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Sixty years ago, Burnley were pushing towards the top of the First Division after the previous week’s brilliant 4-2 win against Arsenal at Highbury and had the chance to continue the push at home against lowly Leeds United.

Just ahead of Christmas there was exciting news in the town when it was revealed that Mecca Dancing Ltd. had taken over the Empress Ballroom. The Empress had been Burnley’s premier dancing centre for some 32 years and was now going to be in the hands of a company who operated nearly 40 dance halls and over 100 dance-cum-restaurants in England. Mr Eric D. Morley, Mecca director and the well known organiser of the ‘Miss World’ beauty contest, said there would be immediate improvements to the Empress and confirmed there was a real prospect of a new £100,000 ballroom in the town in a few years time. That new ballroom did come to fruition not too far into the 1960s with the building of the Locarno Ballroom and Rose Room, situated as part of the new town centre development of the time at the junction of Yorkshire Street and Centenary Way. Today that building houses the bingo.

DJ Keith McNee at Leeming

Not only was there the news from Mecca but in the same week the Minister of Housing and Local Government gave Burnley the go ahead for that town centre development. His observations were “a triumph for the local authority in imaginative planning”, and it left the town celebrating the news.

For one resident’s family it was going to be a sad Christmas. A car, with four occupants, overturned and crashed into a lamp standard late on Friday night in Padiham Road. Such was the state of the car that it seemed impossible anyone could come out alive. Thankfully three did, but sadly the driver was already dead. It took no less than two hours to get the trapped passengers out. The rescue was considered one of the biggest ever put into operation on Burnley’s roads and was headed by Chief Constable Mr R. A. Noble GM and his deputy Superintendent T. K. Robinson.

It was very much the time for Christmas parties, and what a good time was had by all the employees’ children of Elgin who were treated to a fantastic afternoon with slapstick from Charlie Chaplin, a visit from Father Christmas as well as sandwiches, jelly and cakes. All the children received a present from Father Christmas too, valued at £1. The old folk weren’t left out. Lucas staff handed out 200 parcels for those in poor circumstances. The staff gave of their time free of charge to distribute them and they were very well received.

For those rushing for late presents there was news from the Co-op that they’d got in extra stock of the very popular gay shortie dressing gowns at £4 2s. They also had society pyjamas at £1 7s 6d, biscuit tins at 12s 3d as well as invincible chrome tea pots for just £1 8s 3d. Footballers weren’t left out either. A pair of Stanley Matthews football boots would set you back £1 12s 11d (men), £1 7s 11d (youths) or £1 4s 11d (boys).

Elsewhere, Kettering and Leicester had slippers for 14s 11d (men) and 10s 11d (women), you could get the very best Sheaffer pens from H Gutteridge whilst J Duckworth supplied smoking gifts including pipes, pouches, cigars and cigarette cases. Reg Mills had kiddies tricycles from £1 13s 1d and 18″ roadsters for up to £13 19s 6d. If you wanted some wine, John Taylor’s were delivering free of charge and all wines were 7s 3d per bottle. They also had a fine range of spirits with a bottle of very old scotch malt setting you back £1 17s 6d.

There was more penny pushing, this time at the Turf Hotel where a pile of pennies had been six months in the making. It was pushed over by current Burnley player Tommy Cummings along with former player Benny Cross and raised £21 in aid of spastics.

A local journalist had become a ‘disc jockey’ whilst serving in the RAF. A member of the Burnley Express editorial staff Keith McNee was based at Leeming and was one of five announcers and disc jockeys on a forces network broadcasting system. He had two programmes of his own. One was ‘Leeming Top Ten’ which played the top ten records at the station that week and the other was ‘Christmas Island’ which was based on Desert Island Discs. Arrangements were being made for a new programme where Keith would interview personalities and Vivien Leigh, Peter Cushing, Anthony Quayle, Benny Hill, Peggy Mount and Margaret Rutherford were being lined up. I just wonder how on earth Keith would have turned an interview with Peggy Mount into a discussion on Burnley Football Club.

Lowerhouse Cricket Club President Mr T. Redman warned that the game would have to counter what he described as the menace of television and motor cars. Mr Redman believed television was having a serious effect on attendances at the West End and it was time something was done about it. Along with the motoring public he accused them of ruining local sport, whilst he also confirmed that Des Hoare would be their professional for 1960.

Lowerhouse also featured in the court proceedings of the week when a man was charged with breaking into their ground and stealing 840 cigarettes at a value of £6 19s as well as £3 1s in cash. He might have got away with it but on the way home he managed to lose a shoe and a glove and this enabled Detective Con John Reevley to find him and arrest him. “I am a bloody fool,” the man said on arrest but when he was taken into custody he said: “What would you do living in a dump like this?”

Two good friends decided to go for a Christmas drink together and had drunk four pints of beer each when they had an argument. It went a bit too far when one of them smashed his glass in the other’s face causing him to have 26 stitches. In court he was found guilty and fined £10. The court told him: “If this is what drink does to you, you are well advised to leave it alone,” He admitted that with the fine, he wouldn’t be able to afford any drink in any case.

After playing over half of the win at Arsenal with a groin injury, Jimmy McIlroy had heat treatment all week to try to get him fit for the Leeds game. He didn’t make it, with Billy White taking his place, but he was busy having his say on the England international set up at a meeting of the Burnley Junior Chamber of Commerce. McIlroy said that the best players were not being selected and that was down to the fact that they were being picked by nine people on a selection committee. He agreed with the recent proposal from Burnley that a full time man should be appointed. He thought that someone like Stan Cullis would not be good given that he’d select a team of strong, powerful players and suggested that such as Arthur Rowe and Matt Busby should be considered.

