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Burnley’s First Division game at Birmingham sixty years ago today was called off because of heavy snow in Birmingham, but the most dreadful news in Burnley was that of the murder of an 18-month old child.

It’s always shocking news to read, and even sixty years on it makes me shudder, more so because the murder was in a house that was no more than a minute’s walk from where I was living at the time. I was eight years old and can only think that I must have been protected from this by my mum and dad because I certainly knew nothing of it.

By the time the news broke of the death of 18-month old Mark David Walsh of 38, Holmsley Street, Burnley, his mother Mrs Sophie Walsh had already appeared before a special sitting of the magistrates court on a charge of murder. The court were told that the boy was found dead on a settee in the living room and later, at the inquest on the boy, Dr. G. B. Manning, Home Office pathologist, who had conducted the post mortem examination, said the cause of death was asphyxia due to a ligature round the neck. The boy had been found with a handkerchief fastened tightly around his neck. Sophie Walsh was remanded in custody for eight days. She didn’t speak in court other than to confirm her name and address.

Police at the scene of the murder

It all came in a week when the Burnley Watch and Fire Brigade Committee appointed Superintendent Leonard Massey MBE, Deputy Chief Constable of Halifax since 1956, to succeed Mr R. A. Noble as Chief Constable of Burnley. Superintendent T. K. Robinson, acting in the capacity following Noble’s departure, was one of seven short listed for the position.

As the townsfolk mourned Mark Walsh, there was good news on two other local youngsters who had gone missing. A massive police search was in operation as far away as Birmingham, Oswestry and Chester looking for two young brothers Keith (aged 8) and Walter Cooke (aged 11). Also missing from the family home were a loaf of bread, a half pound jar of beef dripping, a red and black football shirt and a pair of grey corduroy trousers. They’d otherwise set off for school as normal.

Thankfully, the pair were found warm and snug in a barn at Mr James Jackson’s Crow Wood Farm in Burnley. They were blissfully unaware that police had been out all night with tracker dogs in the driving snow looking for them. It turned out that they didn’t particularly like school and were due to start, that day, at a new school near the Mitre in Burnley.

Two more local boys, one aged 12 and one 15, were found guilty in court of breaking into an ice cream works, and as it happened they got more than a cornet apiece. They admitted stealing £1 each from the works and were both found guilty. The 12-year-old was sent to a remand home for 28 days whilst the 15-year-old was placed on probation for two years. And just to think you’d struggle to buy a Magnum today for that price, you’d be better off nicking the ice cream.

One of the big stories in Burnley during this football season was the water shortage in the September/October period. Plans were afoot to ensure it never happened again but there was to be one more casualty, Burnley’s water manager Jack Shepherd. Despite being just 54 years of age, Shepherd was forced to retire from his role because of ill health after a forty year association with the Burnley Corporation and tributes were paid to him during that week’s meeting of Burnley Town Council. Mr Shepherd said at the time of his retirement that he had no hobbies but enjoyed driving, particularly in Switzerland. He had no plans for his retirement.

Alderman J. Herbert told a meeting of the council of Burnley and District Chamber of Trade that within six to twelve months there could be an organised bus service for shift workers in the town who started work at 6:00 a.m. It would require employers to get together and outline their requirements to the transport undertaking. It was all needed said Alderman Herbert who was concerned at the number of townsfolk who had to walk to work in the early hours.

Working conditions at some works also needed to be improved, it was said, and that was highlighted after an accident at Messrs Watts’ Clock Tower Mill when one worker received a severe injury to his right hand when it became trapped in a machine. The hospital later confirmed that the hand had to be amputated although the man was said to be fairly comfortable.

It was charity time again in the pubs, this time at the Grey Mare on Gannow Lane. Burnley captain Jimmy Adamson duly arrived to push over a pile of pennies and he met several football enthusiasts including a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur. The best news of all was that the big pile of pennies totalled £14 8s with the money going to the Spastics Fund. Jimmy thanked landlord Dick Greenwood and all the customers for a wonderful effort.

Finances were a concern at Burnley Cricket Club when they announced a loss for 1959 of £210. One of the reasons given by the club was the clash with Burnley FC home games which adversely affected them. Mr T. Baron, one of four directors due to retire in accordance with the articles of the association, revealed he was standing down because he was leaving the area. The club though were optimistic. After the sad death of professional Collie Smith they were looking forward to the 1960 season with new pro Dattu Phadkar.

