During the Summer of 1965 at Crossbasket Castle, the “James Little Training College” was established and became an education centre for various trades and hobbies, operating alongside the day to day business of the Roosevelt Memorial Fund’s work with disadvantaged children. James Little was a former owner of Crossbasket who left his fortune to a Trust.
The idea was to attract local youth, educating and guiding them. This was done by charging minimal membership rates to attend various sporting activities and classes. It seemed a good idea.
A grand fete was to be held in the Crossbasket grounds. It took place on the 5th June 1965 and invited local people to come along and have fun on the opening day. The weather was very kind and it was a roasting hot day, sweltering, by all accounts. Blantyre man Gordon Cook told me, “we parked my granny under a tree with a handkerchief on her head because it was so warm.”
There was a wide variety of stalls and amusements. Gordon, a mere boy at the time went on to say, “I remember the Guides had a wee stall where you paid your money and wrote your name on a lollipop stick, and they planted it in small plot as per your directions, and at the end the person whose stick was nearest the “x” was the winner, it wasn’t me. Other stalls had prizes like bottles of whisky. I also remember it was very busy all day.
Another Blantyre man, Alex Rochead also has memories of this day. He clearly recalls that the Rochead family were giving pony rides to the children at the fete and indeed has sent in this wonderful photo of the moment, adding, “From left to right Jim Rochead, Minni Rochead (my mother taking the money) Billy (a friend of Jims), Baxter Campbell in the check shirt (a family friend, who lived in Farm Road) and my father, Jimmy Rochead.”
However, the star attraction of the day, really was “a star”. Whilst writing my “History of Crossbasket Castle” book, I was surprised to learn of a lesser known fact that the popular entertainer, singer and comedian Max Bygraves had attended, gave an opening speech about the college and sang some songs. Max was a popular English entertainer whom in 1965, was 43 years old and approaching the height of his fame.
He had earlier been on “This is your life” programme and his songs were well known. Allan Reardon, who lives currently at Allers Farm a Stoneymeadow Road told me, “I remember being dragged along to see Max sing, by my mother and her sisters on this day.”
I was interested to hear that he arrived by helicopter, something very unusual even back then. This must have been a great way to travel and I can quite imagine this pioneering flying machine of its day, land on the Crossbasket lawn. It sounds like a great day was had by all. Max Bygraves retained his popularity, by a certain generation until his death in 2012, at the age of 89. As Max would say from his catchphrase, “Now, I wanna tell you a story”…..
Update: Note, I previously thought Douglas Bader opened the college in September 1965, but have recently learned that he only opened the golf training school, within the already opened college itself. I have since made a minor correction to my book updating this fact, with the above illustrations.