TWO of our stories from this week in 1980 have a familiar ring to them.
One of them began: “Will the real winning actor please stand up?
“For there was embarrassment all round when an actor who didn’t win a prize was handed the trophy.”
Almost 37 years before the Best Picture category at the Oscars made global headlines for all the wrong reasons, something similar played out at the Swindon Festival.
Drama judge Sheila Mander was set to present the best actor trophy to Denis Reynolds of the Phoenix Players for his performance in a piece called Will The Real Jesus Christ Please Stand Up.
Unfortunately she didn’t have her marked programme with her when she went on stage and mistakenly named 1979 winner Roger Trayhurn – who had been in the same play as Denis.
The confusion was rectified with rather less fuss than attended the Oscar mix-up of 2017.
In fact, there was none whatsoever.
With the trophy in the right hands, Roger said: “I didn’t mind at all. After all, Denis won it and it was just a mistake that I was announced as the winner.”
In another nod to the future, we ran a story beginning: “Hands off our library!”
The library was Old Town’s, and local members of the Liberal Party were rallying alongside the public to its support at a demonstration.
We said: “They were protesting against Wiltshire County Council’s proposed closure of the Old Town branch library.
“County Hall says the building, in Victoria Road, Swindon, may close to make a saving on spending.”
Kings Ward Councillor Mike Welsh said: “The response has been tremendous. Many people didn’t even know the library was threatened with closure.”
The week’s biggest local story that week was a sit-in by women who worked at the Sheppard Street factory of uniform manufacturer Compton Sons and Webb.
They faced redundancy the following month when the factory was due to close, and about 200 occupied the plant.
The company, which also had plants elsewhere, was reported in the national press to have full order books and to be highly profitable, and the Swindon staff were outraged at what they saw as insulting severance packages.
On the second day of the sit-in, we wrote: “The workers from Compton Sons and Webb threw their manager out of the factory this morning as they started a complete blockade of the town’s uniform works.
“The manager of the factory, Michael Tippett, was manhandled, thrown out of his office and escorted from the plant.”
One of the strikers, 44-year veteran Elsie Titcombe, said: “We will keep on fighting until we get our jobs back or more money.”
The women invited the Adver into the occupied factory, and our reporter found a dismal, neglected place with a leaking roof and disgusting toilet facilities.
The factory has now been gone for many years, as has the Wills cigarette factory which stood mostly on the site now occupied by Tesco in Ocotal Way.
As people who remember the tobacco factory know, it had its own railway line, with engines and rolling stock carrying wares from the production line to the mainline for distribution throughout the country.
Swindon Mayor and Mayoress Gordon and Gillian Law visited the factory as part of their official duties, and were clearly delighted to be photographed aboard one of the locos.
Another railway-related story involved a rather larger machine – but it wasn’t on rails at the time.
Merchant Navy Class 35018 ‘British India Line’ was on its way by road from a scrapyard to a heritage railway line in Hampshire, and the route included Blunsdon and Coate
The machine’s journey to preservation was far from over, however. After being partly prepared for a return to steam, it appears to have languished for many years, although it is currently listed on various enthusiasts’ websites as being readied for use.
A touching story involved an elderly woman’s legacy.
We said: “Gertie Viner just loved a cup of tea with her friends.
“So, when she made her will, she put aside £50 to buy half a pound of tea for each of her friends at Springfield House in Wootton Bassett. Gertie lived there until she died in October.
“But yesterday the residents all remembered her as they sat down to a nice cuppa.”
For hearts insufficiently warmed by that story, there was a cute animal saga with plenty of peril and a happy ending.
“A ginger tom who took a catnap in the back of a furniture lorry was safely back at home today,” we said.
“A driver delivering furniture yesterday for Normans of Swindon found the cat fast asleep. But he’d been to several villages near Marlborough…and had no idea where his passenger joined him.
“He handed the cat in to Marlborough police and after several phone calls they struck lucky.
“A Normans customer at Great Bedwyn said they sounded like a neighbour’s cat.”
That was how Nunney the cat came to be reunited with owners Mr and Mrs Alan Bell.
Nunney was an adventurous animal.
“He once went off in a bread van and had to be brought back from a bakery,” said Mrs Bell.