Looking Back, Friday, January 31, 2014

By Matthew McKew

Friday, January 31, 2014


100 Years Ago - January 31, 1914

AN ORDER for two large seaplanes to be produced by the aviation branch of Messrs J. S. White and Co was placed by the Admiralty.

Each plane was to have a French-made engine with 200 horsepower. They were to carry a wireless installation for the dispatch of messages and have a large carrying capacity.

The firm was also experimenting with the production of engines for aeroplanes.


An amusing football match took place between a team of builders and a team of gardeners from Bembridge. A large crowd assembled to watch the fun. The mortar boards (builders) triumphed with four goals to nil over the Brussels sprouts (gardeners).


A social evening raised a £5 towards a new parish room at Whippingham. A total of £53 had been raised towards the effort.

75 Years Ago - February 4, 1939

Nearly a penny was shaved off of the education levy on council rates.

It was thought the reduction was to offset the 3d increase in rates to pay for the Air Raid Precaution organisation. Rates had risen dramatically in the previous six years, from 4s 91⁄2d to around 7s.


An unprecedented event occurred at Parkhurst Convict Prison when two teams of prisoners lined up for a 'cup final’ football match.

The teams, playing in Chelsea and West Ham kits, were watched by all prisoners who were not undergoing punishment or in hospital. The match featured one team coached by an ex-professional footballer, who was serving as a prisoner, and another team made up of the occupants of A hall.


A police superintendent reported in Newport and Ryde alone there were 132 alehouses, 12 beerhouses, and 37 off-licences.

The police officer reported a low level of crime associated with these premises and recommended all licences should be renewed.


A ship carrying donated goods from residents across the IW was due to leave Southampton for Spain.

Patrons included the mayor of Ryde and the chairman of Cowes District Council. The donations were to help those affected by the Spanish Civil War.

50 Years Ago - February 1, 1967

A new one-way system in Newport Town Centre was tried out for the first time.

The experiment on traffic flow directed cars to travel in one direction between the Pyle Street, St James’s Square-Nodehill intersection.

Police officers positioned themselves around the town during the first few days in order to ensure drivers followed the new road signs.


Nearly four-and-a-half tons of rubber was washed up along the south coast of the Island between Freshwater Bay and St Lawrence.

The rubber was collected and taken to the receiver of wrecks at Cowes.

The debris came from the wreck of the War Knight, which sank after a fire at Watcombe Bay in 1918. Each person who collected the rubber expected to receive £2 per cwt as salvage.


A 13-year-old boy admitted stealing £6 16s from the electricity meter in his home.

The boy used a key to obtain the money. He said he had spent it on going to the cinema. He was ordered to pay 15s costs and given a conditional discharge for 12 months.

25 Years Ago - January 27, 1989

A simple schoolboy prank turned into a huge air, sea, land search and rescue mission.

A helicopter, 15 police officers and several lifeguard and coastguard boats were launched in a search for a missing person when clothes were discovered on a sea wall at Ryde Esplanade, with footsteps on the beach leading towards the sea.

But it turned out that the 'missing’ boy was at home asleep.

The 14 year old went to a police station when he heard about the search on the radio. He explained he had been dared to go into the sea by friends and they made off with his clothes as a practical joke.


Southern Water and South Wight Borough Council conducted a massive operation after 600 gallons of diesel fuel, worth £500, leaked from a tank on a building site at Merrie Gardens, Lake.

While most of the fuel was contained, some leaked into a surface water pipe and had to be sucked out. More fuel ran into the nearby Scotchells Brook but was soon cleaned up.


Archaeologists were hoping to clinch a major sponsorship deal to uncover a Roman harbour at Fishbourne Creek.

Forty Roman coins, pottery and a Roman leather sandal had already been discovered. It was also hoped an 800-metre buried wooden structure was Roman.

The project needed between £25,000 and £30,000 to get off the ground.

10 Years Ago - January 30, 2004

Blood-sucking leeches turned garden ponds in Wootton into a death trap for the native wildlife. The two-inch slimy killers were gorging on amphibians by attacking their legs and bursting from their bellies.

Residents complained that rather than an abundance of frogs leaping around, the creatures were floating belly up on the surface.


A price tag of £60 million was put on the cost of repairing the Island’s roads.

Councillors feared the roads only had 12 years left in them and the only light at the end of the tunnel could be utilising a PFI contract.

The IW Council’s environment and transport select committee said it only had enough money to carry out emergency repairs.

A meeting of the council’s senior management team was told a 19 per cent increase in tax would be needed to cover the cost of the necessary engineering work.

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