Memories of Heysham Harbour

by Bill Rogerson

In an excerpt from his forthcoming book Bill shares his memories of the BTP office at Heysham Harbour.

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In late July 1977, I saw myself being transferred at long last to Heysham Harbour, I was back home. I had a great patch to cover. Bay Horse south of Lancaster to Tebay on the West Coast Main Line, including the Morecambe and Windermere branches, the Lake Windermere Steamers, the Carnforth to Skipton line inclusive and the line from Settle Junction to Kirkby Stephen and the Furness Main line from Carnforth to Millom.

There were two police posts, one at Heysham and one at Lancaster. There was one Sergeant, Walt Girdley and eight constables. Four based at Heysham and four based at Lancaster. The Inspector and CID officers had been withdrawn a few years earlier. As had PC Gerry Baines, who had been a dog handler there in the late 1960s / early 70s.  The dog post was taken away when Eric Haslam became the Chief Constable.

We now came under the Inspector at Preston and CID assistance was afforded from Preston as well.

However, one constable, Jim Morris covered Barrow in Furness and the Furness area. The Police establishment at Barrow had been withdrawn some years earlier although we still retained an office there. It was the disused ladies’ public toilet. The bench where the ladies used to apply their make-up was used as our desk. One toilet cubicle was used as an actual toilet and the other was used as a property store / general storeroom.

We would work a seven- week roster, four weeks at Heysham and three weeks at Lancaster. We worked a night shift one in every seven weeks, the other shifts being made up of lates, earlies and days.

The office at Lancaster had recently been reopened. I believe it closed in 1965. It was just one room with a desk and a sink. We had no toilet. We had to use the public toilet on platform number three. It was a typical railway toilet. I went to a cubicle one day and the brush had, what shall we best describe as, historical deposits from a previous encounter with the pan from someone who had had a curry from the Indian the night before!! The Heysham accommodation was much better. A Mess Room, toilet, Sergeant’s office, and two general offices.

We had one vehicle to be shared between the two stations, it was a Ford Cortina, part of the Hong Kong batch. It was much more in keeping with the force it was light blue and had a crest on each of the front doors. I think the registration number was HBT 921N, it was formally the Area Commander’s car at York.

We were regularly called upon to assist our colleagues at Preston to cover for sickness and annual leave. Other duties included covering football traffic. All of these duties entailed overtime or rest day workings. The shifts at Heysham would be covered by overtime as well. Other mutual aid duties would see us working at Blackpool North railway station in connection with the illuminations traffic. We had two officers stationed at Blackpool North and a Sergeant and I believe six constables at Fleetwood Docks. We used to return to Preston on the last service to Manchester Victoria which was affectionally known as the Blackpool Belle, full of courting couples and the like. Howard Broadbent and Jimmy Smith wrote a song about this train and its antics and is regularly sung by the northern folk group from Westhoughton, The Houghton Weavers. We rarely experienced any trouble on this train as the passengers wanted to round off a perfect day by the seaside, by doing what comes naturally.

I read the parade book and looked at some back entries one memorandum stuck out in my mind. It was from the days when there was an Inspector based at Heysham. Due to the high number of rear collisions with other vehicles on the promenade at Morecambe it advised officers not to drive along the promenade during the summer when going to Hest Bank, Bolton Le Sands or Carnforth. It appeared that officers were distracted by the young ladies on the promenade.

When I arrived at Heysham the passenger ferry service to Belfast had been withdrawn a few years earlier. There was only a British Rail Freight Roll-on-Roll-off service to Belfast, operated by the vessel ‘Penda’. We used to suffer a few thefts from the vessel and we would end up liaising with our two colleagues in the British Transport Police at Belfast, Detective Inspector Alec Manning and PC Brian Palmer.

Other vessels that used Heysham, came into the James Fisher of Barrow quay they brought oranges, grapefruit, bananas, potatoes and other general cargo. The James Fisher’s compound was surrounded by palisade fencing and there was a 24-hour security presence at the main gate. We had a good liaison with the security officers and used to get called to some of the seafarers who had been stealing goods from the vessels.

Since the withdrawal of the passenger ferry service to Belfast and the associated trains we only saw one train a week at Heysham and that was a freight train on a Monday morning.

Just after I arrived at Heysham – I hadn’t been issued with a uniform, so I was patrolling in plain clothes which was useful as I apprehended a local lad for being in possession of cannabis. He was jointly dealt with between the British Transport Police and Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise Officers, with whom we had a very good liaison.

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Bill Rogerson MBE is the Secretary of the BTPHG.

Former Heysham Office                           (photo: Bill Rogerson)


Bill paid a recent visit to the building that contained the BTP offices. He comments :

“It wasn’t as plush as this in my day. Due to the IRA activities we were never allowed to have a sign on the door. We had to use the back door, which was fitted with a spy hole.”