AN ARISTOCRATIC broadcaster and former jockey rode into the fray over local radio in Swindon this week in 1980.

Other combatants included Joel Joffe, co-founder of Allied Dunbar and former lawyer of Nelson Mandela.

At the time Swindon had no BBC local radio station, and various embryonic commercial ones were vying for a licence.

There were suspicions that the BBC’s announcement of a station for Swindon was prompted by alarm in the corporation at commercial rival poaching listeners from its national stations.

We said: “A war of the airwaves is set to be fought in Swindon.

“For the BBC’s plans for Radio Swindon were welcomed today - by the opposition.

“Commercial station backers gave the thumbs-up to the official go-ahead for Aunty Beeb.

“Cheerful aristocrat Lord Oaksey said: ‘Any competition is a good thing for people who live in the area.’”

Lord Oaksey, the Wiltshire peer whose successful career as a jockey included a Grand National ride, was one of the country’s best-known racing broadcasters and journalists.

He added: “If we do get the IBA franchise we would be confident of giving the BBC a run for their money. It doesn’t dismay me at all.”

Joel Joffe, who would be ennobled in 2000, chaired another commercial competitor, Great Western Radio, and was equally unfazed.

“I’m not worried,” he said. “We could be open long before them.”

Dennis Pitts, programme controller for another commercial operation, White Horse Radio, said: “I think it’s excellent news. It’s good, healthy competition.”

The report made one of our front pages that week in 1980, as did a sequence of pictures showing a startling record attempt.

We said: “An attempt on the world grocery-grabbing record ended in blood, smashed jars and spilled food today.

“As Tom Spear raced round a Wootton Bassett supermarket, snatching goodies, he cut his neck.

“And after his bid shopgirls were left clearing up shattered coffee jars and bent biscuit tins.

“His one-minute smash and grab netted a 20lb turkey, beef, pork, lamb, a £13 electric coffee percolator and at least four huge packets of soap powder, totalling 26 items.”

The idea had been to beat a record of 81 items gathered in 60 seconds, but the consensus among those who watched the attempt was that the large size of the shop worked against him.

Earlier in the day another supermarket at the smaller Highworth Key Markets saw a housewife called Barbara Porter gather goods worth £283 in a minute. Tom Spear’s tally came to a more modest £60.

Tales of local people made good have always been a staple of the local newspaper agenda, which is why an Oasis concert by XTC was meat and drink to the Adver. By that time the band was known all over the world.

Only the week before, they had played to a total of about 33,000 fans at two shows in New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden. Fourth album Black Sea had recently entered the Billboard top 100 and new single Take This Town had been chosen for the soundtrack of a new film, Times Square, which went on to be regarded as a cult classic.

Announcing the Oasis gig, we said: “XTC return to Swindon in triumph tonight.

“They play the town’s Oasis leisure centre after a hugely successful world tour. The group have played vast stadiums and arenas in Europe, America and Australia throughout the year.

“And they’re finishing their tour in Britain at a top London venue following tonight’s show. The 1,500 capacity Swindon venue is expected to be sold out.”

Unsurprisingly, it was indeed sold out, and our rave review began: “XTC, one of the finest ambassadors for British pop overseas, did it in impeccable style on their own doorstep.

“They produced an immaculate show of incisive, fizzy pop and sprightly, effusive dance music at the Oasis.

“Their music’s finest quality is its distinct and original tang. It’s instantly recognisable as XTC. There are no obvious outside influences and when you hear a new XTC cut - zap - you know who it is immediately.”

Another story in a truly mixed bag of news was about a local company which went on to become notorious throughout the country more than a quarter off a century later.

The collapse of hamper firm Farepak in 2006, taking with it the cash paid in by many hard-pushed customers, caused outrage, but at least two clients in the run-up to Christmas of 1980 weren’t happy with it.

Swindon bus driver David Hamer and his wife - she was not named in the story - spent £26 on a hamper, only for a rather paltry collection of tins and packets to be delivered. The couple worked out that they could have bought the items themselves at a supermarket for nearly £9 less, a significant sum in 1980. Farepak retorted that the couple knew what they were ordering.