“Baloney,” said Burnley FC chairman Mr R. W. Lord after fans hit out at the ticket sales for the forthcoming cup tie at Valley Parade against Bradford City. Long queues formed and the club were accused of holding back stand (seat) tickets which members thought should have gone on sale. They claimed only 50 went on sale to season ticket holders. Secretary Mr Henry Smith refused to reveal any details but Lord bellowed: “As for saying only 50 or 53 stand tickets were sold, that is all baloney. I know; I was there,” adding: “We fully understand there will be disappointed stand season ticket holders.”

John Angus was ruled out of the trip to Birmingham with a damaged ankle, despite having treatment all week. That brought exciting news for 23-year-old Billy Marshall from Mount Pottinger, Belfast who was coming in for his debut. Then news came in on the Friday morning that the game was doubtful with St. Andrew’s under several inches of snow. The referee’s decision was awaited and consequently Burnley delayed their journey to the Midlands. Mr R. E. Smith of Newport, Monmouthshire was the referee and he arrived to make the inspection. On completion he immediately called The Football League to tell them the ground was unfit and they in turn contacted Burnley. It led to Mr Potts making changes to the reserve team who were entertaining Sheffield United on the Saturday. Marshall for one returned to the reserves.

Burnley proved to be the better side on a pitch that was rendered difficult by varying underfoot conditions which included a stretch of snow on the stand side, a bumpy surface down the middle and offers of better stud-hold on the far side. We won the game 2-0 and the first goal came after Ian Towers controlled an awkwardly bouncing ball in the United penalty area and Billy WHITE hit a shot which went in from the underside of the crossbar.

The second was a result of one of the several combined moves, starting with a throw out by Jim Furnell to Tommy Cummings, White putting Andy LOCHHEAD through and former Burnley goalkeeper Des Thompson showing every sign of disgust and dismay after the ball had been forced past him and into the net.

The Burnley team was: Jim Furnell, Tommy Cummings, Billy Marshall, Walter Joyce, John Talbut, Jimmy Scott, Trevor Meredith, Billy White, Andy Lochhead, Gordon Harris, Ian Towers.

After the game the first team departed for Blackpool where they would undergo special cup tie training ahead of our game at Bradford City. Captain Jimmy Adamson was the player looking to make sure he lost the ‘Charlie Cup’ once at the seaside resort noted for fresh air and fun. On our last visit for cup tie training against Swansea Town he was the winner of the ‘Charlie Cup’ which was awarded to the player who distinguished himself least in the daily five-a-side matches. It was decided by vote.

Elsewhere there was some good news for Burnley with Tottenham not taking advantage of our game being off and surprisingly losing at home to Leicester. We were still three points behind the leaders although now with a game in hand. Wolves won however, and that brought them level with us but still behind on goal average.

There was no change at the bottom where Birmingham and Luton retained the relegation positions, Luton failing to benefit from Birmingham’s inaction as they lost at home to Sheffield Wednesday.

First Division Results

13th February 1960

Blackburn Rovers 2 Manchester City 1
Blackpool 2 Arsenal 1
Bolton 1 Nottingham Forest 1
Chelsea 4 Fulham 2
Everton 0 Wolves 2
Luton 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1
Manchester United 1 Preston 1
Newcastle 2 Leeds United 1
Tottenham 1 Leicester 2

Postponed Games

Birmingham v Burnley
West Brom v West Ham

League Table

Pos Team pld w d l f a ga pts
1 Tottenham 29 15 9 5 61 34 1.79 39
2 Burnley 28 16 4 8 64 44 1.45 36
3 Wolves 29 16 4 9 71 52 1.37 36
4 Sheffield Wed 29 14 6 9 54 33 1.64 34
5 Preston 29 12 9 8 53 49 1.08 33
6 Bolton 28 13 6 9 37 32 1.16 32
7 West Brom 28 12 7 9 54 40 1.35 31
8 Blackburn 29 14 3 12 49 47 1.04 31
9 West Ham 28 14 3 11 54 54 1.00 31
10 Fulham 29 13 5 11 53 58 0.91 31
11 Manchester United 29 11 7 11 66 58 1.14 29
12 Newcastle 29 12 5 12 59 58 1.02 29
13 Blackpool 29 10 7 12 40 42 0.95 27
14 Chelsea 29 10 6 13 56 66 0.85 26
15 Arsenal 29 10 6 13 50 61 0.82 26
16 Manchester City 29 11 3 15 60 61 0.98 25
17 Leicester 29 8 9 12 45 59 0.76 25
18 Nottingham Forest 29 10 5 14 35 54 0.65 25
19 Everton 29 8 7 14 45 54 0.83 23
20 Leeds 29 8 7 14 48 66 0.73 23
21 Birmingham 28 8 5 15 38 52 0.73 21
22 Luton 28 6 7 15 32 50 0.64 19
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