Friday, 12 January 2018

Let's talk about legends

Who  recognises  this chap ?

He is, of course,  the late BILL BILLINGS who deserves a place in our list of Milton Keynes legends.

Yesterday I drove to Peartree Bridge in Milton Keynes to take a photograph of his most famous work of art. do you recognise this?

I'll tell you more about the sculpture in a moment but first let me dip into my YouTube Channel and play you the Saturday Morning Theme.

That's Foot Tapper by The Shaddows. Come on and tap your way through today.

Now these guys.   Do you know who they are ?

Of course you do.

They used Bill's Peartree Bridge Dinosaur for a promo photo shoot.

The dinosaur was originally crafted as a project within an organisation by the name of INTERACTION.

My Rebekah used to go to Interaction on a Saturday morning for horse riding lessons, just one of the activities put on by Interaction.

When students from Sutter Junior High School in California came to visit Leon School we used the Interaction barge to travel along the canal.  I remember it broke down.

Bill's Peartree Bridge Dinosaur was the first of two Bill Billings constructed in the city. I was involved with Bill in making the second. I organised it, Bill built it. Let me tell you that story.

Leon School Headmaster Bruce Abbott came to me one day and said he wanted a sculpture at the bottom of the field which would become an icon and something everyone would associate with the school. Bruce's idea was to have a series of sculptures like the Easter Island Heads running along the length of the field. I persuaded my boss this was a bit ambitious so sold him the idea of a dinosaur.

OK, make it happen Mr Ashford.  I did. 

I brought Bill Billings on board and made this a project for my year group.

The first thing I had to do was to obtain planning permission from Milton Keynes Council. Local residents liked he idea so planning permission  was granted.

I decided the sculpture should be located at the bottom of the field in a place where those who were coming up from London on the train could see it, our dinosaur would be the first visible thing in Milton Keynes and so would become an icon and a legend in its own time.

Before anything happened Anglia TV News ran a feature with Yours Truly standing in the field where the dinosaur would eventually live

Bill got to work with a team drawn from my year group.  Bill was a larger than life character who quickly got on the wrong side of the school caretakers. I was caught in the middle, Headmaster Bruce Abbott withdrew to his office and kept his head down. I was constantly trying to smooth the way for the dinosaur to rise up and roar..

The Leon Dinosaur was born and very quickly became famous.

I may be in contact with many, many of my former students but have no contact at all with Leon School. I don't want any contact, it is not the school we all knew and loved. For some
illogical reason the school wanted rid of our dinosaur. An illogical reason similar to it renaming itself The Sir Herbert Leon Academy. Herbert Leon had NOTHING at all to do with the old school when it was located in Bletchley before The Lakes Estate was built. It was after his death that his widow Lady Fanny Leon was involved with the school. Sir Herbert had nothing to do with the place.

Silly !

Having expelled its most famous pupil, The Leon Dinosaur, Bill's work of community art and my year groups's project was relocated  to a new home on the estate. I will never forgive Leon School, or to use its silly new name The Sir Herbert Leon Academy for what it did to our dinosaur.

After I spoke on yesterday's blog about Milton Keynes Dial A Bus Andy Ward sent me a photograph of his Dad with a bus. Mr Ward was a driver for Milton Keynes Dial A Bus, I must have been one of his passengers.

Two roads connected Bletchley and the South to Stony Stratford and Wolverton in the North. ONLY two roads - Watling Street, the A5, and Marlborogh Street.

Development of the new city in the South went as far as Eaglestone. The estates of Tinkers Bridge, Netherfield and Eaglestone were the ONLY places that were not empty fields. Milton Keynes Dial A Bus was set up as a short-term project to see where people wanted to travel from and to. This information would then be used to help plan bus routes and timetables. When people say Milton Keynes Dial A Bus failed they do not know what they are talking about. IT DID NOT FAIL, it was never intended to be a long-term project.

I took my camera to Bletchley Railway Station yesterday and snapped this picture. Entry to the station is via a roundabout on Sherwood Drive, opposite the car rental place and adjacent to the fire station. There is also this little slip road where the cars are now parked.  

Have you ever wondered why this slip road is there ? What is the point of it ?

THIS my friends was the terminus for Milton Keynes Dial A Bus. That is a Milton Keynes legend.

There were, of course, no silly mobile phones back in the the early 1970's. One complaint often voiced was the lack of public phone boxes on the new estates. To have a telephone installed in your home was expensive with anything up to a three month waiting list with Royal Mail Telephones. No BT in those days.  Milton Keynes Dial A Bus put up free call phones in small grey boxes located on lamp posts at the end of the street.

Yesterday I wrote another one thousand words for my book THE BRIDGE HOUSE as soon as it is finished and the publication process starts I will begin work on LEGENDS OF A GREAT CITY.  I spent a few moments putting together a banner for the project.

Left to right...........

Milton Keynes Dial A Bus     Scott of Bletchley - Makers of the world's finest cooked meats    Milton Keynes Development Corporation     The Tattenhoe Oak - the oldest living thing in Milton Keynes     Lady Fanny Leon     Olney Pancake Race     John Newton - slave trader, cleric and hymn writer     Sir John Leon - actor John Standing     London Brick - Newton Longville

So many, many people sent me ideas yesterday, ideas to include in the book. I now have over sixty with the list growing.  Yesterday I saw on TV that production of Aston Martin cars is coming back to Newport Pagnell. James Bond will be pleased !

I have not yet found anyone who was part of The Radcliffe Rollers. I will keep looking. I am going to play the video from yesterday again. What an amazing band the Rollers were.

Could a school today produce a band like this ? I doubt it.  Would a school today take on a project to build a dinosaur at the bottom of its sports field ?  Don't be silly !

I remember from the same time at The Rollers The Milton Keynes Pipe band.

This band is still playing and is a part of our city.

Thank You, Michael Ivory for those pics. I am definitely going to include this band in the book.

Does anyone remember a local pop group from the mid 1970's JAILBAIT. A rock and roll group, they were good.I wonder what happened to them.

Who remembers Channel 40 - Community television for Milton Keynes ?

Sadly, that did not last for long but it does deserve to be included as a Milton Keynes legend.

Michael Ivory, am I not right in thinking you starred in a film someone  made  for  the  station ?  Am I right in thinking it was produced by someone from Bletchley Youth Centre ?

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