|21 Apr 2021|
The inner sanctum of the Two Tubs... OO Headquarters.
Old Oswestrians Tony Furnival and Mike Prestwich were very old friends having started at primary school together in the town of Bury, and they had done their homework in assessing the viability of a Northern section of the Society. Over the years Lancashire had been a fertile area of recruitment for Headmaster R Williamson and almost every week, after having started work for The National Coal Board in January 1961, I would bump into Old Boys on my journeys to and from Thomson House, Manchester (see photo below).
Tony and Mike had many contacts in the area which would be useful when organising sporting and social events, and it was from this standpoint along with the knowledge that Lancashire was home to a large number of OOs that a decision was made to explore the feasibility of a Manchester branch. There was already a London branch so the formation of an arm of the society in the northern reaches of England seemed a logical step given the circumstances.
So it was that a small group of us set out to achieve this objective and, following initially poorly attended meetings held in Manchester, we settled on The Two Tubs in Bury as the engine room of the organisation and it was from here that progress was made, albeit slowly at first.
From the outset we met on the third Wednesday of every month in a back room of the pub where we planned a variety of social activities which included a trip to The Ice Palace in Manchester, a car rally, and a treasure hunt which ended up at the famous Lancashire nightspot, Cranbury Fold (also know as Cranberry Fair, see right). The club was situated high up on the moors near Blackburn and was where we saw Tom Jones perform his first hit 'It's Not Unusual'! This outre venue, sited in a remote part of the county, attracted famous quality entertainers from far and wide and it had a slightly dubious reputation. Dancers and clientele alike often frolicked in the pool, partying the night away until dawn, and it was rumoured that illegal cock fighting and dog combat took place surreptitiously in this very secluded location.
Manchester Ice Palace
Silver Blades in Altrincham and Manchester Ice Palace were popular outings as there were always lots of pretty girls to bump into (accidentally on purpose), and I spent much of the time spreadeagled on the ice trying to enlist their help.
Final recognition of the status of the Lancashire Branch occurred at the Annual General Meeting held in The Wynnstay, Oswestry on 9 December 1961, when Mike Prestwich was elected onto the full OO Society committee to represent the Northern branch and it was decided a dinner should be held in Manchester as well as in London. Shortly afterwards, Mike received a very encouraging letter from Duncan Felton full of praise for our wide ranging activities. We would soon take part in a very exciting game of football against Bury Grammar School Old Boys which ended in a 1-1 draw, and I remember scoring the equaliser. It would be remiss of me not to put on record that the official referee never turned up and our spritely grandad, who had come along to watch the game, volunteered to act as referee! In doing so I felt he was rather harsh on the OOs for fear of being called biased, but he presided over an excellent game which could have gone either way.
The Grand Hotel, Manchester
By the end of March 1962 things were really buzzing and we had arranged for our first OO Dinner to be held at The Grand Hotel on 13 October after a soccer match in the afternoon. In his letter, Fatty Felton had suggested that we ought to be represented at the London Dinner on 28 April, and several of us discussed going down by dormobile. A number of boys complained that the cost of £10 - £15 was rather prohibitive and in the end we were poorly represented; these complaints only served to reinforce the commonly held belief that Northerners had deep pockets and short arms!
Monthly meetings at The Two Tubs were becoming increasingly popular and we could always rely on the usual dedicated crew to turn up, come rain or shine, for an evening of food, drink, and merriment. Dear old John Boole, the elder statesman of the group by a good few years and all round delightful personality, drove up from Liverpool unfailingly every month and we were all surprised when he did not turn up one evening. Mid way through proceedings Mike was summoned away to the telephone and returned grinning from ear to ear - it was John, sending his apologies. He was phoning from a hospital bed in Liverpool, in traction after a car accident, and it was just typical of this tall, thoughtful character. John soon recovered and he received a round of cheers and a lot of good natured ribbing when he duly turned up at the next meeting.
During August our cricket team, again aided by several enthusiastic cricketers from Oswestry, played two matches; one was against Unsworth CC and the second one was a rematch against Stand CC who had beaten us the previous year. Sadly we lost both games, the latter being interrupted by a violent thunderstorm, but enjoyed the hospitality of both clubs to the full after the more serious matter of the afternoon's competition was settled.
I think it fair to say that we acquitted ourselves pretty well in the drinking sessions that went on well into the evenings and after the match against Stand CC we all ended a very enjoyable day at a popular local Indian restaurant. I still squirm with the thought that several boys, slightly worse for wear, got behind the wheel of their cars without batting an eyelid before exiting the club car park.
Excerpt from The Oswestrian, Summer 1962
Upon arriving at the Two Tubs on 19 September I found Mike understandably down in the dumps about the low number of OOs who had booked a place at our first Dinner which was scheduled for 13 October at The Grand Hotel in Manchester. Since our inaugural meeting more than forty Old Boys and friends had taken part in the activities we had organised and I tried to reassure him that it would be alright on the night. As more boys arrived for the meeting his mood began to lighten, so much so that by the end of a typically uproarious evening he was back to his amiable self and more than a bit tiddly.
My diary entry - 19 September, 1962
For some unaccountable reason, and I am baffled by this, there is no further mention of the 1962 Manchester Dinner in my Diary and I do not recall going to one, so perhaps it did not take place after all. In a similar fashion my memory has let me down in that I cannot remember for how long the Northern branch continued to function after very promising early beginnings, and all my Diary entries ceased late on in 1963. Perhaps somebody out there has the answer to these questions?
However, there were many fun packed reunions with Old Boys during the early sixties and beyond, and in my next article I will recall a series of escapades which took place over a weekend spent sailing on Lake Windermere in 1961 after a slightly shocking revelation.
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