Another Convenient Appearance (22 November 1974)
I see that Bletchley’s wandering loos are likely to make what the Gazette calls another “public appearance” shortly.
I am glad to hear this. Not just for my own sake, but for the sake of all those who, with uncomfortable looks on their faces, buttonhole me at the Bigger, Better, Blacker end of Queensway to ask me where the nearest one is.
Only the other day a smart-looking chap approached me outside Barclays Bank. He looked so worried I knew what he was going to say before he opened his mouth. And he said it.
I told him the only one I knew about was several hundred yards away at the foot of the helter-skelter car park in the former Central Gardens.
Useless to tell him that we did have another one, but that sometimes it was up and sometimes it was down and never in the same place twice and that at present it was down.
I had half a mind to direct him to the police station as the only safe spot – they could hardly refuse him there – but I doubted whether it was nearer than the helter-skelter.
The most suitable place, of course, would have been the council office, but that was too far away for business of any kind.
Apparently he took me for a stranger like himself. At any rate, he said there was bound to be one somewhere along the new road and hurried off in the direction of the insurance edifice.
I hope he made it. . .
I commiserate with Mr. “Monty” Woollard, of Shenley Hill Farm, in the collapse of his hope of becoming a member of the projected Milton Keynes Magistrates’ Court, let alone of his dream of becoming its first chairman.
I seem to remember the disappointment some of the old magistrates felt when retirement at the age of 75 became the rule. So what must a man of 69 feel now that the age-limit has been cut to 70, which is how Mr. Woollard comes to be redundant – save the word!
The Woollards have an honoured name for public work not only in Stony Stratford but throughout the county. Four generations ago, in 1889, a Mr. F.W. Woollard, of Stony, was elected to the first Buckinghamshire County Council, along with Mr. Herbert Leon, of Bletchley, and Mr. Thomas Taylor, of Newport Pagnell. The Stony tanning firm of Sharp and Woollard are just about the oldest industrialists around.
Mr. Woollard has more than kept faith with his forefathers. I have not known him much as a magistrate. To me he was “Mr. Bucks Water Board” and in that capacity he was the epitome of courtesy – which is as much as I asked from any man. He would have made an ideal first chairman.
But my concern is not only with men of that sort of background. I am afraid that the reduction of the age limit will tend to prejudice the acceptance of magisterial service by worthy men of very different background. A cross-section of the community is the ideal combination for the administration of justice. All types have served well together in the past. Thus, the late Mr. Syd Maycock, a railway guard, often told me how much he had enjoyed his association on the Fenny Stratford bench with the late Captain J.P. B. Fitzgerald, the Walton Manor racing stud owner. No doubt the appreciation was mutual. . .
Talking of Walton Manor, I must confess to being rarely puzzled by one reported aspect of the out-of-court settlement of the compensation case between the last private owner, Mr. Bernard Myers, and Milton Keynes Development Corporation.
The Gazette states that “both parties agreed to keep the details confidential.” But how can the corporation give such an undertaking, beneficial though it might be to the public? A great deal of public money is involved. Does not the corporation still produce an annual financial statement? And how could such a statement avoid giving at least some hint of the extent of this major “detail?” Is the corporation ultimately accountable to the public, or is it not?
As I say, I am rarely puzzled . . .
I am interested to read that some Bletchley members of Milton Keynes Borough council are urging the re-opening of the rail passenger service to Oxford. At the council meeting they suggested that the dormant joint committee of local councils should be re-convened. They were told that the county council were now responsible for coordinating public transport and it was felt that a joint committee would only duplicate the effort. (Actually, two county councils would be involved).
I remember feeling before the old service was closed that the joint committee were fighting a losing battle. I had had a personal experience.
One night I had to sprint to catch the last train from Winslow to Bletchley. The train was standing in the station, preparing to leave, when I was spotted running down the road. The guard signed to me to drop down onto the line and then helped me to climb into his van or compartment on its off side. I travelled with the guard to Bletchley, where I found I had been the train’s only passenger between Winslow and Bletchley!
Are conditions now more favourable for the re-opening of the rail service, despite the substituted bus service? I should say they become more favourable every day. The re-opening effort will take a long time at best. Now could be the time to start preparing the case.