The waiting and the praying in Axbridge 

The waiting and the praying in Axbridge 

Western Daily Press April 11th 1973 By Mary Wright, Martin Turner and Wilf Giles 

THE GRIEF-STRICKEN town of Abridge was dazed by the tragedy. In the pubs radios were turned up to full volume to tell them the grim news of the mounting death toll. In the narrow streets townsfolk stood talking in muted tones, wondering who had lost wives, daughters, friends and neighbours. A planned Communion service at the 12th century parish church of St. John the Baptist last night became a requiem for those feared dead. About 30 parishioners, some crying, turned up. The rector, the Rev. Anthony Martin, who conducted the service, led prayers for the dead. Sixty -three members and relatives of Axbridge Ladies Guild left happily yesterday morning for their day-trip to Switzerland. Most were young mothers who left their children at home for the day.  Only one thing was certain last night: Many would never return.

Grocer Mr. George Bradley was one of those up at 6.30 yesterday morning to wave them goodbye. “This is a for a terrible thing small place like this with a population of only about 1,200.” he said. “This morning they were all happy and smiling in the coach. Now the village mourns were my many customers. 

This trip was ill-fated from the start. It was arranged last Tuesday but called at last moment by the travel agents,” said Mr. Bradley. Mrs. Vera Billing, Guild chairman, said last night: “They planned to spend the day either riding cable cars up and down the mountains or walking by the lakes. The only reason I didn’t go is because I have one- year-old baby and could not leave him.” 

Mrs. Brenda Hopkins, wife of builder Mr. Eddie Hopkins organised the trip as Guild secretary. She has a 13-year old daughter Lisa, and three young sons. Her husband, like many other anxious husbands at Bristol airport last night, did not know whether or not she was among the 35 survivors. Retired postman Mr. Albert Wharton, of High Street, Axbridge, was one of the first to learn that his wife, Maud and 12-year- old son Stephen were safe. Axbridge Councillor Jack Todd said: “The distress here is terrible. We feel so helpless.” 

Cheddar Vale nurseryman Mr. Gerald Besley, aged 42, stood in shocked silence for a moment. On the plane were his wife Ivy, 39, son David, aged 17 and brother Douglas. I do not know what to think,” he said at his home in West Street, Axbridge. 

I have just heard by’ phone from Switzerland that my son is in hospital injured. But there no news about my wife and brother. “It seems incredible that only this sunny morning everyone was happy and smiling as they left the village in the coach. Now am faced with death and doubt.” Mr. Bert Maylead, Bristol waterworks Company worker, wandered the streets in daze. “My wife and two children were on that plane,” he said. “I don’t know what has happened to them.” His married daughters were Mrs. M. Maunders and Mrs. K. Newman. One of his daughter’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Maunders Senior, was also on the plane. 

Sisters Mrs. Myrtle Sampson, wife of the town’s post- man, and Mrs. Barbara Brooks went on the trip together.  Mrs. Sampson has son and a daughter. Mrs. Wilfred Brooks, husband, a builder, of St. Mary’s Street, said: “Up to now we have no knowledge of what has happened to her. 

I have actually telephoned Base this afternoon, and it is apparent that conditions are simply atrocious. We must just wait, hope and pray. 

One of his sons. John, said: I had a premonition that something would happen. “I only hope to God that mother is all right.” Newsagent Mr. Fred Scott’s wife Kathleen was on the plane. He managed to keep his shop open until normal closing time. Fighting back the tears he said: “Thank God my daughter Kathy didn’t go She is ten today.” The Scotts also have a grown-up son. Mrs. Shireen Hart, in her early 20’s, has three small children. She was aboard the plane. 

Mrs. Winifred Glover, wife of a local builder, has a married son and a son and daughter living at home. She worked in Lane’s the local grocery store part time. – 

CHEDDAR lived in hope last night for the lives of more than 15 villagers who were on the plane. Five mothers, who between them have 24 children, went on the trip. Other families from the village went with the Axbridge party on the same plane. Mr. Kenneth Lane, aged 46, who runs the hardware store in Station Road and whose wife was on the trip, said: “We have heard there are between 20 and 40 survivors. That is all know. I don’t whether wife, Hazel, has my survived.” The couple have four children aged between 11 and 23. With Mrs. Lane went her neighbour, Mrs. Thelma Hughes, who runs a general store. The Hayes Vicar The Rev. Ronald Denman’s wife, Jean, who organised the the trip said: “This is ort of tragedy you read about. It hits hard when it happens to your village.’ 

If the trip had gone as scheduled Mrs. Denman could have been on the plane. “I have a horrible feeling I could have been on that. Last week the trip was postponed, and I could not make it this time. 

Twelve members of the Cheddar Mums’ Night Out club were to have gone originally. Seven pulled out following the postponement. The trip was postponed after the tour operators, Unicorn Travel of Yatton, were taken over by Invictor 

Mr. Philip Deane, whose aunt aged 25, is on the plane said: “This jinxed from the go word .My mother was supposed to go, but the trip was cancelled through lack of support. Then it was rearranged and postponed for a week.” His aunt, Mrs. Angela Latham. aged 37, has three children between six and 15- years-old. The quarry where her husband Roy is assistant manager closed yesterday afternoon and sent home its 65-strong work force. Mr. Gerald Robertson, a bachelor and manager of the famous Cheddar Caves, was another villager on the plane. 


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