Welwyn Hatfield 1965 - Churchill dies as folk star’s career starts

PUBLISHED: 12:06 17 June 2017

Richard Shepperd watches Sir Winston Churchill planting a tree.

Richard Shepperd watches Sir Winston Churchill planting a tree.


Reporter Alex Lewis looks back in the Welwyn Hatfield Times archive to see what was happening in January 1965,

Donovan Leitch in 1965. Donovan Leitch in 1965.

Leafing through copies of the Welwyn Times and Hatfield Herald from January, 1965, I am arrested by an unmistakable profile and the headline “He Knew Sir Winston”.

We reported recollections of the wartime prime minister, who had died on the 24th, from Richard Sheppard of Little Berkhamsted, formerly of Tewin.

Richard - who became Sir Richard in 1981 - must have leant us the photo of him watching Sir Winston plant a tree at Churchill College. Cambridge, built to his own design.

Online sources tell me the college was opened in 1960, and the distinguished architect was badly affected by polio, explaining his stick.

A wall collapsed and damaged cars in January, 1965. A wall collapsed and damaged cars in January, 1965.

He told our reporter: “He was very old and frail, and came in a wheelchair, but he got out of the chair and walked with me about 40 yards to plant the trees. They were a mulberry and an oak, and they are still doing well.”

We also reported how one of Sir Winston’s earliest paintings depicted Knebworth House’s banqueting hall, but tactfully omitted his youthful infatuation with the lady in residence in 1965, Pamela, Countess of Lytton.

The previous week, we reported how a young Hatfield singer had been given a “lucky break by ITV’s Ready Steady Go” after a successful audition.

Eighteen-year-old Donovan Leitch, we reported, was a former pupil of St Audrey’s School, and had been brought to Hatfield by his Glaswegian parents eight years earlier.

“His ambition is to see some of his own work recognised”, our readers learned, and “First release record for Donovan will be his Catch the Wind, which will appear shortly on single disc”.

The record was soon at Number four in the charts, launching Donovan’s successful career despite obvious similarity to Bob Dylan’s Chimes of Freedom, released in 1964.

The teenage Donovan told the Welwyn Times he was influenced by Robert Burns and Woody Guthrie but did not mention Dylan - a curious omission, a cynic might observe.

Also in January 1965, we reported how firefighters had safeguarded aircraft at de Havilland from being damaged in a gale.

But Primrose Close, Hatfield, did not escape, with two cars damaged by a falling brick wall.

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