Apart from McIlroy being unable to play it was same again for Burnley and there was good news in the camp with Colin McDonald playing in a practice match during the week. The news wasn’t quite so good for Dave Smith who had played two junior games after coming back from a broken leg. He’d wrenched his back and wouldn’t be able to play for any teams in this particular week.

Burnley were given a warning that they should not treat Leeds lightly, that Leeds needed all the points they could get and would be all out to apply all the pressure possible to escape from what is tantamount to the relegation zone. We didn’t heed the warning and fell to a 1-0 defeat.

Usually in the dark days of winter, when the weather, like the Turf Moor attendance, is poor, Burnley gaily oblige with a sparkling performance as a form of compensation to the loyalists present, who are prepared to take a risk on both the elements and the football. This time however, on a dismal afternoon, beneath the floodlights and in the slanting rain, Burnley forgot their magic formula for success and gave one of their most disappointing displays of the season before one of the smallest gates.

It was all the more bewildering because the opposition was Leeds United, the team they beat at Elland Road in the opening fixture and Leeds look to be a worse team now than they did in August.

There can be no excuses for this loss of points, so necessary if honours or end of season bonus money are to jointly grace dressing room and pockets at Turf Moor. This slip up merely emphasises the unreliable nature of the side and the result proved an anti-climax to the resounding victory at Highbury the previous week.

Leeds struggled for long periods and it was ironical that they scored the only goal of the game from one of their few classical moves. Even then the danger should have been dispelled by a free kick award before the ball was centred for George Meek after a passing bout with Wilbur Cush pushed Alex Elder away, sending him staggering off balance. From Meek’s centre, Jack OVERFIELD stabbed his foot at the ball and it was in the net. He looked as if he couldn’t believe his luck and the hitherto silent Leeds supporters rose from their hiding in the stand to give tongue with whoops of delight. Burnley could not employ their subtle slip it and run tactics in the heavy going and so had an unrewarding afternoon. For their supporters it was one of frustration.

The defeat saw us drop one place to fourth in a very tight league table. Spurs were the new leaders on 30 points, replacing previous leaders Preston (29) and Wolves (28). We headed a group of four teams on 27 points on goal average.

Leeds meanwhile delighted in climbing out of the bottom two with Birmingham rejoining Luton in those relegation positions on a day when only Birmingham in the bottom group were beaten.

The teams were;

Burnley: Adam Blacklaw, John Angus, Alex Elder, Bobby Seith, Brian Miller, Jimmy Adamson, John Connelly, Billy White, Ray Pointer, Jimmy Robson, Brian Pilkington.

Leeds United: Ted Burgin, Terry Caldwell, Grenville Hair, Wilbur Cush, Jack Charlton, Archie Gibson, George Meek, Bob Cameron, John McCole, Chris Crowe, Jack Overfield.

Referee: Mr C. H. Sant (Crewe).

Attendance: 17,398.

Leeds did the double over us on the day. As our first team lost at home to them so the reserves went down at Elland Road. Leeds went 3-0 up with all three goals coming in a five minute spell in the first half. Francis, Bremner and Kilford (penalty) were the scorers. Andy Lochhead hit back quickly but it was 4-1 at half time with McDonald getting the next Leeds goal. Burnley came back in the second half with both Ian Lawson and Gordon Harris scoring but we couldn’t get that equaliser and lost the game 4-3.

First Division Results

19th December 1959

Bolton 0 Blackpool 3
Burnley 0 Leeds 1
Fulham 0 Blackburn 1
Leicester 2 West Ham 1
Luton 2 Everton 1
Manchester United 2 West Brom 3
Nottingham Forest 1 Manchester City 2
Preston 4 Chelsea 5
Sheffield Wednesday 5 Arsenal 1
Tottenham 4 Newcastle 0
Wolves 2 Birmingham 0

League Table

Pos Team pld w d l f a ga pts
1 Tottenham 22 11 8 3 48 24 2.00 30
2 Preston 22 12 5 5 46 36 1.28 29
3 Wolves 22 13 2 7 58 42 1.38 28
4 Burnley 22 12 3 7 52 35 1.49 27
5 Blackburn 22 12 3 7 43 34 1.26 27
6 West Ham 22 12 3 7 44 39 1.13 27
7 Fulham 22 12 3 7 44 43 1.02 27
8 Sheffield Wed 22 10 4 8 42 25 1.68 24
9 Manchester United 22 9 5 8 54 44 1.23 23
10 West Brom 22 8 6 8 41 35 1.17 22
11 Bolton 22 9 4 9 29 28 1.04 22
12 Newcastle 22 9 3 10 44 46 0.96 21
13 Chelsea 22 9 3 10 43 50 0.86 21
14 Manchester City 22 9 2 11 47 50 0.94 20
15 Blackpool 22 7 5 10 33 36 0.92 19
16 Arsenal 22 7 5 10 37 46 0.80 19
17 Everton 22 6 6 10 35 41 0.85 18
18 Leicester 22 6 6 10 35 49 0.71 18
19 Nottingham Forest 22 7 3 12 25 42 0.60 17
20 Leeds 22 5 6 11 33 53 0.62 16
21 Birmingham 22 5 5 12 29 44 0.66 15
22 Luton 22 4 6 12 24 44 0.55 14
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