There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

Published: April 13th 2018
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I usually like the idea of Scarborough more than the reality. As I watched the rain lash down on the front of the bus, I suspected today was no exception. It was Easter Saturday and the weather should have turned by now. Instead the clocks might have changed for summer, but nobody had told the man in charge of global temperatures. The rain turned to sleet between Whitby and Cloughton and snow was forecast for Bank Holiday Monday. The start of the school holidays had prompted my decision to buy an All Day bus ticket. £8 and you can catch any Arrivabus in the North East. The area between Newcastle and Scarborough was now within my reach, although the timetables will force you to spend literally all day on the bus to achieve that distance. The bus would be dry though. The heavy overnight rain had vindicated my plan to head south. The Northern League venues on the radar can have pitches that have an aversion to more than a bucket of water and I had already been to the table topping clash of Marske United versus Morpeth Town on the previous Thursday. I was playing safe with a fixture choice on a 4G plastic pitch and I had the big East Cleveland Northern League derby in my sights on Monday. We'll come back to Scarborough Athletic in due course.

Despite the miserable weather, Falsgrave Road was choc a block with cars as the bus entered town. Nothing changes. The speed trap police van was even out on the approaches to Scalby to catch the unwary on their day trip. The relevant member of the North Yorkshire finest has possibly been there for the last 25 years inside his van. I alighted outside the railway station. The hordes dressed in just a tee shirt with a carrier bag of cans suggested the locals were doing a "Teesside" and going drinking in York on the train. I nipped in Spoons for a comfort break. 10:30 am and not a spare table. The weather might be bleak outside, but it wasn't going to stop visitors already here for the weekend having a good time! The full breakfast had lined the stomachs and it seemed there would not many taking an advantage of the all-day coffee refills. If the weather didn't improve, it could be a long day for some. The most notable landmark near the railway station is the Stephen Joseph Theatre opposite. It is the first theatre "in the round" in the UK. Despite being in existence since 1955, it hit the big time so to speak when it acquired the premises of the old Odeon cinema in the mid-1990s. Under the directorship of Alan Ayckbourn, it received national recognition. The building itself is an art deco masterpiece, but alas was covered in scaffolding so I couldn't get any suitable photos. Why is that scaffolding has almost become the most profitable business in the world? I will leave you to check it for yourself - the building and scaffolding. There is an iconic photo of the building on the cover of the 2005 Richard Hawley album, Coles Corner. I am sure old copies sell at a premium in the record collector shop next door. Scarborough is trying to put itself on the music map in addition to that if theatre. I note adverts for the big names heading towards the Open Air Theatre this summer - Chic (featuring Nile Rodgers), Lionel Richie, Gary Barlow and Noel Gallagher to name but a few .... the latter won't need any High Flying Birds. The seagull union has that base covered and will no doubt be "pecking" on anybody who says otherwise. I am wondering what Brittany Spears will make of the North Yorkshire Coast. You can see the tee shirts now - New York, Atlantic CIty, Berlin, Scarborough! Performers would be recommended to bring their thermals - just in case.

I skirted round towards the North Bay. It used to be more famous for having a toy boat battle in Peasholm Park, but as we see it will become the haunt of international stars. It was too early to venture into the North Riding Hotel - my second favourite real ale venue in town. It also doubles as a suitable place to spend any rain breaks, given the location near to the Scarborough Cricket Club ground. Yorkshire CCC still come every summer - a throwback to when the factories of West Yorkshire shut down for the annual holidays and headed for the Riviera on the coast. The Cricket Club shop was actually open, probably more in hope than expectation of big sales. I peeked through the railings into the ground. Water was standing on the outfield. You can the cricket season is almost upon us, although the advertising poster on the gates was still advertising the Cricket Festival 2017.

