Co-incidence or great minds?

PHOTOGENIC! Great Yarmouth’s Haven Bridge, appropriately pictured from Havenbridge House in 1976. A

PHOTOGENIC! Great Yarmouth’s Haven Bridge, appropriately pictured from Havenbridge House in 1976. A photographic memento of the bridge’s royal opening in 1930 is in the left-hand semi-circular cabin. - Credit: Archant

ARCH villain Goldfinger warned James Bond in the 1964 film: “There is a saying in Chicago: ‘Once is happen-stance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action!’”

WELL, I GO TO BLAZES...:possibly the borough’s first motorised fire engine, with the registration pl

WELL, I GO TO BLAZES...:possibly the borough’s first motorised fire engine, with the registration plate EX12.Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

I trust that no dark forces are lurking with readers of this column because they might have spotted that recently I have noted there have been coincidences – relating only to my innocent subject matter, of course, with nothing subversive like global control, world domination or cornering the market in gold, diamonds or uranium...

The first was in November after I saw a music video featuring the unmistakable star actor Sir Ian McKellen, miming to a singer I learned was George Ezra.

The very next day, I received a letter from former Yarmouthian Graham Gosling – now resident in Bury St Edmunds - who was active in the early arts-venue era of the former St George’s Church in Great Yarmouth. His letter recalled Ian McKellen, at that time not knighted, visiting the building in 1978 as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company when he even enrolled in The Friends of St George’s!

During chats with Colin Sharman, of Oxford Avenue, Gorleston, featured here in December as one the crew who, in 1998, dredged from the river-bed part of a US Super Sabre fighter that crashed in 1964, he wondered if I could help him on a matter that had long puzzled him.

NOSTALGIC NUMBER: ex-Yarmouthian Danny Daniels in Canada in 1994 with his Jeep bearing a registratio

NOSTALGIC NUMBER: ex-Yarmouthian Danny Daniels in Canada in 1994 with his Jeep bearing a registration plate reminding him of his old home town. - Credit: Archant

This concerned a framed photograph that for decades was hanging in one of the Haven Bridge’s twin Aberdeen granite operating cabins. The subject was the bridge and its formal opening in 1930 by the Prince of Wales (later, briefly, King Edward VIII).

But it was not the picture itself Colin was inquiring about but a special memento of the royal occasion - the piece of broad red silk ribbon draped around its cord and frame, part of the ribbon the future King had formally snipped nearly 85 years ago to declare the £200,000 facility open.

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By the way, the official programme and souvenir booklet for the visit of the royal personage to open the bridge tells us: “The crepe-de-Chine ribbon was made by Grout & Co Ltd, of Great Yarmouth, who kindly gave it for the purpose.”

Silk-miller Grout: another long-gone name from the borough’s industrial past.

But my inquiries, and those of contacts whose help I enlisted, were in vain so it seemed unlikely that Colin would ever learn the solution.

Then recently, as I crossed the bridge by bus, men in high-visibility jackets were standing at the open doorway to the former bridge-master’s office on the Yarmouth side, so I hastily interrupted my journey in Stonecutters Way and hurried back to catch them.

When I explained my quest, they showed me the framed photograph was still there on the wall. Sadly, there was no longer any red ribbon, and one of the men assured me that it had been ribbon-free for a long time.

There did appear to be the remains of some adhesive indicating where it might have been positioned.

Simultaneously pleased and disappointed, I walked up to the Mercury office in King Street, opened that day’s Mercury...and was confronted by coincidence number two: on the Letters to the Editor pages was a photograph of a framed picture of the Haven Bridge’s official opening and, beneath it, a square of red ribbon behind the glass, not draped around cord and frame!

The correspondent and picture sender was Linda Howkins, of Hoveton, who also featured in the third coincidence.

I was preparing a column about the new bread-making machine in Peggotty’s Hut, including recollections of local bakers of yesteryear, when Linda had a letter published in this newspaper, illustrated with a picture of the three wooden effigies of cooks that stood above the door of Purdy’s pastry shop next to Palmers department store in the Market Place.

The fourth coincidence? I was in protracted correspondence with regular contact Paul Godfrey, a photographic researcher living in Lowestoft, about a 1955 visit to Great Yarmouth and Gorleston by the BBC to televise live shows featuring stars spending the summer in the resort. One Paul mentioned in particular was singer-whistler Ronnie Ronalde.

While were were still communicating so I could write a relevant column, Ronnie Ronalde’s death at 91 was announced.

I suppose you could also call it coincidence that two surviving classic cars bearing the borough of Yarmouth’s original index letters on their number plates have now twice appeared in television’s acclaimed Downton Abbey – a 1927 Austin 12/4 Windsor saloon (EX1938) last Christmas Day, and an AC Six open tourer (EX1945) in a previous series. The EX registration prefix was allocated to Yarmouth when the index system was introduced nationally in 1903.

Also mentioned here was the oldest EX car still making an occasional appearance (in the annual London to Brighton rally, for example) though not hereabouts: EX10, a 1900 Daimler that had at least two local owners in its long existence.

Regular correspondent Danny Daniels, a Yarmouthian who has lived in Canada for much of his life, reminds me that years ago he chose EX10 for his car’s licence plate there as a nostalgic gesture to his old home town.

“EX 10 - the Canadian edition - is now in its third iteration,” he writes by e-mail. It was first affixed to Danny and Marjorie Daniels’ Jeep Grand Cherokee.

“After that, the plates were transferred to a Kia Sportage; and now, as of about a month ago, they are on a 2015 Chrysler 200.”

In a recent Mercury, a letter-writer who is an enthusiast about fire engines/appliances and fire stations requested readers to send him any photographs to add to his collection. As a couple have been in my picture files for many years, I e-mailed them to him - and noticed with pleasure that one of the old vehicles had...yes, an EX number plate!

I had never spotted it previously.

The old card-mounted sepia-tone picture shows what might well have been the County Borough of Great Yarmouth’s first motorised fire appliance, succeeding horse-drawn ones. The licence plate on the front is EX12, indicating that it dates to the very early years of the 20th century.