Memory Lane: The guys who survived

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The recent article, recalling the Vickers’ factory collapse in September 1940, brought back memories for reader John Bamber of two young men, who were very seriously injured in the accident.

Joseph Pennington and Vincent Pye from Prescot, near St Helens, were steel erectors and had come to Blackpool to work on the factory construction on Squires Gate Lane.

Here is John’s letter: “On the night of their arrival in Blackpool, they knocked on the door of our terraced house in Thursby Avenue at about 9pm, looking for lodgings. Apparently, a near neighbour, who had told them she had no room available, suggested they try our house.

Although my parents explained there were six of us in the family and really didn’t have room for lodgers, they pleaded and said they would sleep anywhere, even on the floor, and continue their search the next day. After a hurried change of our sleeping arrangements, they were ‘put up’ and surprisingly lodged with us for the next three months, until the day of the accident.

I was 10 at the time, and attended Roseacre School. Every lunchtime, my task was to cycle and meet them at the Halfway House pub, with their lunch of sandwiches or a meat pie, and a piece of cake.

On that fateful day, I went as usual, to be confronted with what seemed like hundreds of police cars, ambulances and fire engines. I simply could not understand what was amiss.

Needless to say, Joe and Vincent did not turn up, so I returned home to tell mother what I had seen.

I went back to school, and my mother went to the factory to see for herself.

We learned later that evening that Joe and Vincent had suffered horrific injuries, so severely, that they remained in Victoria Hospital for the next six months.

Prior to the accident, these young men were in the peak of physical fitness and extremely muscular. Joe had even brought with him his five spring chest expanders which he was able easily to extend fully across his chest.

The hospital consultants later said that had they not been so outstandingly fit, they would most certainly have died.

I visited them in hospital one day, and, for something to say, told Joe not to worry and that I was looking after his chest expanders for him.

He paused, then replied, ‘I won’t ever be using them again, you have them’.

I am proud to say that I still have them to this day.

They both recovered sufficiently to return home to Prescot, and were subsequently awarded compensation. Joe received about £15,000 and Vincent £9,000.

Joe started a taxi company about 18 months later, using his compensation, however, I do not remember much about Vincent other than he married about two years after his return home.

I am sure readers will be interested in this little memory, even though John and Joe were not Blackpool boys.”