Review of the Year 2014: What made the news from January to June

Unwanted bagged cockles stand in an erie memorial to the Chinese cocklers who perished in Morecambe Bay.
Unwanted bagged cockles stand in an erie memorial to the Chinese cocklers who perished in Morecambe Bay.
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From stories of immense bravery and courage in overcoming adversity to fire ripping through one of Morecambe’s most well known attractions, these were what made the news. Reporter Michelle Blade looks back at stories from January to June in this first half of our review of the year.

January

A serviceman who was horrifically injured in Afghanistan defied all the odds to spend Christmas and New Year with his family. Cpl Stuart Robinson from Morecambe had both legs amputated and suffered multiple injuries after his vehicle was hit by a Taliban bomb 10 months earlier. But Cpl Robinson stunned doctors with his recovery and was already learning to walk again.

When Jimmy Creevy saw his disabled neighbour’s house on fire he rushed to the rescue without a second’s hesitation and the pensioner was hailed a hero because his actions may have saved the man’s life. Helped by a passer-by, Jimmy ran into the smoke-filled bungalow on Sefton Drive at Scale Hall and pulled his neighbour to safety. The kitchen was burnt out.

Designer Wayne Hemingway warned residents to be cautious over plans to build a retail park on the Frontierland site. Developers Opus North announced a new vision for the derelict site to include big name fashion shops, a hotel and a family pub. Wayne and his wife Geraldine founded the Red or Dead clothing label and now run their own London-based design company Hemingway Design, specialising in housing regeneration. The Hemingways also met with representatives of Galloway’s Society for the Blind, new owners of The Visitor building on Victoria Street, to discuss design ideas.

Residents on a Morecambe street had letters delivered twice – telling them they wouldn’t be getting post due to a dangerous dog. The postal misery for 20 households on Branksome Avenue and Kentmere Avenue had been going on for two months after a postal worker’s postbag was bitten by a local pet. But householders were incredulous after receiving two letters telling them they wouldn’t be getting any post delivered – letters which were delivered by hand.

Three was a magic number in a Caton household when triplets Nathan, Sammy and Alex Heywood celebrated their 18th birthday. The Caton trio, who were born on January 22, 1996, enjoyed a family get-together to make the special day. Identical brothers Nathan and Sammy and their triplet Alex celebrated the occasion with mum Jan, dad Steve, sister Charlotte (29) and brothers Matthew (26) and Oliver (19).

February

The Visitor revealed the cockle bags abandoned by Chinese men and women who lost their lives two years earlier had gradually emerged from the sands of Morecambe Bay over the past weeks – a timely memorial to the 23 cockle pickers who lost their lives a decade ago. Also risen from the sands was the shell of a partially submerged 4x4 vehicle used to transport the Chinese cocklers to the cockle beds to harvest the shellfish. The partially rusted vehicle sat eerily on its side and from afar it almost appeared as if the driver was still in the driving seat.

Rescuers raced against the clock to free a cow trapped in thick mud – saving the animal from the Morecambe Bay tide with just minutes to spare. It took four hours to pull the frightened cow out after it became trapped on the banks of the River Lune at Overton, opposite Lancaster Golf Club. And fire crews, the RNLI, a Coastguard team and other rescuers had the perilous incoming tide lapping at their ankles as they finally dragged the beached bovine free.

Plumber Michael Comber was inside his van just 40 minutes before a roof blew off in high winds and crushed it. The dad-of-one admitted he was lucky to be alive after his work van was wrecked outside his Heysham home during 100mph gusts that battered the county. His narrow escape was part of a catalogue of damage and destruction across the district.

The movie legend Sir Kenneth Branagh was soaked by a downpour on stage created by a team of special effects specialists from Morecambe. Family firm Water Sculptures created an artificial cloud burst for the opening battle scene in Branagh’s National Theatre Live show Macbeth. The White Lund-based company was also hailed in the New York Times after providing a similar rain effect for King Lear at the Harvey Theatre in Brooklyn, starring Frank Langella.

March

The Visitor photographers captured photos of empty fields turned into impromptu tipping grounds – with one only a quarter of a mile from Salt Ayre tip. Fridges, dining chairs, three piece suites, televisions and household rubbish had all been dumped across the district by flytippers. New figures revealed the problem was spiralling in Morecambe as Lancaster City Council revealed more than 8,970 reported incidents of flytipping between 2012/13.

It was feared lead thieves would bring down the restoration of the town’s Winter Gardens theatre. The 117-year-old venue’s watertight roof had been targeted twice in a week with damaged estimated to be worth up to £2,000. The stripping of lead flashing from the proud old building was the latest in a long line of metal thefts from roofs on Morecambe Promenade.

