Swindon's 160 greatest headline makers...part 3
Updated 4:32pm Thursday 31st July 2014 in By Barry Leighton
TO celebrate the Adver’s 160th anniversary this year we present a Swindon Roll of Honour comprising 160 headline makers from the history of our town.
Here you will find those whose work and achievements have helped raise the standing and profile of both the town and the borough, or who have striven to improve the lives of ordinary folk.
It includes the greats of industry, commerce and technology along with those who have gained prominence through sport, arts, culture and media.
We have attempted to cut through the strata of Swindon life to include some of the town’s many colourful characters…along with two horses, a dog and one or two who have brought infamy crashing down upon us.
This is part three of ten.
Court, Terry (1943-)
Originally a primary school teacher and youth leader, Terry became the borough’s first arts officer in 1974 and took to the task with gusto.
He opened up a brave new world of artistic and cultural endeavour while tapping into a variety of grants with which to fund it all.
The result saw a huge array of arts, crafts and performance-related activity and entertainment arrive in Swindon.
Street theatre, dance studios, poetry reading, alternative cinema… he even instigated a programme that saw a series of eye-catching murals appear around town.
Terry was key to the introduction of Swindon’s ongoing per cent for arts policy that continues to encourage developers to sponsor public art.
Cousins, Harry (1907-1981)
In an era when highly paid professional footballers ‘kiss the badge’ before moving to another club for more cash, Harry Cousins was a true stalwart who served Swindon Town FC with unflinching loyalty for 43 years.
Moving to Swindon from Chesterfield in 1932, Harry was a tough tackling wing half, earning the nickname Iron Man.
Making his final appearance for Town at 40, he became reserve team coach and went on to train the first team in 1949 – a role he kept until after the League Cup Final victory in 1969.
He then helped the club in a variety roles before retiring six years later. For years his wife Phyllis washed the first team kit and hung it out to dry in the back garden.
Cox, Jamie (1986-)
In 2006, Jamie Cox, 19, flew to the other side of the world to compete in the Commonwealth Games and returned to Swindon with a shiny gold gong around his neck.
A top amateur who boxed for Walcot, Jamie was British ABA light middleweight champion when he fought for England in the 2006 Melbourne Games. His opponent, Moses Kopo of Lesotho, pulled out of the final, giving Jamie a walkover.
Ex-world champ turned commentator Richie Woodhall summed it up when he said: “He won’t have fancied taking him on... he’ll have known that Cox was favourite and he could really hurt him.”
In 2011 Cox beat the previously undefeated Ghanaian champion Obodai Sai on a unanimous points decision to take the Commonwealth title. Still undefeated Jamie’s progress was halted by a broken hand but he soon hopes to compete for a British title under promoter Frank Warren.
Crump, Phil (1952-)
Having won four Australian national championships Crumpy embarked on career in the UK which involved a memorable spell with Swindon Robins from 1979-1986 and a brief return after retirement through injury in 1990.
The gritty Aussie enjoyed a love affair with the Abbey Stadium track, thrilling fans with a string of record-shattering performances.
A truly brilliant rider, Crump earned the nickname of Marathon Man for his remarkable on-track endurance.
In 411 appearances for the club he notched up 4,254 points and is remembered by Robins’ fans as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
Cullum, Jamie (1979-)
Singer/pianist Jamie grew up in Hullavington but cut his musical teeth in Swindon, playing bars, pizza houses and weddings in and around town.
He became a popular figure on the Swindon jazz scene before his singular style of jazz-pop came to the attention of Michael Parkinson and Melvyn Bragg.
It saw Jamie clinch a £1 million record deal in 2003 – unprecedented for a British jazzman. He ended the year as the UK’s biggest selling jazz artist of all time.
Since then he has produced a string of high-quality albums, become a major international live performer and hosts a weekly BBC Radio 2 jazz show.
Davies, Rick (1944-)
A former Sanford Street schoolboy and trainee welder at Square D, keyboard player/singer/songwriter Richard ‘Rick’ Davies is one of Swindon’s most successful rock artists.
After appearing in a string of local bands – including Rick’s Blues with the future Gilbert O’Sullivan – Davies helped found Supertramp which became one of the world’s most popular groups of the Seventies and Eighties.
He sang and composed some of the progressive rock outfit’s best-loved songs including Goodbye Stranger, Bloody Well Right, My Kind of Lady and Cannonball.
Supertramp’s most successful album, Breakfast In America, is reckoned to have sold more than 20 million copies since its release in 1979. Over the years Davies has occasionally reformed the band for tours and recording.
de Valence, William (1225/30-1296)
He fought alongside his half-brother Henry III to quell a barons’ rebellion and became the mainstay of Edward I’s campaign to subjugate the Welsh.
But the French-born nobleman and knight also had a resounding impact on the hill-top settlement of Swindon, which he owned.
In 1259 he held what was believed to be Swindon’s first ever market, paving the way for the sleepy rural community’s gradual emergence as a commercial/trading centre.
An angry letter from the traders of Marlborough, complaining about de Valence’s unlicensed commerce, is the first ever record of a Swindon market.
Deacon, George (1822-1872)
George Deacon’s timing could hardly have been better. The 26 year-old clock-maker saw the arrival of the GWR in Swindon as an unmissable opportunity to sell time-pieces to a growing population.
Saving £100 while borrowing £600 from his father – a Wiltshire farmer – in 1848 he acquired premises in Wood Street, Old Town and set himself up as a clock and watch-maker.
Today, 166 years later, the family-run Deacon & Son – complete with clock, jewellery and china departments – is still in Wood Street and is Swindon’s oldest retailer, becoming part of the fabric of Swindon.
