German Marks before he left UK so that he could buy medical equipment for his daughter who had spina bifida, before he returned to the DDR. I asked him how much and he said that it had to be done in ‘modules’ of £500. And there were several ‘modules’! This gave me a bit of a problem as we were due to be at Ellenroad at six the following morning and Eberhardt had to be on a train out of Manchester at a quarter to nine!
There was only one thing to do, I rang Horace Longden! Horace ran a travel business and I reckoned he would have some contacts who would carry a stock of West German currency. I explained the problem to Horace and he said to leave it to him. The following morning we had a wonderful early morning ride over to Ellenroad via Lord Saville’s Moor and down into Hebden Bridge with the Mozart Requiem playing full blast on the stereo. We kept stopping to admire the field patterns and geological features. Eberhardt loved Ellenroad when he saw it and at seven o’clock prompt, a taxi drew up at the engine house and took Eberhardt and John away. John told me afterwards that he didn’t know where the taxi had taken them but they seemed to go to every travel agents between Ellenroad and Manchester. Eberhardt changed all his money and the driver refused to accept any fare when he dropped them off at Piccadilly Station in time for the train. Eberhardt was impressed but it was all down to Horace, that was the sort of organisation we had at Ellenroad then, all things were possible!
Back on the family front, Janet did her finals in June and we had a trip out to Nottingham to see her receive her degree. My little girl sailed out into the world and went to work for Marconi at Chelmsford. I remember particularly that she omitted to let any of us know her address and for about three months we had no idea where she was!
There was a sad event in October 1987, Florence Street, the lady who had done Open College with me died. Win Crossley, her niece let me know and I went to the funeral at Nelson crematorium. When Win rang me up she said that Florence had left a message for me. Just before she died she told Win to remind me of my promise to her about attending her funeral. Win asked me what it was. I told her that Florence had once asked me if I would go to her funeral and of course I said yes. Florence said that I had to be properly dressed in a dark suit, black tie and an overcoat and hat. I told Win I would make sure Florence wasn’t disappointed!
At Addingham we had a neighbour, Reg. I used to borrow his overcoat for funerals. However, that weekend before the funeral on Tuesday, Mary and I went to the local dramatic society’s latest production which was ‘The Cure for Love’. One of the central plots in the play is when the wife pawns her husband’s new Crombie overcoat in order to finance the eldest daughter’s elopement. As I was watching the play I told Mary that I wasn’t going to borrow Reg’s coat, I would go up to Eric Spencer’s in Ilkley and buy a Crombie! I should explain here that a Crombie overcoat used to be a mark that you had arrived as a person of substance. It was the best coat you could buy and I had always fancied one.
I went and found I had gone at a good time. They had Crombie coats by Crombie in stock at the old price. I came out with two! A charcoal grey flannel for funerals and a tweed one for everyday wear in winter. I went to the funeral immaculate in my dark suit and grey Crombie and at the wake afterwards found out that everybody knew about my promise to Florence. They were very impressed when I told them I had bought a dark Crombie especially for Florence. I hope she was watching and approved. She was a lovely, intelligent old lady and it was a privilege to have known her.
Mary and I had settled down into a very comfortable relationship. It wasn’t the love to end all loves but we were right for one another at the time. Both she and her friends recognised a change in her, she was less frenetic and more settled. True, many of her friends couldn’t understand what the attraction was, I was completely out of their orbit but they saw how well Mary was doing and I was accepted into the circle. I looked after Mary and she gave me a base at Addingham which enabled me to fly free at Ellenroad. It was an unusual situation but it worked well. I was the right bloke at the right time but always knew that it couldn’t last. We actually got engaged at one point and bought rings for each other but it never developed into marriage.
It was about this time that Mary was having trouble at YTV with a secretary who was out to get her job. Mary never recognised this and couldn’t understand why her boss hadn’t done anything about the woman. I did two things. I told Mary that if she could get some time I would pay for a ticket to Australia for her so she could have some time away from all the hassle. I also told her she should go to her boss and tell him what was going on as I was pretty certain he didn’t know. Mary did this, her boss acted, the problem was solved and the consequence was that Mary climbed on the plane to Australia in wonderful condition. The funny thing was that any wisdom I had in this matter was solely due to my experiences at Ellenroad, another example of the learning curve.
One more domestic matter and then we go back to Ellenroad. In late summer 1988, Janet went to India for a holiday and when she was due back rang and asked if she could come and stay with us while she got over a ‘tummy upset’. We had more room than Vera and so it was agreed she should come to us. I went to pick her up and was astounded when I saw her. She had Soni Dysentery and was down to about six stones. We nursed her back to health over about six weeks and as it was a notifiable disease the man from the Environmental Health called round for a sample of our stool every two days! When she left she was back up to her normal weight, Dad’s bacon sandwiches and cooking had put a shine on her muck again!
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