HOLIDAY printing schedules meant the first Adver of Christmas week in 1973 didn’t appear until the Thursday.

The lead story was the stuff of nightmares and began: “A huge hole has swallowed the back of a house in Ferndale Road, Swindon, forcing two families to quit their homes.”

The void had opened on Boxing Day, demolishing an outhouse and plunging kitchen equipment into a pit about a dozen feet deep.

Nobody was hurt, but the tenants - a club steward and his family - were evacuated, and so were the couple next door. Both households were relocated to the Goddard Arms Hotel, courtesy of the borough council.

We added: “Both houses are threatened by the collapse of the outhouse into a tunnel excavated for Swindon’s major northern stormwater outfall scheme.

“It was built as a pilot heading, more than six feet square, to link the main tunnel from a shaft near Beatrice Street lake to a point north of Ferndale Road.”

The house worst affected was owned by Ferndale Working Men’s Club and occupied by its steward, Mike Sullivan, who was alerted to the near-disaster by one of his children.

He told us: “She came into the bar and told me the floor was sinking. I went out to have a look and is sunk about four inches as I walked on it.”

We added: “Today their sink unit, toilet, wash basin, crockery and cutlery had sunk into the hole with a mass of bricks and broken joists.

“The wooden roof of the outhouse, surfaced with corrugated asbestos, was leaning at a crazy angle as contractors’ men shored it up.

“Large cracks have also appeared in the end wall.”

Another property-related story appeared on the same day, was just as bleak if not as dramatic.

It was about a phenomenon we identified as Planners’ Blight, which we said happened when people moved from their houses following the announcement by councils of new roads and other grand schemes.

“The Gorse Hill area of Swindon,” we said, “particularly since August, 1970, when people living there were given a written notice warning them that their homes might be wanted, has had a nasty dose of this disease.

“The signs are plentiful.

“Hinton, Argyll and Edinburgh Streets, among others, begin to look about as healthy as a mouthful of decayed and blackened teeth, with ugly gaps and spaces.

“The reason for these gaps is that planners had drawn beautiful lines on maps to show how they would widen Cricklade Road, turning it into a dual carriageway.

“But they appear to have overlooked the fact that the community would be split in half by the beautiful new road.

“They knew that houses would have to come down, but forgot that people lived in them.”

The plan was abandoned after a groundswell of protest, but by that time the damage was done.

“Blight begins to bite when scared people living in a limbo of uncertainty cannot decide whether to sell and move out.

“Property is neglected and begins to run down. Vandals cause damage and no one bothers to repair it. Households are upset.”

Normality, of course, was eventually restored.

In those long ago days, when even the first wave of home computing was the best part of a decade away, most people’s definition of an indoor Christmas game involved a board, a pair of dice and and perhaps an ensuing family rift.

Many a newspaper printed their own game boards for people who couldn’t face yet more tears around the Monopoly table or worried that the dog might choke on a stray component of Mousetrap.

The Adver was no exception, and offered a railway-themed one called Clickety Clack, whose players had to progress along a railway track. They were obliged to answer locally-themed general knowledge questions if they landed on certain spaces between sleepers.

The questions were fairly tough, mainly because they tended to ask the names of buildings and locations shown in postage stamp-sized photographs.

On an even more local level, something scarcely any edition of the Adver during the period failed to include was a mention of singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan, then at the height of his fame.

The fact that his first ITV Christmas special was among the broadcast schedules gave us yet another reason to write about the local boy made good.

Parents of babies born on Christmas Day can usually expect a visit from their local newspaper, and we ran photographs of the first four, who were presumably delivered at the old Princess Margaret Hospital.

They were Lisa Jane O’Farrell, of Dryden Street; Mark Twigg, of Clifton Street; Justin Charles Spranklin, of High Street, Purton and Melanie Louise Heath, whose family home was in Marlborough.

We wish all four, together any other babies born on that day, a happy 45th birthday, and a Merry Christmas and happy New Year to them and all Rewind readers.