A SWINDON Advertiser front page was dominated by a large photo of a chicken this week a dozen years ago.

The fowl looked worried – and readers could have been forgiven for feeling a bit worried themselves.

The town, like the rest of the country, was in the grip of perhaps the biggest bout of animal disease hysteria since the rabies panic of the 1970s.

“If bird flu hits the UK,” we said, “Swindon will be right in the firing line.

“One of the town’s doctors has warned that because of Swindon’s high level of national travellers, residents could be at risk from the potentially deadly virus.”

The doctor was Peter Crouch of Taw Hill Medical Centre, who died a little over a year ago.

He told us: “If bird flu hits Britain we can be certain we will see cases in Swindon.

“Swindon is a commuter town with individuals who regularly commute to London. People should not feel that they are isolated from the danger.

“There is no known vaccine because scientists have yet to prove that the virus can spread from human to human.”

In the months and few years that followed, there were several reports of outbreaks at poultry farms and among wild birds in the UK, but the feared epidemic among humans failed to materialise.

The threat of pestilence was not the only cause of disgruntlement that week in October of 2005.

Country Life had recently become the latest London-based magazine to sneer at Swindon.

The then editor, Clive Aslet, delivered a damning verdict over the course of an extensive article.

He accused the town of having little by way of nightlife, culture or decent architecture.

“This is demographically a young town,” he said, “but despite a high number of well-off singles, nowhere buzzes with cafes and market stalls.

“A night out in Swindon is hardly a hot date.”

In spite of Swindon boasting interesting structures such as the Motorola building and Nationwide HQ, Mr Aslet said there was nothing on a par with London buildings such as the Gherkin.

He added: “As a result Swindon is, sadly, the sort of place that residents apologise for living in.”

Naturally, we ran a spread of comments from local councillors, business people and residents, all refuting the claims.

The staunchest defence of Swindon, however, seems to have come from the Adver itself, whose editorial writer was evidently sick and tired of such nonsense.

They seem also to have had a chip on their shoulder big enough to be cut up and turned into a substantial shed.

They wrote: “Country Life, which has lately written nasty things about Swindon, is a magazine which ceased to be relevant at around the time the last witless debutante curtsied at the Palace.

“It is nothing so much as a sparse collection of tiresome articles holding together a sludge of property ads.

“The editor suggests Swindon people are ashamed. On the contrary, we are proud. Our town is a functional town because we all work for a living rather than having inherited our money.

“That’s W-O-R-K for the benefit of any Country Life readers out there.”

On a cheerier note, Honda’s new Civic was hailed by many a motoring journalist as a potential world-beater, which was good news for workers at the South Marston plant.

Trade minister Ian Pearson visited the factory for the official launch, alongside senior Honda executives.

He said: “Honda is not just important to Swindon and the South West but to the UK as well.”

The model, designated the eighth generation of the Civic since the first were made in 1972, was made until 2011. There have been two versions since.

The Honda story merited a double-page spread, as did reproductions of the top entries in an art competition run by Inkspot Arts and Crafts, a shop in Edgware Road.

Called The Big Art Hunt, it drew a respectable crop of work in a variety of styles.

The winning artist, Michael Potter from Lyneham, produced an evocative image of war at sea which was painted to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

He was modest in victory, saying: “There were so many excellent pieces of work, which makes me think that it was the subject that helped me to win.”

We also found space for a dire warning about an international scam which had made the leap from ink and paper to cyberspace.

It was fairly common at the time for people to receive letters from foreign addresses, telling them they had won lotteries they had never entered in countries they had never visited.

All the recipient had to do to receive the money was call a hotline, hand over their bank account details and perhaps pay a refundable administration fee. The lottery winnings, of course, didn’t exist.

This week a dozen years ago we warned readers to be aware of something similar cropping up online. A 65-year-old Swindon man, John Spencer, received an email telling him he had won £3m in a non-existent European National Lottery sweepstake.

Fortunately, he immediately recognised it as a scam, and told us he believed it was specifically targeted at elderly people.

The police urged anybody who received such an email to get in touch with Trading Standards.