THOSE old Boy Naturalists go marching on - even though it's more than 50 years since the Blackburn Ragged School's straw-hatted troupe of wildlife enthusiasts last tramped with their bugles-and-drums band into the countryside.

Mention in Looking Back by 87-year-old reader Arthur Atkinson, of Witton, of the week's holiday he and fellow 'Boy Nats' enjoyed in 1927 at the retirement home near Bournemouth of Ragged School supporter and ex-Blackburn businessman Harry Boyle, triggered memories down in Dorset of the troupe's annual camps there.

It brought back for Mr Boyle's grandson, Group Captain Basil Primavesi, of Studland, near Swanage, his boyhood summer holidays at his grandparents' home at Ferndown a few miles from the south coast resort.

"I well remember the annual camps of the Boy Naturalists," he says. "Every year, my grandmother laid on a party with games and competitions and a splendid tea. Mr Atkinson's photograph was probably taken during one. I was younger than the lads, but I made friends among them during their annual visits. I learned from them about the terrible poverty in Blackburn at the time - the late 1920s and early 1930s - caused by the great depression in the cotton towns of Lancashire. There were barefoot children in the cold, damp streets."

Harry Boyle, whose name lives on still on the 102-year-old Blackburn schools football cup he donated, was, adds Group Capt Primavesi, one of the 22 children of 19th-century Blackburn alderman James "Toffee Jem" Boyle who, from humble origins, founded the wholesale confectionery firm bearing his name and whose products, made at Navigation Mill in Forrest Street and sold at his shop in Railway Road, included the once-famous coconut-filled "Jap Nuggets" sweets. Harry retired early when he contracted tuberculosis and moved to Ferndown because the climate there was considered good for his health while his son, Stanley, ran his furniture business in King Street, Blackburn, until it was wound up between the wars.

But old-time 'Boy Nats' like Mr Atkinson will be disappointed that the beautiful house, Beaufoys, at which they were summer visitors is no more - and that the nearby field in which they camped and the surrounding pine woods and heathland are now extensive housing estates, through one of which runs a road called Beaufoys Avenue . . . the only reminder of the mansion where scores of poor Lancashire lads were once made welcome.

Year of the yellow peril

MUCH of Northgate, Blackburn is now a no-go area for traffic.

But in 1966 it was also made off-limits to motorists who had been openly flouting the yellow-lines parking restrictions for a year.

Britain's first traffic wardens had been appointed six years earlier - initially issuing their £2 fixed-penalty tickets only in the Mayfair area of London - but Blackburn did not need any because it did not get any yellow lines until 1965.

But while drivers complied with them at first, when they found that the town's undermanned force had not the resources to police them fully, they took advantage.

"Selfish motorist have parked in banned areas and in those parts where limited waiting is allowed they have flagrantly ignored the regulations," this newspaper reported. So it was that the first of the dozen wardens Blackburn employed were assigned after a fortnight's "intensive training" to the streets - at the end of August that year.

Two weeks later, the Evening Telegraph told how they had been received. "The wardens themselves have not been made the object of abuse. The motorists have co-operated because they have seen the wardens on the streets," it said.

For drivers the era of park-where-you please had come to an end in Blackburn and they were now faced with paying the swingeing fees at the town-centre car of between sixpence and a shilling - a thumping 2p to 5p in today's decimal dosh!

Allowing for inflation since then, those sums would equate to 27p and 53p in today's money - so parking charges have obviously rocketed way ahead of inflation.

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