At one stage they even made traditional English clocks for the Americans.
Deacon, Thomas (1836-1915)
Before there were motorcars there were horse-and-carriages. And if you wanted a horse-and-carriage in Swindon, Thomas Deacon was your man. Deacon is described by local historian Mark Child as “the great horse seller of Swindon.”
With partner Thomas Liddiard they set up a horse and carriage business opposite the market square in High Street in 1874 with room for 120 nags and 50 carriages.
They sold horses from England, Ireland, France, Poland and Belgium while the influential Deacon went on to become Mayor of Swindon in 1908.
Dean, William (1840-1905)
Swindon’s standing since the mid-19th Century as a centre of engineering excellence and innovation was built on the backs of men like William Dean.
During his tenure in charge of the Swindon GWR Works, from 1877 to 1902 a series of technical advances – larger cylinders, bigger driving wheels – helped create faster, more powerful locomotives.
Dean designed the Duke and Bulldog class locos and greatly concerned himself with the comfort of passengers as the works turned out increasingly better furnished, more agreeable coaching stock.
Ever wondered who first put loos into passenger carriages? It was the GWR under Dean. He also introduced electric lighting on trains.
Increasingly aware of the connection between the town and the works, Dean set the trend for GWR chief engineers to become Swindon JPs.
Deardon, Harold (1882-1962)
For 30 years, from 1920 until 1950, Lancashire-born Deardon was the Principal of Swindon Art College.
An influential character on the town’s cultural scene, he was a talented artist and a fine draughtsman, working in ink-and-wash, watercolour and oils.
In 1934 Deardon founded the Swindon Artists Society. He was its president for many years and exhibited widely at galleries in London and around the country.
Three of his works can today be found in the Swindon Collection while he was also an acclaimed dramatist and writer.
Dore, William (1812-1877)
As influential people of Old Swindon (Old Town) go, few held more sway than William Dore. His grandfather William, and father William were successful auctioneers of cattle on market days.
But William III expanded the business into other areas, ranging from the sale of anything vaguely agricultural to the rights to keep the streets clean of animal excrement.
Establishing a string of auction yards in Old Town, he transformed the sale of livestock in the predominantly rural 19th Century settlement.
In 1873 Dore opened what became Swindon’s well-known Marlborough Road market that continued for more than a century until finally closing in 1988. As a token of the community’s appreciation he was presented with a solid gold hammer.
Dors, Diana (1931-1984)
In all likelihood, the most famous person ever born in Swindon. Diana’s impact on post-war Britain cannot be underestimated.
Diana Fluck of Marlborough Road took her grandmother’s maiden name and at 15 appeared in the first of many films, The Shop at Sly Corner.
Oozing glamour and natural good looks, she landed a string of roles that saw her assume the mantle of cinematic “blonde bombshell” – Britain’s very own Marilyn Monroe.
In later years, her sex symbol days over, Diana showed a genuine talent for TV and cabaret and gained popularity as a regular chat-show guest.
She was among a group of internationally-renowned figures that adorned pop’s most famous album cover, The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Dunsford, William (1798-1845) and Henry (1823-1891)
Canal men through and through, the Swindon-born father and son each attained the position of Superintendent of the Wilts & Berks Canal Company.
Using the 52-mile waterway that for almost a century linked the Kennet & Avon with the Thames, William exported Swindon stone and gravel from the town and imported slate and coal.
He established a long standing coal yard at Swindon Wharf, and as canal company boss he further utilised its capacity to create business, profits and jobs.
As superintendent Henry became a leading and influential businessman whose opinion was keenly sought on a wide range of local enterprises.
As the railways gradually usurped the canal he went to war with his nemesis the GWR, accusing them of polluting his beloved but increasingly redundant waterway.
Ellis, Thomas (1800s)
When a small army of skilled steel workers and their families poured into rapidly expanding New Swindon from South Wales in the 1860s they faced a big problem… where to live.
The only accommodation was cramped and bordering on unfit. Thomas Ellis, the Welsh manager of the GWR rail mills, was their saviour. Aided by lord of the manor Amrose Goddard, he bought a plot of land and built two rows of cottages, naming it Cambria Place after the Roman name for Wales.
It was, in effect, a second Railway Village. By the late 19th Century the complex was still being referred to on maps as “Welsh Buildings.”
Evans, REV Derryck (1930-2008)
As a Princess Margaret Hospital chaplain during the 1970s Derryck Evans became increasingly aware of a critical need for a facility to care for terminally ill patients in the Swindon area.
“The Rev Ev”, as he was affectionately known, was the main thrust of a campaign that galvanised the community possibly like no other before or since.
Some 15 years after the launch of the Prospect Foundation their goal of an in-patient hospice was achieved in 1995.
His busy, many faceted career also saw him help people combat alcoholism and gambling while he also tackled the problem of homelessness with characteristic fervour.
Fforde, Jasper (1961-)
Science fiction and fantasy fans around the world are aware of Swindon thanks to a series of remarkable books by award-winning author Jasper Fforde.
Beginning with The Eyre Affair in 2001, Fjorde’s comic novels follow the adventures of Swindon based “literary detective” Thursday Next.
Set in a parallel Swindon, his version is “very different but still recognisable” to the real thing and feature local landmarks such as the Magic Roundabout, the Carfax Street car park and the Shaw Ridge statue of Lola Vavoom… bearing an uncanny resemblance to Diana Dors.
Fforde, who has never lived in the town, has made numerous public appearances in Swindon and launched an inter-active website, The Seven Wonders of Swindon.
- This feature is the serialisation of the souvenir supplement that appeared in the Adver on June 24. Limited copies are still available from our reception desk on a first come first served basis.
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