It’s time, once again, to throw the Nostalgia pages open to you, our readers all over the globe, and we’ll begin with the Watford Junction to Euston Overground railway line.

You may recall that earlier this month, I republished details of a competition British Rail was running in March 1988.

The company was asking commuters to invent a new name for the line, with the most appropriate name used for advertising and promotions.

I asked after the piece if anyone knew the outcome of this competition as I had been unable to find out what the result of the competition was.

And indeed you did. Half a dozen people were good enough to get in touch to let me know that the winning name was The Harlequin Line. John Britten, from Garston, wrote: “As I recall it, someone put forward the name Harlequin because the line passed through HARLEsden and QUeeNs Park.

“A few years later, when the new shopping centre was built, another naming competition was held and someone else put forward the same name.”

Colin Knight agreed. “Few people at the time thought that calling it the Harlequin Line made much sense, but I believe it was based on the unconvincing premise that it was somehow a mixture of some of the station names on the line," he wrote.

“The name was soon dropped by British Rail and forgotten about, although it is rumoured the Harlequin shopping centre, that opened a couple of years later, copied the name.”

Colin added he worked for BR at the time and he thought the competition had been held “in house” but clearly not. “I do remember there was a general bemusement at the rather inappropriate name that was chosen,” he added.

“The railway industry was going through one of its periodic reorganisations at the time, by which the small group of lines which included the Euston-Watford line, became known as the North  London lines, again only briefly.

“But I suppose the new management decided calling it the North London Line was a good opportunity to bury the rather embarrassing and meaningless ‘Harlequin’ for good.”

Mary Gough added: “For a while there was a harlequin motif on the trains and stations, but these were dropped presumably because they did not fit in with the corporate colours of British Rail. With the old Harelquin shopping centre now called ‘intu’, all references to the character from the Commedia dell’arte have disappeared.”

The final word, though, must go to M.R. Day, who wrote from Beningfield Drive in London Colney.

He confirmed the Harlequin name, adding: “The new name was officially launched on June 18, 1988 at a ceremony attended by top British Rail people.

“The weekend “Golden Break for two” prize was won by Simon Gurevitz from Harrow.”

So that seems to wrap the Harlequin line up. The name was certainly buried well. I used the line regularly for over a decade from the 1990s onwards and had never heard of it.

One final thing. Having got the date of the opening from Mr Day, I went back to the archive to see if the Watford Observer covered it. We did – with a small piece buried inside the edition of June 24, 1988. Headed “Railway line gets a new image” it reads:

“Away days to London should be more fun for Watford people with the launch of the new Harlequin line.

“TV soccer pundits Saint and Greavsie and veteran DJ Ed “Stewpot” Stewart were among the star names at Wembley Central station on Saturday [June 18, 1988] for the Watford to Euston line’s renaming at a gala day launch.

“Along with the new name, British Rail hopes to have a whole new image, with stations along the line being revamped to meet passengers’ needs.

“Included in the upgrading scheme, known as Operation Sparkle, was Watford Junction’s brand new booking office.

“British Rail spokesman Keith Lumley said: ‘It’s aimed at raising the quality of service. Most stations are now already looking brighter. We are going to refurbish every station on the line to make it a better travelling and waiting environment.’

“Passengers will not see any new trains popping up on the line, however. New trains with sliding doors were introduced three years ago.

“A signalling system, which has been in operation since the 1930s, is being replaced at a cost of £2.5 million.

“Close circuit television is also being introduced to stations to help curb vandalism.”

Sadly, there’s no picture of the launch, Wembley being outside our circulation area, so that appears to be that. Thanks to everyone who took the time to write in.

 

Barely a month goes by without someone mentioning the Cassiobury Park gates to me. It seems many local people are still angry, all these years after they were removed, at what happened.

The most recent call was from Kevin France and related to a petition he and others have set up in an attempt to, uh, encourage Watford Borough Council to rebuild the iconic and, let’s face it, beautiful old gates as part of the £4.5 million Cassiobury Park Lottery makeover.

Mr France, and others, believe remaking the gates could be at least part financed by public subscription ("buy a brick", that sort of idea) and I reckon he could well be right, certainly if a local builder was willing to chip in materials free or at cost.

Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. He asked if I’d point out to readers the Facebook page which has been set up to gather support for the idea.

Those with Facebook can search for Cassiobury Park Gates and join the group there. The pages also have a link to a petition where you can show your support.

If, like many people, you don’t have a Facebook page (or are at this moment scratching your head muttering “what on earth is Facebook?”) you can still sign the petition.

