“It was the Rolling Stones” , “No. I heard it was either the Moody Blues or the Kinks”. “No. I’m sure it was the Stones, I’ve heard that Jagger has got a house somewhere down West Wittering and Marianne Faithful is his girlfriend”…
Actually it was none of the most popular pop groups in the UK at the time - it was us.
Let me explain…
It all started when a Silver Cloud, Rolls-Royce drew up outside a small shoe shop in Chichester. The young driver, dressed in a white tuxedo entered the shop and asked to see the latest Italian shoes. Now the shop was managed by my dear friend Andy Faires 1 who also looked the business in his sharp Italian suit and winkle picker shoes.
Boxes and boxes of shoes were brought down from the shelves for the guy in the tux to try but none seemed to be to his liking. After what seemed an age and with many shoes scattered about the shop floor, the guy got up, offered his apologies saying that none of the shoes were to his taste as he made his way to the door. Now Andy was a mild mannered sort of chap but he was more than peeved to realise that as well as not making a sale he would now have to pick up the shoes, put them back in their correct boxes and then get them back on the shelves.
So Andy gave the departing guy some choice words and thanked him sarcastically for his business.
The guy in the suit stopped, turned around and confessed that he was not the owner of the car but just the chauffeur and he was bored stiff waiting around for his boss to finish at the Chichester Festival Theatre. Who’s your boss asked Andy ? - Albert Finney 2 was the reply.
I tell you what, said the man in the suit, why don't we meet up later in your usual pub, brings some mates and I’ll buy you all a drink to say I’m sorry and by the way, my name’s Roger.
At this time, around July 1965 I was living on a houseboat on the Chichester Canal along with Andy , Sam and Stuart and we were all ears when Andy told us about this guy with a Roller was going to treat us all to some free drinks at the White Horse.
So, come the evening, we all bundled into my Ford Popular (District Nurse Model) and we made our way back to Chichester and the White Horse. Roger was already there and thankfully dressed in more normal clothes this time and no sign of the Rolls. Over the next few days we got on well with Roger and he often drove the Rolls, which he used to hide down a side street, down to our boat for a coffee before heading back to the theatre to pick up Mr Finney.
The boat was called The Pride of Erica, it had two bunks at each end and a galley and toilet in the centre. It was shaped like a matchbox in as much it had a flat roof and bottom and square corners. Sliding doors were at each end and heating, ha ha what heating?, was by a single gas fire.
I wouldn't say it was damp but when I took my Gannex Mac out of the wardrobe, it had mushrooms growing up the sleeves. My mum had bought me the mac hoping to make me look more distinguished ! It didn't work for Harold Wilson either.
The boat also leaked. Not only from the bottom but when it rained it leaked from the top as well. Quite often we had saucepans floating in the water catching the drips from the ceiling.
Oh and the toilet (Head in nautical terms) was something else. We had a big sign on the door to remind visitors to Pee, Pump & Pedal. In other words, after you had used the toilet you then had to use a hand pump to draw canal water up into the toilet and then when the level was higher than the canal you pressed a pedal which opened a valve to flush everything out.. It was quite amusing to see river creatures briefly swimming around the pan before they were returned back to their more normal habitat.
Then there was the drugs bust...
All of us had a job apart from Stuart who always appeared to have funds but was always reluctant to cough up his share of the rent. One day when we were all aboard , I spotted a black Jaguar Mk10 driving up the towpath, it stopped by our boat and if anybody had read any books by Mickey Spillane they will understand me when I describe the occupants as ‘Hoods’
When Stuart saw them he went white as a sheet as he was gently persuaded to get into the back of the Jag for a serious talking to. Unbeknown to us, Stuart was dealing in purple hearts and he was late in paying his suppliers.
The drug bust took place when I was in St Richards Hospital having a stainless steel rod removed from my leg. (See the Cricketers Incident) . As I was coming round from the anaesthetic I found a stranger sitting beside my hospital bed. He quickly asked me a question and in my still befuddled state I mentioned the name of Stuart. The man by my bed turned out to be a detective from Chichester Police Station.
In my absence, the boat was raided and a thorough search took place. Andy took great pains to hide a small round tin container. First under a magazine and as the police got warmer he relocated it behind a cushion and then to a shoe. This farce went on for some while, until an observant searcher spotted Andy’s antics and seized the illicit container. Job done, evidence found but the white powder in the tin now had to be sent off to New Scotland Yard for forensic analysis.
Eventually the result came back to Chichester. The white powder was just menthol snuff !
Andy took great delight afterwards in going up to any policeman he found in Chichester and asking them if they would like a pinch of snuff. Often the reply was unprintable …
Anyway, back to Roger in the White Horse and our devious plan to hoodwink the locals.
Now a pub in North Street called The Old Cross was the the popular hangout for actors and other celebrities and because of an un-written rule agreed by the locals not to make a fuss, they felt comfortable there. You could go for a drink in The Old cross and spot many well known names and even Fenella Fielding has been known to serve customers from the other side of the bar.
It was due to the presence of many celebs in town that led to the idea of our scam. We decided to spread a rumour that a well known pop group was coming to Chichester. The rumour spread and people in the White Horse were even expanding on the rumour and some even admitted to have inside knowledge as to who the pop group was !
We continued to feed these rumours and started to mention a specific day when the group would be in town. Someone said it would be next Friday evening and the word spread around the regulars in the pub and they were all on the lookout.
So, nobody was surprised to see a white Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce the next Friday evening, cruising down North Street, gliding around the Cross and proceeding down South Street. It came to halt outside the White Horse pub and the driver, in a white tuxedo, got out of the car and swiftly opened the rear door nearest the pavement. All of a sudden, four figures appeared out of the shadows, dived into the back of the Rolls, the door was smartly closed and the guy in the tux got back behind the wheel and sped off into the night.
“It was the Stones” , “No. I heard it was either the Moody Blues or the Kinks”. “No. I’m sure it was the Stones, I’ve heard that Jagger has got a house somewhere down West Wittering 3 and Marianne Faithful is his girlfriend”…
Of course it was none of the most popular pop groups in the UK at the time - it was us!
Unfortunately Albert Finney found out and he was cross. He threatened to fire Roger but gave him an ultimatum. If he could provide him with the words and guitar chords of a hit single by the Byrds called Hey Mr Tambourine Man in twenty four hours, he could keep his job.
So, of we went and bought the 45 single, sat in the back of the Rolls and played the record on the cars record player while I wrote down the words and a friend who played the guitar worked out all of the chords..
Roger presented the score to Albert and he not only kept his job but got us an invitation to meet Mr Finney, along with Shelagh Delaney 4 on the beach in West Wittering.
We were eventually evicted from the houseboat as a new marina was being built and I am sure the developers didn't want us on their doorstep.
I wonder why…
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1 Andy Faires R.I.P. - A lost soul and a good mate, gone but not forgotten. We shared the same birthday.
2 Played John Armstrong of Gilnockie in Armstrong’s Last Goodnight at Chichester Festival Theatre.
3 Redlands in West Wittering was the scene of the famous February 1967 police raid, the subsequent arrest of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger and prison sentences for Jagger and Robert Fraser for drugs possession.
4 Shelagh Delaney wrote A Taste of Honey, the play for which she is most famous, at the age of 19
As I was redundant at the time, I attended the court case and also tipped off the ITV News about the tunnel linking the Court House to the Police Station so they were able to get their cameras into position.