Letters, Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

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Article brought back memories

THE Echo article on Friday, July 20, quoted when the “Air Show was Family Fun”. This was when Sunderland Flying Club’s chairman was Derek Lindsay Lodge.

This brought fantastic memories back to me because Derek married my eldest sister Mavis.

In 1954, I had finished my GCEs at Bede Grammar School and my Dad bought me a secondhand BSA 125cc Bantam for my 16th birthday. Derek had been called up to do his National Service in the RAF. As a dentist, he was made a Flying Officer straight away and was posted to Central Flying School at Little Rissington in the Cotswolds.

Our Mavis rang me up and said: “There’s a dining-in night, where friends and family are entertained at a ball at Central Flying School. Borrow a dinner suit off my dad and get yourself down here”.

My dad, Big Billy’s dinner suit fitted me then, so I packed it into a suitcase and off I went on this BSA Bantam. It was in Blackberry Week and I hadn’t passed my test and was the holder of a provisional driving licence.

Central Flying School was inspirational to every schoolboy would-be Biggles. There were huge oil paintings of early aircraft like Sopworth Camels. Central Flying School is where they trained the trainers of aircraft. There were still Meteors and Vampires there. Training was done on Jet Provosts and, of course, it was the base for the Red Arrows.

The ball was fabulous, and half way through it, the music stopped because the crew of the Canberra arrived after having flown around the world.

Sunderland Flying Club was run by truly magnificent men who just loved flying, with great help from George Bambrough who really owned the club and ploughed in his finance and expertise as a haulier.

Bill Craggs (Little Billy)

Appeal thank-you

I WOULD like to thank everyone who contributed to the fantastic amount donated of £2,929.92 during Children’s Hospice Week in May.

Special thanks must go to Jeff Coxon alias “Coco the Clown”, who despite the rain and cold sat every day collecting for Grace House Children’s Hospice. His passion to raise money for Grace House is fantastic and he overwhelms me with his enthusiasm.

I must also thank all our other volunteers who gave up their time to help us.

Everyone’s support is vital to our ongoing fund-raising for the essential medical equipment and running costs.

If anyone would like to know more about volunteering opportunities or fund-raising please contact our appeal office on 516 6302, email info@gracehouse.co.uk or visit our website www.gracehouse.co.uk.

Karen Maclennan, Senior fund-raiser, Grace House Children’s Hospice

Rename airport

NEWCASTLE Airport is short of money and wants Sunderland City Council to come up with millions of pounds to keep it going.

If Newcastle Airport is skint and the City of Sunderland put in the money, I think the airport should have a new name. The new name should be Newcastle and Sunderland Airport, or how about Tyne and Wear Airport?

In the past Sunderland has paid money for the Tyneside Metro and Eldon Square.

John Metcalf, Premier Road, Plains Farm, Sunderland

Baxter a let-down

IN reply to Mr Andrews of Ryhope, I’m afraid I think Jim Baxter was a waster. I was 16 when SAFC signed him, and I loved the man. He was our world-class star player, and it seemed like a dream come true when he arrived at Roker.

But I’m older, sadder and wiser now. The dreams I had as a teenager faded and died. Baxter was an important figure in my life, but left me disillusioned.

What we didn’t know was why Rangers sold him – the alcohol, women, the trouble with the police – or why leading English managers didn’t want him.

We had a decent team when Baxter came here, but we were soon relegation material. Read the books about Charlie Hurley and Len Ashurst to see what went on behind the scenes at SAFC.

Read Ken Gallacher’s “Slim Jim” where Sir Matt Busby says he wouldn’t want his apprentices being influenced by a man like Baxter, and Jack Charlton says Baxter thought it was going to be easy in England and got a shock when he found out he had to work hard for 90 minutes.

Read about the fun and games Baxter got up to when SAFC toured America in 1967. It’s awful that honest professionals and decent family men like Hurley and Ashurst had to play alongside someone who turned up for training with a hangover, and who led a clique of Scottish players that divided the dressing room.

In the end SAFC got rid of him – then he went and brought down Nottingham Forest too.

William Crane, Langley Close, Washington