Schemes, skams and skulduggery from a Colne rogue

West St School

West St School

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This week our column takes us back to the year 1951 with an excellent photo of the pupils of West Street School. Many of these post-war Colne school children will have now reached their 70th year and, sadly, quite a few are no longer with us.

Among the smiling faces on the front row are Cynthia Cooper, Margaret Lenton, Ann Dixon, Rita Pearson, Joan Wilmore and Sheila Little. The Festival of Britain year boys include Raymond Goff, Brian Hartley, Maurice Tate, Billy Devonport, Ronnie Ashworth, Walter Jonas and, middle row, David Nowell, Eric Heap, Eric Kendall and on the far right the legendary Jackie Penman.

Jackie was one of Colne’s greatest likable rogues and his very many schemes, scams and skulduggery are still remembered in Colne today. Jackie lived in Boundary Street, just a couple of doors away from the famous evacuee family at Number 17, the Rosenthals, of whom Jack Rosenthal would become the famed film and TV playwright.

A 1950s game of street cricket saw the Rosenthal brothers Jack and David, plus Dave Horsfall and Jackie Penman playing a keenly fought contest, which saw Jackie clean bowled by the future famous writer. Jackie was the most voracious in his dissent shouting out “it was a no-ball”, then stormed off in the direction of Tum Hills. Later that night, under cover of darkness, Jackie quietly put half-a-dozen huge frogs through the Rosenthals’ letter-box, which he’d caught from Tum Hill dams. The next day Mrs Leah Rosenthal’s loud screams could be heard all along Boundary Street!

Fast-forward now to 1960 and up the top rec in Colne, a cricket match sees Mel Hartley on 70 not out when, suddenly, across the pitch, like a bat out of hell, roars Jackie Penman on a “borrowed” souped-up motorbike, followed by two red-faced boys in blue! Jackie climbs the steep bank at speed, then leaps off the bike, snatching a box of Swan Vestas matches from his pocket, then proceeds to unfasten the BSA bike’s petrol cap. Now Jackie backs away from the bike, then throws a lit match into the bike’s petrol tank! The explosion is cataclysmic as the bike becomes a raging inferno. Our cricket match is halted as we take in the dramatic scene and Jackie with his trademark smile runs across Sedgwick’s Field, calling out: “So long coppers, where’s your evidence now?”