Scarborough is divided into North Bay and South Bay. North is traditionally quieter and the more sheltered South is the home of the amusements, kiss me quick hats and the traditional seaside fayre. I find myself high on the cliff at the mid-point between the two. The rain has just started again. The local constabulary not on duty in speed trap world are sat gazing out to a very rough sea, as I walk past. They are no doubt enjoying the calm before the storm, once a heavy days drinking takes effect. The large hotels and boarding houses look like they have had a beating from the winter weather, but are no buoyed by plenty of "No Vacancies" signs. Marine Drive below - not to be confused with Ben Watt's debut album North Marine Drive, which is in Bridlington - is quiet. There are few cars, although the sea has not reached the point where it is breaking over the road to such an extent that is closed off for safety. The headland above the South Bay is dominated by the castle. The castle was built under King Henry 1 in the mid-1100s and is now a popular attraction operated by English Heritage. The castle last saw "action" in December 1914. Henry was long gone and the Scots hadn't invaded in the last few centuries. However as part of a plan to tempt the British Navy out of port for an open sea battle, the German High Fleet attacked 3 towns on the North East coast. Derfflinger, Von Der Tann and Kolberg were dispatched to Scarborough. Whilst Kolberg was busy laying mines off Flamborough Head, the former pair opened fire for over an hour on the town hitting prominent targets such as the castle, lighthouse and the Grand Hotel. The attacking fleet then moved off to inflict further damage on Whitby and Hartlepool. The raid provoked outrage and was utilised in recruitment posters - "Remember Scarborough, Enlist Now". I skirted the castle entrance and walked down to St Marys Church. Anne Bronte - the least well known of the Harworth sisters - is buried in the adjacent cemetery plots. She travelled to Scarborough in 1849 in the hope that the air would improve her health. She dies of tuberculosis a few days later. The churchyard gives a commanding view over the South Bay and affords the first real glimpse of the sheer size of the Grand Hotel, where Anne had her lodgings.

It is a steep walk down from the peace and quiet up near the church towards the buzz of the seafront. This is the Scarborough known by many on their seaside visits. The majority of visitors today looked like they wished they hadn't bothered. Rain continued on and off and the choice of inappropriate footwear was becoming obvious to those who think that white canvas Converse trainers are suitable in all conditions. Coffee shops in up and coming suburbs perhaps, but not Scarborough at Easter. I walked out towards the lighthouse - rebuilt since the Germans took a few pot shots at it. Laughter emanated from the private members club within the building. The tide was out and there was little activity in the harbour area. Fishing boats remained tied up alongside. Tour boats advertised no more sailings until after Easter. Good plan. They had seen the forecast and taken the weekend off. An old naval gun recovered from the depths and an interesting statue commemorating sea bathing occupies the pier end.

Foreshore Road was largely deserted. I took a photo of a couple of the traditional stalls, after asking permission. The combination of seaside and photography can sometimes get a bit complicated, especially near amusement arcades. You get the odd person who thinks sinister thoughts about what you are actually taking a snap of. As I said the place was largely deserted, but caution was exercised nevertheless. Scarborough has a new Lifeboat station. The rain was coming down so hard by this stage, that I merely waited under the canopy to take cover and failed to photograph it. A couple adjacent bemoaned the fact that dogs were welcome in so few places and they were resigned to continue wandering with limited prospect of respite on their seaside adventure. I took one look at the Alsatian and their other dog with a muzzle and sympathized with any establishment that took one look at them and concluded "trouble". They walked off in the rain towards the pier. The Futurist Theatre looked equally forlorn. It opened in 1921 as a cinema, but by 1958 had moved on the live performances. The capacity was 2155, which apparently made it the 5th largest outside of London. The Beatles amongst others played there in on 11th December 1963 and 9th August 1964. Brittany Spears might she is the biggest thing to ever hit town, but other would say different. It closed in January 2014 and the local Council has finally voted to clear the site to make way for what they call progress. It all comes down to money. I have been to the Futurist on a number of occasions in my childhood. The one that sticks in my memory was some form of variety show featuring Bert Weedon. My Dad wanted to go and we went on a bus trip as a family. I was probably 11. Bert Weedon? Yes, unrecognised by most and forgotten by many, Bert played more of a part in rock and roll history than most would credit him. Guitarist extraordinaire. Bert Weedon had a top 10 hit with a guitar solo in 1959, Guitar Boogie Shuffle, long before The Shadows or anybody else had made the sound popular. He played session guitar on many famous tracks in the 1960s without much recognition. However he is most remembered as Mr Play In A Day, after his book on how to play the guitar is said to have inspired future generations of musicians. Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Brian May - all paid tribute to the inspiration. The hoardings now surround the site, but the building still stands. If you want to take one final look - go now. I guess somewhere there is a website dedicated to all the gigs and artists who performed at the Futurist - alas I can't find it.

