JUST to add a seasonal element to Looking Back, which is the usual mix of death and old cars, we have a selection of late 1930s Christmas which have recently been rediscovered in an attic in Stanhope. They are very much of their age, and they are startlingly unChristmassy – how many cards are you going to receive this year with a dirty jumbo jet on them?

A FORTNIGHT ago, we invited comments on the splendid vinyl-roofed car parked in the front of our picture of Stokesley from December 1962.

“Last time you divided us car spotters into those who thought the car in Skeeby was a Jaguar Mk 4 and those who thought it might be a Riley – it was, of course, a Jaguar,” said Gerald Burnett, of Richmond.

“This time it is a Riley – a 2.5 litre RMB which was manufactured between 1946 and 1952. It had a 4 cylinder overhead valve engine of 2443cc which gave about 90bhp.

“My uncle Stan, who was a car salesman in Cambridge, had an RMB and we were all very impressed by its svelte lines when he came to visit with us. It had a fabric-topped body which was a vinyl-like material.”

There wasn’t any debate about it. Everyone agreed it was a Riley. The only debate was about the sort of material on the Riley’s roof.

“It is leatherette, well before the days of vinyl,” said Tony Tomalin-Reeves of Easingwold.

We’d also put up for identification the square van parked beneath the town hall.

“I would suggest it is a Ford(son) 10 cwt with a bespoke body fitted possibly for use by a gamekeeper or shooting parties,” said John Weighell in Neasham.

“I’m tempted to say it is from the Rootes stable as Hillman produced a similar estate based on the Husky,” said Gary Cunningham of Boltby.

No one came up with a definitive identification. “The van is something else – it looks very strange,” said Phil Garwood in Northallerton.

So moving quickly on, lots of commented on the “haphazard”, to borrow a word from Derek Noble of Hutton Rudby, way drivers had left their vehicles.

“What I find remarkable about your picture is how few cars there were in Stokesley and the complete absence of parking management infrastructure such as marked out spaces,” said Gerald Burnett.

Many thanks to everyone who got in touch.

December 22, 1917

FOLLOWING on from last week, the death of Darlington’s most famous soldier on November 29 prompted the town’s mayor and MP to launch a fund to memoralise him.

Brig-Gen Roland Bradford, 25, had been killed in northern France just six months after collecting his Victoria Cross from the king.

Herbert Pike Pease MP put £100 into the fund and said “one gentleman had written from Penzance offering £5, and he believed there were people residing in all parts of the Empire who would be glad to express their appreciation”.

There was debate about the form of the memorial, and already there was a suggestion that it might “take the form of a new hospital or an enlargement of the present one”.

Even as they spoke, a kind of a memorial to Brig-Gen Bradford was being created. He had been promoted on October 29, 1917, which meant leaving the 9th Durham Light Infantry. He had ordered a London printer to produce 3,000 copies of an A4-sized card of Jesus appearing to a soldier and the words “Abide with Me” – the regimental hymn which Bradford sang with his men every night in the trenches and before going into battle.

“I do not wish it to be a Christmas card, but a souvenir picture from me to my lads,” he wrote.

His death intervened, and on December 21, the printer wrote to Bradford’s mother, Amy, in Milbank Road, Darlington, asking if he should go through with the order.

Amy agreed – she may even have upped the number printed to 10,000 – and in the new year, every soldier who had served in 9DLI with Roland received the memento. One of them has just gone on display in the new exhibition, which looks at the DLI and music, in Bishop Auckland Town Hall.

December 21, 1867

IN the most gruesome terms, the D&S of 150 years ago reported how seven people had been blown to pieces while trying to dispose of nitro-glycerine on Newcastle Town Moor.

It said: “Their clothes were riven into rags, in some cases their limbs were separated from their bodies, and for some minutes after the calamity the atmosphere near the place was darkened with the clothes and limbs of the injured and the killed.”

Nine canisters of the “new and dangerous compound” had been found stored in a pub cellar in Cloth Market when the owner disappeared overseas. The manufacturer in Wigan refused to take them back; the railway company refused to transport them anywhere, and so the authorities ordered their destruction.

It was decided to pour the contents into the “corporation midden” on the moor.

The borough sheriff, Thomas Mawson, and the borough surveyor, Thomas Bryson, oversaw the operation with PC Donald Bain. They were assisted by various lads and a curious crowd of young onlookers. Having tipped out the liquid, the canisters were found to still contain a crystallised residue so they were thrown into a hole. The impact caused the volatile substance to explode.

“The sub-inspector heard the fearful report, felt the earth shake beneath him, and on looking up, saw fragments of clothes, and what turned out to be parts of human bodies flying in the air all around,” reported the D&S. “The bodies of those killed were frightfully mutilated.”

Just to underline how frightfully mutilated they were, it gave a frightful description of them. For instance, of the remains of 18-year-old Thomas Appleby, a bacon factor’s assistant, it said: “Hardly a vestige of clothing remains on the corpse. The face is literally blown off. The usual organs are gone. The trunk is one blackened and bruised mass of flesh, hideous to look upon.”

The sheriff, the surveyor and the policemen were killed along with four male assistants aged between 16 and 21.

At the inquest, the coroner expressed his hope that legislation requiring more stringent storage conditions for nitro-glycerine would be passed.

December 23, 1967

NORTHALLERTON Urban Council was grappling with the changing face of the town 50 years ago. The D&S reported that it had given the go-ahead to “Northallerton’s biggest single development”: “550 council homes, including three blocks of four-storey flats and eight shops”.

When added to recent permissions, this would mean the council was building 800 homes within the next five years, said the D&S – presumably this is the Ashlands area.

Some councillors protested that the town was becoming “top heavy in the raio of council homes to those in owner-occupation”.

Elsewhere, the Rail Invigoration Society was urging the council to join it in the fight to prevent the lifting of the recently-closed Harrogate to Northallerton line. The invigorators’ new research suggested that if the local authorities would put £43,000 a year into the pot, it would be possible to reinvigorate the line – “though one or two bridges have already been removed”.