Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Lightening strikes on a Sunday in Centenary Park 1960

Centenary Park Stanmore
A very ordinary Sunday in Summer can turn into an extraordinary Sunday that one will remember for the rest of one's life. There was nothing unusual about it. I was gong to Centenary Park at the bottom of St. Andrews Drive where I lived for most of my life. I had been invited by a young handsome London insurance broker called Colin to watch him play cricket.

I met Colin or rather he met me at The Green Man our local pub. Mummy and I used to call in for a lemonade on summer evenings when we walked the dog. Colin served behind the bar and he seemed enraptured by me. Well I was very pretty.

The cricket pitch was huge and surrounded by hundreds of semi detached houses. It was very open and had then and still has today a line of huge elms about 20 yards in from the boundary but the little cricket pavilion which was on the west boundary has gone. It was in front of this pavilion that I sat and watched the match. It was so boring! Colin was not very good at cricket.

It was about the middle of the afternoon that it happened. There was no warning. It was a warm sultry day and a Lady in a blue coat was strolling around the field exercising her dog. She let it off the lead and it headed under the line of elm trees. Colin's side was Out but for some reason he was not with me.

Suddenly the skies opened and it started to rain very heavily and one could hear thunder. I got up to run back into the pavilion and the Lady in the blue coat raised her hand with the dog lead to get her naughty dog to come out from under the trees. Being under a huge tree is not a good idea as lightening strikes the highest object it can find.

I turned back to the field to see the fielders taking out the stumps and start to run back to shelter when an enormous bolt of fork lightening came out of the sky across the pitch and hit just in front of the pavilion. The noise was excruciatingly loud.

It all seemed to happen in slow motion. Lightening just takes a second to strike but this seemed to last for ten seconds. I was right in front of it and saw the fork jump upwards and then back to earth.  I could feel the vibration through my feet. It took me a second to realize what had happened.

The Lady in the blue coat was lying on the ground and I ran towards her but one of the cricketers told me to stay away. She had turned blue. She was dead. The Lady in the blue coat had died because in lifting her hand with the dog's lead she had given the lightening a piece of metal to strike. She never made it home from her Sunday walk.

All the cricketers under the lightening were badly burned or injured. Poor Colin seemed to be paralyzed up his left arm and was in a very bad way. He ran away from me and looked badly shocked. In fact most people were in a bad way except for me. I was lucky. Soon ambulances arrived to ferry away the injured.

I walked a very shaky young man back to my house nearby. Colin tried to be brave but could never forget it was I who helped him not the other way around. After a brandy and a tea Daddy drove him home and I never saw him again.

I was told it took him nearly six months to recover from the bolt. Some of the cricketers were ill for over a year. It made the front page of all the newspapers.

If ever I was in open field like a golf course and it started to thunder with fork lightening I should lie down flat. Lightening dosen't always go for the huge tree near by!


  1. I found your blog while looking for information about Chandos School and wondered what year this incident occurred?
    A friend I was at school with also had a lightening experience while walking home across the park in the late 1960's

  2. Hi Carol. Had to try and remember the date of this incident and I think it was summer of either 1960 or 1961. Chandos Secondary Modern was at the bottom of my road and across the park. The incident made The Daily Telegraph and local papers so there will be a reference. It was a horrible day and so unexpected.