THE Sweeney, XTC and an outbreak of typhoid were high on the Adver’s news agenda this week in 1979, although thankfully in separate stories.
Jack Regan and George Carter – or a photo of them, anyway – made our front page after drawing the ire of Swindon MP David Stoddart.
The future poster boys of 1970s nostalgia, played by John Thaw and Dennis Waterman, were accused of promoting several kinds of nastiness.
“There’s no way Swindon MP David Stoddart is a fan of The Sweeney,” we wrote.
“Indeed, Jack Regan and his sidekick Carter fill him with contempt.
“And he blames guts-and-gore programmes like The Sweeney for the increase in real-life brutality.
“Mr Stoddart’s blast came after complaints from Swindon residents. Shocked viewers wrote to him about violence and swearing on the box – especially The Sweeney.
“‘I watched the programme after I received the letters and I found it disgusting,’ Mr Stoddart said last night. ‘It not only depicts violence for violence’s sake, but it portrays the police as brutes as well.’”
The MP said he’d forwarded the letters to the Independent Broadcasting Association, which wrote back saying the violence and swearing were necessary to the plot.
Mr Stoddart would probably have been happier had he known that the new episode broadcast a little over a month earlier would turn out to be the last.
The story wasn’t our only entertainment news. We said: “XTC – Swindon’s premier rock band – are today smack in the middle of a ‘split-up’ mystery.
“Rumours that the band is breaking up have been denied by XTC’s management, who claim the group are ‘alive and kicking.’ “But it is now certain that Barry Andrews – the group’s keyboards player – has left the town’s ace rock outfit.
“He broke with the band last week as personal differences in the group had reached such a bad pitch.”
The band, of course, turned out to have their biggest hits still to come, while Barry Andrews went on to forge a successful post-XTC career both as a solo artist and as founder of Shriekback.
On a completely different note, we revealed on Wednesday, January 31: “A 14-year-old Swindon schoolgirl is recovering at home after contracting typhoid.”
The unfortunate unnamed teenager was one of 400 pupils at the old Westbourne Secondary School in Jennings Street, which would be closed and demolished during the following decade.
Wiltshire education spokesman Tony French told us: “It’s a mild case of para typhoid B. The health authority have given us an assurance that there is no risk whatsoever to any children outside the family.”
We added that four years earlier the girl’s sister had contracted the potentially lethal bacterial condition when her grandmother vomited following a hospital visit.
Meanwhile there was good news from the Railway Works, where the first new locos in 14 years were being built.
We said: “No-one ever expected to see another loco roll off the old Great Western Railway production line again. But the first of 20 diesel shunters destined for Kenyan Railways came out of the works today. It was given a rapturous welcome by the workforce and the world.”
Works committee secretary Danny Lee told us: “We are set to become an international name again, and show the world that Swindon means the best.”
We added: “The engine is a 525 horse power diesel hydraulic shunter, very similar to the 650hp ‘Teddy Bear’ which was the last loco to leave Swindon’s works in October 1965.”
One of the workers involved with the project was a young man called David Rees, who would visit Kenya more than 30 years later, in 2011.
His travels took him to Nairobi station on the Uganda Railway, which runs services to Mombasa in Kenya three times a week. He’d heard that an old friend was there, and sure enough the two were reunited: a former railway worker and one of those Kenyan Railways shunters.
David told us: “I remember working on the train and to see it over the other side of the world and still working is really good, and I felt very proud.
“The shunter was in fine working order and still going strong. I looked it over and it was looking really good still 30 years on.”