Go to www.change.org and search for “Cassiobury Park Gates”. In less than a month the petition has obtained more than 1,000 supporters but it needs many more, so don’t be shy in joining in!

 

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Captains

 The captains shake hands as Watford FC prepare to take on Birmingham City in the Third Round of the F.A.Cup on January 9, 1960. Below: Dennis Uphill scores in the same game, which Watford won 2-1.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Goal

I was contacted by Watford fan Nick Beach a week or two ago. Nick is desperately looking for memorabilia relating to the club’s record-breaking F.A. Cup run in the 1959/60 season.

He sent some pictures from that season’s Hornets Third Round tie against Birmingham City, two of which are reproduced here.

“It was an all-ticket game, attendance 31,314,” he wrote, “from the famous Cup run when Watford became the first Division 4 club to reach the F.A.Cup Fifth Round, where they lost 3-2 at Sheffield United.

“I am a collector of Watford memorabilia and hope to find people who might possibly still have stand tickets from the game or any other games from the run, or indeed, newspapers, scrapbooks –  anything to do with this cup run.”

If you can help Nick, contact me here at Nostalgia and I’ll pass your details on.

Hands up all those who remember 1990s Watford band Jugglers Wood. I must confess that my hands stayed well and truly by my sides (makes it kinda hard to type) but one person who remembers them well is Ian Dunn.

Ian was, in fact, a member of the band and he’s trying to get memorabilia together about them, so if anyone out there not only put their hand up but has memories, newspaper cuttings (including a review which Ian says the Watford Observer wrote some time in the early 1990s) or whatever, please get in touch. I’ll pass all your information on.

 

A few months ago, in one of these correspondence round-up Nostalgias, I made a plea on behalf of Lucjan Sniadower who wrote from Paris in an attempt to find out information about Kate Zuk-Skarszewska, who died on August 29, 1950, in Napsbury Hospital near St Albans. She was an author, journalist and translator of Polish literature into English.

Sadly, not every Nostalgia plea reaps any reward and Lucjan’s query met with no response so he’s asked if I could run it again – but in a different way.

He writes: “I am looking for descendants, family or friends of Ellen Elizabeth Cooper (1874-1958) born Hadley and her husband Richard Samuel Cooper. In the 1940s to 1970s they lived in Watford at 45, Monmouth Road. They had a daughter whose married name was White, and two sons.”

If you can help Lucjan, please get in touch.

 

Finally this week, a letter from Mike Pentelow, who wrote concerning the Royal Masonic School for Boys in Bushey. He wrote:

“I recently went to an exhibition at the Freemasons' Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London WC2, about freemasons in World War 1.

“Your readers may be interested in several exhibits (which are on show until May) concerning the Royal Masonic School for Boys in Bushey.

“A memorial to each of the 106 former pupils and six masters of the school who were killed during the First World War was erected in its grounds in 1922 together with a stained glass window in its chapel.

“A book called Memorials of Masons Who Fell in the Great War was also compiled by former headmaster Lieutenant Robert Stanley Chandler giving details of those who served, were wounded, or decorated. He had encouraged pupils to serve in the London Rifle Brigade.

“The school closed in 1977 when the memorial was moved to the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Rickmansworth.

“Mentioned in the book were:

Joseph Henry Little (born 1899), of the 10th East Yorkshire Regiment, who was killed at the age of 19. He had left Bushey in 1915 and joined the army on May 11, 1917. He had helped suppress the Sinn Fein uprising in Ireland in Easter 1918, and then went to France in July. He was severely wounded in several places on September 3. His right leg was amputated and he died after seven weeks of intense suffering. He was buried in his birthplace of Hull.

“Alfred Geoffrey Crummock (born 1892), a lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, had been headmaster of the school from 1903 to 1908. In 1914, he became Boarding Officer in the 10th Cruise Squadron, and in 1916 was transferred to the submarine service. After surviving one sinking he left in another submarine on January 6, 1918 but never returned. He had visited Bushey in late 1917 and was very popular.

“Claude Shipman, who was a pupil at Bushey from 1900 to 1907, helped evacuate the Belgian Army from Antwerp in 1916, acting as an interpreter ‘thanks to the splendid tuition in French I received under Mr Roberts’. Then he went to the Dardanelles where he was mentioned in despatches, commended for bravery, and wounded. He had met with fellow ex-pupil Banks who was killed there.”

If you have anything to add to anything we feature in Nostalgia please do not hesitate to get in touch – I’m always pleased to hear from you.