OUR weather stories during 1976 were mostly about the unprecedented summer heatwave.

There were tales of evaporating reservoirs; of lawns turned into cracked, brown, lifeless scrub, and of a plague of aphids which were feasted on by a plague of ladybirds.

We told of forest fires and official advice to share baths, of water boards urging neighbour to denounce neighbour for breaching hosepipe bans, and of occasional pavement egg-frying experiments.

This week in January of that year, however, we ran weather stories of a different kind as the Swindon area reeled from storms tearing across the region. At the beginning of the week we revealed that many homes were still without power more than 60 hours after the gales began.

We added: “A delayed effect of the storm last night hit about 2000 homes in Upper Stratton and Penhill with a short blackout. Faults occurred in overhead lines and underground cables, affecting some houses for about 90 minutes.”

Other buildings had problems rather more severe than a blackout. Among them was the South Street home of Albert Chubb. We photographed him clearing the pavement of what used to be the roof.

The wind tore apart plastic-topped Swindon warehouses belonging to pharmaceuticals firm Roussel Laboratories and tech firm Raychem, leaving stock exposed to the elements.

In Avebury, National Trust officials were busily drawing up plans to repair one of the town’s best-known landmarks other than the world famous ancient stones. The thatched roof of the trust’s 17th century barn had proved no match for the gales, and was left looking as though some careless giant had tripped over it.

Although many of our pages were devoted to the aftermath of the storms, we found space for happier stories. One was an interview with a 79-year-old Swindon pioneer of women’s sport. “When ten-year-old Dolly Rice first took the plunge at Swindon’s Milton Road pool,” we said, “mixed bathing was forbidden and girl swimmers were a rarity. In fact, apart from a two-hour session twice a week, women weren’t allowed in the pool at all.

“And when they were, their bathing suits had to be no more than three inches above the knee and two below the neck. And because there was no infiltration plant, in summer the water looked more like mud.”

Dolly – or Dorothy, as she was later known – had her first lesson in 1907 as one of a party of girls from College Street School.“Only eight of us went,” she said, “and the headmistress didn’t really approve. “Within a few weeks I had swum in my first race, and when I took my prize to show her, she as good as told me I wasn’t to swim again.”

Dorothy ignored her, carried on competing and in 1919 became the first captain of Swindon Ladies Swimming Club. The following year, she helped to form the town’s first women’s water polo team, and five years after that she was the first woman president of the Wiltshire Amateur Swimming Association.

We photographed her holding a silver tray the association had presented in gratitude for 50 years’ service.

Dorothy Rice died, aged 91, in 1987.

Another notable local person profiled in the Adver that week was known as the Bard of Blunsdon.

Harold Ball was a World War Two veteran and former pig breeder, cattle farmer, smallholder and worker at the Garrard hi-fi plant. He was also, thanks to a chance meeting with a witch about five years earlier, a composer and folk singer with a growing local reputation.

His songs, with titles such as Blunsdon Hill and Made in Swindon Town, chronicled and celebrated local life past and present.

Harold recalled his meeting with the witch, who told him: “You can write, you’ve got music in you, I can see handwriting. Rather strange, it was. She told me I could do it. ‘Keep it in the back of your head, keep thinking about it and it will come,’ she said.”

In later years he featured in several Adver stories.

Some announced performances but others were about his campaigns for everything from military veterans’ welfare to preventing greenbelt land from being built on.

The final story about him in our archives is from May of 1998, when the 81-year-old won the senior section of the Purton Carnival talent contest with a song called Our England. It was based on a poem he wrote in 1944 as his regiment waited to take part in the D-Day landings.

An unusual story about an Eldene schoolboy called Neil Bryan had a happy ending. The 14-year-old, with a tested genius-level IQ of 152, had found it difficult to fit in at what was then Dorcan School.

Wiltshire County Council education bosses sent him instead to a school in Sussex, only for his parents to remove him after two days. They claimed many of his fellow pupils were young offenders – a charge the council denied. Neil’s parents found him a place at a private school in Hampshire.

There are no further mentions of him in our files, but we hope he thrived.