JOHN WHITTAKER’S FAMILY ROOTS:-
My father George was born at The Rann, Saccary Lane, Mellor. Two cottages were pulled down and the house was built in 1889 by Thomas Counsell his uncle. The land and farm buildings had been in the Counsell family since 1740.
My twin brother David and I were born at Devonport where my father was Naval Chaplain. After living in Malta and Chatham the family moved to the Naval Base at Simonstown in the Cape. Unfortunately father died in June 1936 aged 46 and my mother with her four young children returned to England to live in Rochester, where my brother and I attended Kings School which had strong links with Rochester Cathedral.
In 1939 with war imminent we moved in August to live and settle in Settle in Yorkshire.
After education at Gigglesworth School, where we were day boys, my uncle Henry encouraged me to study law and in 1948 I was articled to him for training to become a Solicitor at his offices in Blackburn under the name of Henry Whittaker Phillips & Co known part of Napthens LLP. I was articled to his partner to train as a Notary Public.
Later in 1948 my brother and I were called up for National Service and after ten weeks training we were kept on as Instructors at the newly opened Army Basic Training Centre at Devizes in Wiltshire.
On demobilisation in 1950 I carried on with my legal studies and my uncle arranged for me to stay during the week with the parents of Harold Edmundson (former sidesman). His father George was his managing clerk, thus my uncle made sure I studied at night and was not led astray by other attractions!! The family moved to Blackburn in 1952.
On Friday 13th May 1955 I went to a local dance and asked an attractive young lady to have a dance – she asked me why I was being congratulated by friends – had I passed my driving test? I told her I had just passed my law exams – we married in July 1958 and moved into the family home at The Rann which had been let for 30 years where we remained until six years ago when we downsized to a cottage a few hundred yards away.
The family has had strong links with Mellor Church. My grandmother whose maiden name was Counsell was a direct descendant of the first church warden of our church.
My uncle Henry was vicar’s warden for over thirty years and it is pleasing to have such roots in Mellor.
In 1956 I joined the Army Cadet Force in Blackburn. Two years later I became Commanding Officer – my army experience was most useful.
I was a sidesman of our church for forty years and am a former member and sometimes Secretary of the P.C.C. I was also Covenant Secretary.
An interesting and rewarding period followed my appointment as Stewardship Chairman in our first campaign in 1971. Canon Fred Bamber was a wonderful inspiration to us. “Ring me any time up to 2 am he would say”. If he asked anyone to do something it was difficult to refuse.
I have also had experiences with my local schools. It all started with the Reverend Batten asked me in 1962 to be a Governor of Mellor School, later I also became Clerk. The building of the new school was a challenge spread over many years. The demolishing of the old school and sale of the site took place later.
I have also been involved with St Wilfrids C of E High School, Q.E.G.S and Westholme. One the best groups I joined was Blackburn Round Table. We used to meet twice a month at The Millstone. Thirty of us all under 40 years of age
My cadet and army experience was most useful when Blackburn Round Table appointed me Chairman of Tattoo ’66 at Witton Park when about 10,000 attended (Rovers attendance was down that day).
Unfortunately the team of Parachutists had to bale out over 100 miles from Witton Park due to engine trouble – an embarrassment.
I have been a Trustee of Samlesbury Hall (a Charity) for over 50 years and still attend monthly meetings – we had out first stewardship dinner there – the meal cost one guinea a head.
My life in Mellor with strong family associations has meant a lot to me.