Blackpool nostalgia in January 1983: Sea tragedy, scrapping rail link idea and tower take over deal

Here's what was making the news in Blackpool in January 1983...

Friday, 17th January 2020, 1:34 pm
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 1:37 pm

Sea Tragedy was darkest day in resort

It was one of the blackest days in the history of Lancashire Police and for Blackpool too.

The news headlines reported the deaths of four people, three of whom were police officers, who lost their lives under tragic circumstances on January 5. PC Colin Morrison, 38, Alistair Anthony, 25, PC Gordon Connolly, 24, and WPC Angela Bradley, 25, all lost their lives in treacherous seas.

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Blackpool Tower was part of a take over deal by First Leisure
Blackpool Tower was part of a take over deal by First Leisure

The police officers went to the aid of holidaymaker Mr Anthony, who had tried to save his dog from the sea.

A fourth officer was survivor PC Pat Abrams, who almost died at the scene, while PC Martin Hewitson, who was also battered by the waves, was later hospitalised for shock. For three hours, Fleetwood lifeboat could not get within 75 yards of the sea wall, at Blackpool, while the inflatable dinghy couldn’t be launched. All the victim's bodies were recovered. The tragedy shocked the resort and made news around the world.

Scrapping rail link

Blackpool tourism leaders lashed a report suggestion to sever the Fylde rail link as disasterous and suicidal.

The scene on Blackpool seafront in 1983 when three police officers and a member of the public drowned in treacherous seas

But a British Rail spokesman countered: “The general feeling is that Blackpool and the Fylde is safe.”

Meanwhile South Fylde MP Sir Edward Gardner, urged the Government to reject the sections of the controversial report affecting Lancashire’s rail network.

The report advocated six options to take British Rail in the next century.

They ranged from a skeleton system of just 1,630 miles compared to 10,370 miles of track to axing rail links to towns with a population of 25,000 people.

Option A, which was the most radical idea, would link only major cities in the country, cutting the Fylde off completely.

Yet British Rail figures shows that every year, 12 per cent of Blackpool’s visitors travel in by train.

Estimates show that every year two and a quarter million people used Blackpool North Station.

Any idea of taking Blackpool off the rail map would be disasterous, resort leaders said.

And the very publication of such a proposal was attacked as irresponsible by Blackpool Hotel and Guest House Association. secretary Mr Ray Lawrence.

He said: “The fact that this has even been suggestion poses a serious threat.”

First Leisure takeover

Blackpool Tower, the Winter Gardens and all three piers were bought by a new giant leisure company as part of a massive package deal.

First Leisure Corporation Ltd master-minded by Lord Delfont, announced that they had bought the whole of Trusthouse Forte’s leisure division for £37.5m.

The purchase meant First Leisure became Britain’s biggest independent leisure company with a huge slice of Blackpool’s entertainment scene.

Lord Delfont, aged 73, would become the chairman and chief executive of the company which also took over Bernard Delfont Ltd, the theatre owning and theatrical production company.

The resort’s tourism chiefs heralded the sale as a good omen for the future.