Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Touched by a Train Trip

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Touched by a Train Trip

Article excerpt

THIS should have been written three weeks ago.

On Thursday, February 6, 1958, BEA flight 609 crashed on take-off at Munich-Riem Airport, Munich, West Germany. Twenty-three people died. The fatalities included eight of Manchester United Football Club's "Busby Babes" and three staff members.

It was a huge tragedy involving some of the greatest young players of the decade, sending the UK into mourning and Manchester, in particular, into deep shock.

Manchester United was the first British soccer team to play in Europe. Manager Matt Busby, a crash survivor and legend among managers, eventually rebuilt the Busby Babes. Ten years later United won the European Cup. The great Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes were the only two crash survivors who lined up in that team.

On the Saturday after the accident I was playing for the University of Bristol against the University of Liverpool in the semi-final of the English Universities Cup. It was in Liverpool and we beat them 1-0.

I only mention this because it explains why, 19 years old and football-mad, I decided that, after the match, I would celebrate the victory by taking a train to Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Poor little southern boy that I was, I had never been that far north before and I had heard terrible stories about how rough the northerners were.

I assume that our victory over the Scousers had given me new courage. My excuse was to say "hallo" to my girlfriend of the time. She was a Durham University student in Newcastle, if that makes sense. She lived at nearby Whitley Bay, still the only place where I have seen the sea freeze as it splashes onto the promenade.

It's basically a very cold place that still occasionally features in my life despite having changed girlfriends many, many, many years ago. God knows how I could have afforded to do that expedition as a near-penniless student all those years ago, but I did. …

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