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26 Apr 2017

‘A Night in the Cells’

John Timson.jpgNeville Parry.jpg 

John Timson & Neville Parry (Mid Year 1958 -59)

In the summer of 1959, the newly-formed Scout Club decided to run an initiative test for its members. The aim was, once morning lectures were over, to see how far from Chester members could get on only 1/-6d. Proof of whatever distant point was reached, a café receipt, a newspaper or a photograph for example, had to be brought back.
 
John Timson teamed up with Neville Parry and their plan was to walk to the south of the city, cross the Dee Bridge and hitchhike down the A49 as far as possible. To John’s surprise, Neville appeared smartly dressed in a dark suit and wearing a tie. “Ah! It’s my strategy,” opined Neville. “Drivers are more likely to stop pick up a respectable-looking person. You keep out of sight while I wave a thumb at the passing cars.”
 
Neville’s ‘strategy’ worked. They were soon picked up and as the day passed, they threaded their way south - Shrewsbury, Church Stretton, Ludlow, Leominster, Hereford… and, by late afternoon, they had arrived at Ross-on-Wye. Here they spent their 1/6d on fish and chips and Tizer, then suddenly realised that they now had to get back ‘up country.’ The six hours they had spent getting to Ross would, if they were lucky enough to repeat their earlier hitchhiking success, mean arriving back at midnight, or even later.
 
They walked out of the town and headed up the A49, turning to face any oncoming cars as they approached. “It looks better to be seen walking,” said Neville. But any optimism in his voice faltered as the few Saturday evening cars that did come their way failed to stop. The evening wore on. They had been walking north for over two hours. Fewer cars were passing. Dusk began to fall.
 
“It’ll be dark soon. We’re over 100 miles from Chester and completely skint,” said John gloomily. “We’ll never get back tonight. Where are we going to sleep?”
 
“Right!” said Neville. “Desperate measures are called for.” He suddenly crossed the road and stood in the centre of the south-bound carriageway. As a lorry approached, Neville waved his arms and brought it screeching to a halt. “Would you be so kind as to take us into Ross?” he asked politely. “Where, in Ross, exactly?” asked the surprised driver. “The Police Station,” Neville replied.  
 
And so it was that our two doughty heroes spent a night in police cells.  The desk sergeant, a kindly man with teenage boys of his own, sucked his pencil then said, “Well providing we don’t have a rush of felons and drunks to lock up, you can have a cell each.” They slept on a thin horsehair mattress. Neville recalls the cell smelled of ammonia and the blankets reeked of Jeyes Fluid, an odour which pervaded his suit for days after the experience. They were woken at six the next morning, given a cup of tea and a bun. “If you’re here when the next shift comes on, I have to write a report,” said the desk sergeant. “So bugger off, smartish!”
 
Hitchhiking back was not easy on a Sunday in those days. Few private cars were prepared to stop and the volume of traffic then was far lighter than now. But by the afternoon, their luck eventually came good. A lorry carrying vegetables bound for Liverpool stopped and gave them a lift, and our heroes arrived back at College late on Sunday evening and had to appear before Brad (John Bradbury, the Deputy Principal) the following morning for a wigging for being absent without an exeat (i.e. written permission) on the Saturday.

 

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