It was reported that two of Morecambe’s main beaches could be shut to swimmers unless steps were taken to remove sources of contamination from the water. Morecambe North and South beaches, along with 43 others, failed water quality standards, according to the Environment Agency. From 2015 the beaches could have signs put up marking them as unfit for bathing under new EU rules. This could mean that families visiting Morecambe could desert the town, with potentially devastating effects for the local economy.

One of Morecambe’s most iconic hotels closed its doors for good. The Broadway Hotel shut ahead of plans to convert the building into retirement flats. The closure of the Broadway as a hotel was first mooted in 2007 when the manager revealed the business was struggling in the declining economy. The closure of the Broadway followed that of the Elms Hotel at Bare.

April

A lollipop man gave county bosses some stick over cost-cutting plans which could make crossing the road more dangerous for kids. Brian Taylor was against proposals for schools to part-pay the wages of lollipop men and women. Headteachers were up in arms over the plans, which would force schools to either stump up the cash or scrap their lollipop man or woman altogether. Mr Taylor, 71, has been a lollipop man at the junction of Broadway and Beaufort Road for three and a half years.

A fisherwomen was worried that plans for a new sewer could wreck her beautiful village. Margaret Owen and other residents of Sunderland Point feared a proposed new outfall pipe could damage the landscape of the tiny outpost near Overton. United Utilities wanted the new underground pipe to carry treated water out to the Lune Estuary near the Point as part of plans to upgrade Morecambe’s sewerage system.

More than 100 residents packed into a heated meeting amid concerns at a mass gathering for travellers set for their village. Around 2,500 members of the travelling community would descent on Overton in July as part of a religious festival. Speculation was that the event was the Light and Life Gypsy Church’s annual Christian convention, held in different village every year.

A fire broke out at a disused boxing club just days after police found a £500,000 cannabis farm growing inside. Five crews battled for nearly an hour to put out the blaze at the Edward Street building in Morecambe town centre. A crowd gathered to watch as flames and smoke billowed from the premises where police had discovered up to 1,000 cannabis plants a few days before.

Ruthless vandals were targeting construction vehicles at the M6 link road sites – putting lives at risk and causing thousands of pounds of damage. In what appeared to be an orchestrated campaign, police said hydraulic hoses were cut on excavators and dumper trucks, directly risking injury to drivers. Other incidents included: sand being put into tanks to contaminate the fuel; tyres being let down; damage to a temporary jetty in the River Lune.

May

It was standing room only in Morecambe as 30,000 people turned out to see the return of the town carnival. And organisers vowed it would return next year after businesses and residents gave the event a massive thumbs-up. Not even light rain at the start of the parade dampened the spirits of the sea of people who lined the promenade.

Queen’s Guide to the Sands Cedric Robinson MBE received the Freedom of the City of Lancaster from Coun June Ashworth in her last act as mayor. Cedric, 81, guided nearly 500,000 people over the potentially treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay for more than 50 years.

A proud teenager told how he teamed up with his dad to tackle a thief. Sam Jones and his dad Bryn chased a shoplifter and pinned him to the ground when he tried to flee their store with an expensive bottle of champagne for the second time in a fortnight. Have-a-go heroes Bryn, 45, and Sam, who work at Greenlands Farm Village near Carnforth, spied the thief on CCTV as he tried to sneak out with a £41 bottle of Moet Grand Vintage.

Axe-wielding masked and hooded robbers stormed a Morecambe bookies leaving staff injured and terrified. The three-strong gang kicked the front door open minutes after two members of staff had locked the front door at Ladbrokes on Yorkshire Street. The trio, one carrying an axe, ran into the shop before two jumped over the counter.

June

Seven-year-old Jazmine had a more dramatic half-term than most youngsters after delivering her new baby sister. Baby Saffron Grace rushed into the world almost three weeks early, giving mum India Faulkner the shock of her life, and leaving her to rely on Jazmine for help. After getting her mum some towels Jazmine rang 999 and put the phone on loud speaker.

A campaign to cover Morecambe with beautiful red poppies hit its target by selling 14m seeds – one for every soldier killed during the First World War. The success of the Morecambe Poppy Scatter, set up to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, was revealed as supporters turned out in force on D-Day to replant ‘stolen’ poppy seeds at Happy Mount Park. Around 150 people, including the Morecambe MP David Morris, schoolchildren, local councillors and war veterans, joined in the replanting.

Morecambe’s Megazone was victim of one of the biggest fires seen in the resort for years. The family leisure attraction was damaged beyond repair by a massive inferno that ripped through the indoor laser adventure game centre sending clouds of smoke billowing for miles around. Nine fire engines were on the scene at the height of the fire. An investigation was underway into the cause of the blaze, which was believed to have started on the upper floor in the laser game arena.

A Morecambe teenager who stepped in when he saw a police officer being attacked in the street received a bravery award. Jordan Lancaster, 19, was recognised at the National police public Bravery Awards which took place at a ceremony in Harrogate. The incident happened when police were called to a report of a disturbance involving a large group of men in Regent Park Avenue.