The Day the Bungalow was Struck by Lightning and the Commotion that Followed
Monday, 14th July 1975, started off just like any other school day. I had breakfast with my parents, did my paper round and then took Patch, my lovely black and white cross Alsatian/Labrador for a walk while my parents were getting ready for work. It was a slightly overcast morning but it was quite mild. I returned home after about 20 minutes to witness my parents setting off for work.
My mum drove the three miles to the Firth Company at Howley where she worked as a secretary. My dad walked the same mile he had walked every weekday morning for as long as I can remember to his place of work at A. Monk & Co at Padgate.
It was a little early for me to set off for school, so I waited for a few minutes until it was time for me to leave the house and retrace my dad’s footsteps, passing my dad’s works which he had passed half an hour before and continuing on to school. During this time I noticed that it had quickly become very dark, so dark in fact that it was almost like dusk and then it suddenly started to rain and rain very heavy in a short space of time. I was listening to my new cassette player, which was plugged into the mains at the time and it began to crackle and make funny noises.
I always loved to watch the rain from the comfort of my own home. I felt safe when I didn’t have to go out and face the weather. But this day was different, different for a number of reasons, in a short time I will have to walk the two miles to school but different for another reason, the sky looked wrong, the air smelt wrong too, it smelt somehow electrical and this time I didn’t have the same feeling of comfort and safety that I normally experienced. I had never seen rain as heavy as this in the whole of my 15 years.
The rain became heavier and heavier and it got darker and darker by the second. I got up from where I was sitting and stood by the window watching the rain pounding on the road outside, hitting the ground and leaping about three feet in the air just after it had made contact with the road. I could see friends of mine walking to school who were caught in this torrential downpour, the girls sensibly carry umbrellas the boys with none looking like drowned rats.
I was not the only one who felt a bit uneasy, Patch became very agitated. He didn’t know what to do with himself and kept looking at me but I didn’t know what he wanted or what was wrong so I just sat on the floor with him for a few moments and cuddled him like a child would a big soft teddy bear.
Followed by a huge
Then an eerie silence followed
Within a split second I began to realize what had happened; the bungalow had been struck by lightning. The bang was so loud that I became temporarily deafened; I gradually began to get my hearing back after a short time but had a constant whistling sound in my ears for several hours because the noise from the bolt hitting the bungalow was so loud. I thought Status Quo was loud but they are almost silent when compared to this great force of nature.
From then on everything seemed to happen very quickly. At the time of impact all the light sockets shot out of the walls and were projected from their fittings with such force that they were left dangling, limp separated from the wall. Then I noticed a small fire behind the television set. I went over to put it out and found that the curtains too were alight and that there was a big shouldering hole in the carpet. I managed to put out the fire fairly quickly. The next thing I did was to run over to the Meter Cupboard and turn the electricity off at the mains.
Patch by this time was very distressed bless him. The rain had eased off slightly so I went outside to examine the damage and see what had actually happened. I looked up at the roof and to my horror my eyes came across a huge hole in the roof, in fact it would be fair to say the lightning bolt had destroyed about a third of the roof. I stood there for several moments with my mouth wide open staring into this big black hole. By this time a few spectators had arrived so I went back into the bungalow and decided it might be a good idea to ring my mum and dad because Patch and I were at a loss what to do.
The first person I rang was my dad because he would know what to do. I rang Monk’s and spoke to somebody, I can’t recall who I spoke to but I spoke in an urgent tone,
“Hello, I’m Alan Wenham’s son can you get my dad to come home the house has been struck by lightning and there’s a big hole in the roof”
I can’t remember the conversation but immediately after I rang the Firth Company and spoke to my mums boss Albert Rowlinson who was very sympathetic.
My dad arrived home first in what seemed like seconds I think he must have got a lift from somebody then my mum arrived home and things began to move quickly.
By this time the rain had stopped and the sun began to shine and a large crowd had gathered. On entering the bungalow again I also noticed that my new cassette player had exploded and was ruined. I had just finished paying for it from Mrs. Gandy’s club, 35p a week and it was now in bits, I was devastated.
When I went outside again I began talking to Mrs. Robb, who lived in the bungalow opposite and she said she actually saw the lightning strike. So I said jokingly as is my way, well Doreen you could have rang me to let me know.
For the next couple of hours my mum was on the phone organizing things while me and my dad plus some other people were stood on the roof admiring the view. Then a short time after that, some more men came with a tarpaulin and covered the big hole with it. The Warrington Guardian turned up with a reporter and photographer and the following Friday (because the Guardian was issued on a Friday then), the incident made front page news complete with photograph of my dad pointing to the roof.
Eventually things settled down, the local crowd dispersed and I had a day off school. The next day I went to school with a letter from my mother that read,
“Please excuse Gary from school yesterday due him being struck by lightning”
I gave the note to Mr. Lord, my form teacher, who read it out to the class much to my embarrassment but we all ended up laughing and making light of the whole incident.
Things eventually got back to normal. The roof was repaired, my mum and dad got a new carpet and curtains, the light sockets and other damage were all repaired to the highest standard. Sadly I never got a new cassette player but ended up getting an even better one through Mrs. Gandy’s club for 45p a week. It’s a good job I had my paper round to pay for this new extravagance but things soon got back to normal.
When it thunders and lightens now it doesn’t bother me in the slightest but I can’t help thinking back to that July morning in 1975 when I was alone in that bungalow with Patch and lightning struck destroying my cassette player, the roof and some fixtures and fittings and sending us both slightly mad for a while.