I moved along to another Scarborough icon - the Grand Hotel. When opened in 1867, it was the largest hotel in the Europe. I will repeat that because I think it deserves to be said again - the largest hotel in the Europe! It was the largest brick building in Europe with 365 rooms (one for every day of the year),over 12 floors (one for each month of the year) and featuring 52 chimneys (one for each week of the year). The first Manager arrived from the Hotel Mirabeau in Paris. I have no idea about that establishment, but it is difficult to imagine now. The height of luxury to bring the high rollers to town, it was of course missing that vital facility of an upmarket Victorian residence by the sea. As those of us in the know, the Zetland 40 miles up the coast might not have had 365 room but it had their own railway platform. The visitors arriving at the Grand would have no choice, but to alight from their train with the rabble at the main railway station up the road. I climbed up beside the hotel. The cliff lift next door that would have cut out all those steps is still operational. The Grand, along with the English seaside has somewhat faded. The change in tastes is summed up by the modern accommodation choice that faces it across St Nicholas Square. I walked across the Spa foot bridge, which funnily enough leads to the gardens above the Spa. If you look behind you, it affords a good view back towards the Grand Hotel, South Bay and the Castle beyond. In the valley beneath, the Rotunda Museum nestles into the hillside. I have never been, but believe it houses an exhibition of natural history and fossils found along the adjacent coastline. I walked up through the park into The Crescent. This is Harrogate brought to Scarborough and was possibly the finest residential in town in the day. There was no one about, but then I don’t think many know that it is there. The Scarborough Art Gallery sits in an old villa in the corner above the valley. I sought refuge in the Valley Bar – my favourite place to take refreshment in town. It is much extended from my previous visit and has a new entrance. However, it was good to see that the real ale selection on the bar and friendly pricing remains. The bonus was that it is the closest pub to the football ground, which was the object of my eventual direction.

The last time I was in Scarborough for football was 1989. I was thrilled that the SW6 gang drew them in the old League Cup. What could possibly go wrong – you couldn’t really get much more of a convenient midweek away game? I headed down to the McCain Stadium – the grandly named venue that was sponsored by an oven chip. Scarborough had only just climbed into League football, so this would be a breeze. Their introduction to the big time hadn’t gone totally to plan and a combination of events saw Wolves try to rearrange the ground on the opening day of their first league season. Footage still surfaces of the away fans climbing on the stand roof, for one to fall through on to the terrace later in the sequence. I ironically stood close to a giant of a man wearing a Wolves hat, who looked old enough to remember the chaos caused that day. A lot has changed since 1989. The old Scarborough Town formed in 1879 got relegated from the League, went into administration in 2007 and reformed to play in the depths of the non-League pyramid. It was not only in the depths, but also in exile – in Brid. The status is still non-League, but the return home is complete. The reformed Scarborough Athletic now call the Flamingo Land Stadium home. I think of school trips, when Flamingo Land is mentioned. It was basically a zoo in those days. The venue lies a 10 minute walk from my seat in the Valley Bar. The start of the complex is University buildings. I learn that Coventry University now has a Scarborough outpost campus. I wonder how many students find themselves 170 miles away from where they planned? The Flamingo Land Stadium is a work in progress. The main stand is built into the back of the swimming pool / sports centre that wraps round the back of the University end. The majority of the seats were reserved for season ticket holders. A covered terrace at the Seamer end houses the majority of those who wish to stand. The open side towards Olivers Mount clearly has an option for expansion. It is currently the “Donkey Field”, from where a few tried to have a free view of proceedings until such time as they were moved away by stewards. The young lad near me asked his mum why it was called the “Donkey Field”, given that he couldn’t see any donkeys. They certainly weren’t on the beach earlier! The temperature flirted with zero, as the rain fortunately held off in the 1st half. The crowd joked about giving up on recycling and encouraging global warming. The footballers warmed up proceeding with an end to end display, featuring 4 goals. Scarborough held the advantage. The advantage was sealed by a hotly contested penalty decision, after which the Radcliffe Borough Manager was sent to the stands after saying a few too many words to the officials. The pressure of management had got to the former £5 million Manchester City centre forward. The opportunity arose for the Assistant Manager to mastermind the comeback. The former right back of the SW6 gang failed to turn the situation round and Scarborough ran out comfortable 5-1 winners, hitting the woodwork a few times along the way. I conveyed the news to anybody interested that I had seen Frank in his current role. The Man in the Middle cruelly queried whether he had learned anything about defending since the 7-0 defeat at the Tricky Trees in 1991. Despite the heavy rain in the 2nd half, the majority of the 994 went home happy. The Play Off position in the Evostik League (North) had been strengthened. The light have might gone out at the Futurist, but back at Scarborough Athletic it is shining once more on football in the town.

Appendix 1

Eovstik League (North)

Scarborough Athletic FC 5 Radcliffe Borough FC 1

Venue : Flamingo Land Stadium, Ashburn Road Road, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Attendance : 994

Scorers : 1-0 Walshaw (Scarborough) 5 Mins, 1-1 Williams (Radcliffe), 2-1 Wright (Scarborough) 11 Mins , 3-1 Coulson (Scarborough) 11 Mins, 4-1 Coulson Pen (Scarborough) 71 Mins, 5-1 Dawson 83 Mins (Scarborough)

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13th April 2018

Thanks for sharing....... I was singing "Are you going to Scarborough fair" in my head" LOL

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