On this Day 16th October 1969

Boom over Penwith

We must all be grateful to St Ives constituency’s Young Conservatives - defying the socialist government as they attempt to ride roughshod over our land in the name of progress.

Concorde is coming. The trials will soon be underway, and by next spring the new plane will – or so Mr Wedgwood Benn and his comrades hope - be zooming over our heads on a regular basis at twice the speed of sound. Mr Benn will be announcing the flight path shortly – but it’s bound to include West Penwith. The boffins say that the route needs a “dead straight run”, away from densely populated areas, close to land with a sea depth no greater than 300 foot, and with air sea rescue within easy reach. Where else would fit the bill?

Concorde's maiden flight, 16th October 1969 (British Trade & Technical Picture Service)

Concorde's maiden flight, 16th October 1969 (British Trade & Technical Picture Service)

Concern centres on the so-called Sonic Boom. There are worries about agriculture and tourism. Still-born calves and hens put off lay, dropped ice creams and crying children – I don’t need to spell it out. And then there’s the effect the Boom will have on the people themselves, especially those of advanced years and unsound constitution. Should some unfortunate person fall dead in the street as they hear this monstrous thunderclap of doom, a victim of the great socialist tomorrow, who will be called to account? But the Young Conservatives are standing up to this wasteful nonsense. They have a most ingenious plan: that we all ask for structural surveys to be made of our property – which the government says we are quite entitled to do, at their expense. That should give Mr Benn and his ilk pause for thought - not only the cost of the surveys themselves, but the black and white proof we will have in our hands, should the Boom trigger subsidence or other damage.

Today a delegation from the County Council is up at a meeting, to find out all about it. And my friend Mrs Paul has written to the Cornishman. She was kind enough to make a copy of the letter for me. “I don’t believe that we yet fully aware of the extent of the hazard”, she says. “There will be no warning… just one or more tremendous booms arriving with explosive force. What happens then to the hand holding the dentist’s drill, or the surgeon’s knife?” What indeed. People might “drop dead in the streets from heart failure”. They might have come to Cornwall expecting Jerusalem, but instead HM Government will be serving up “Euthanasia-in-the-name-of-Progress”.

1956 Sunbeam Rapier (courtesy http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4105/4839316319_6308c9398b_z.jpg)If it’s speed you want, by the way, may I advert you to some local businesses? Hardings at Tolcarne have a “spotless” Triumph Spitfire, E registration, for only £685. Taylors can sell you a new Austin Healey Sprite in Snowberry White or Riviera Blue. And if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to that, try Smith and Mathews in Bread Street. A 1956 Sunbeam Rapier may be past its best, but at £40 it’s surely within the reach of anyone with sufficient prudence to save a little from their weekly wage packet.

Any of the above will offer quite enough speed for any right-minded human being, without destroying the calm of our environment.

Sources and Notes

Cornishman Thursday 23rd September 1969: story page 5; Mrs Paul’s letter page 11; car advertisements page 15

£45 in 1969 was the equivalent of around £500 today according to the National Archives currency calculator accessed 28 9 2017

The top speed of the 1956 Sunbeam Rapier was either 85 or 88 mph, depending on which carburettor had been fitted. The latest Sprite, in contrast, had steel wheels and would reputedly do the ton.

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Penwith Local History Group
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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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