GEOFF CRAMBIE: Colne’s Royal Mail team of 1963

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Our column’s time-travelling picture this week goes back to the year 1963 and here we see an octet of the Colne Royal Mail postmen of the day and with the Colne’s postmaster from that time.

On the back row left to right, first up is the unassuming Eric Ramsden; Eric, always the quiet man of the office, was a long-serving postman of great repute who was most conscientious in every way on his Royal Mail deliveries.

Next is the friendly Albert Barnes; Albert had the distinction of being, along with his wife Mary, the first occupants in the 1940s of the newly-built Alma Avenue in Foulridge. They had the honour of naming the new avenue and the happy postman and his wife chose “Al” from Albert and “Ma” from Mary, hence, “Alma” Avenue. The prototype cast iron sign in red and white still survives to this very day.

Now we see the sartorial Colne Royal Mail sorting office postmaster, W. H. Shepherd. “W.H.”, as he was known to all at the Colne Sorting office, was an avid drinker of copious amounts of very strong tea throughout his working day!

Next along is delivery driver, the amicable Bob Butler; Bob, who delivered the mail on rural duties, was a great charmer of the ladies on his rounds and at Christmas time always received lots of gifts from his many friends in the farming community.

Now on the right is the loquacious Norman Hartley. Norman, who was always seen smoking his favourite pipe in the office, was a teller of wonderful tales of yesteryear and on many a day, he’d tell of seeing back in the 1949-50 football season the greatest half-back line of all time for the Portsmouth league champions of Jimmy Dickinson, Reg Flewin and Jimmy Scoular.

Now to the front row and, left to right, first we see “Little Georgie” Starford. Georgie, a most popular postman-driver, was to sadly lose his life when his Royal Mail van was in a tragic accident. We remember him still.

Next is the affable Johnny Strickland; Johnny, although small in stature, was as strong as an ox. His son Maurice was a notable postman and today Johnny’s grandson, Paul, is a most dedicated postman-driver on the Trawden rural round.

Now we see the genial Harold Evans; Harold, known to all as “Dai”, was a truly renowned foot-postman on his “Bunkers Hill” walk duty and his many customers thought the world of him. Harold, now 83, is sadly today very poorly indeed and as a dear pal on behalf of myself and all ex-colleagues, we send our very best wishes to you.

Lastly, on the right, is the jocular Harry Watson. Harry, who served with distinction with the British Army in India, was known as “Shufti” to all his Royal Mail colleagues and had marvellous stories to tell of his years in South Asia during the Second World War.

The aesthetic Albert Road building that was Colne’s Royal Mail Sorting Office served the good folk of the town for 72 years. During those years, the office had at the helm, a total of 14 postmasters, now all sadly passed away. Also the office saw 15 postmen, higher grade (known as PHGs) installed of which four survive:- Ken Speak, Norman Hartley, Richard Holden and Yours truly, Geoff Crambie, and not forgetting from 1928 to 2000, the 327 postmen and women who delivered the mail, come rain or snow, heat or blow, of these around a third are still with us to remember those happy years at the Colne sorting office.