9:00am Monday 31st December 2012
By Adam Trimingham
There’s something about years ending in the number three that seems to make them exceptionally newsworthy.
I recall 1963 as being the best for national news of any during my lifetime, while 1973 was the best in Sussex, particularly Brighton and Hove.
Just to give you a flavour of 1963, it began with the coldest winter of the 20th century which even affected sunny Sussex.
Starting almost exactly half a century ago in late December 1962, the Big Freeze lasted until March with snow lying on the ground all that time.
Despite the cold, members of Brighton Swimming Club went in the sea every day, proudly proclaiming the water temperature to be -2C (28F) at its chilliest. The sea never froze because of its salt content but ice formed on the groynes.
It was also the year of the Great Train Robbery, by far the biggest heist of its kind at that time, and the start of Beatlemania.
Politically, Opposition leader Hugh Gaitskell died and Harold Wilson became Labour leader. Then the Profumo scandal fatally weakened Tory Premier Harold Macmillan who resigned during the party conference, to be replaced by Lord Home.
In the US, President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas with Vice President Lyndon B Johnson taking over.
Here in Sussex, 1973 was notable for the killing of Maria Colwell, a seven year-old child from Whitehawk, by her stepfather.
That was tragic enough but the case revealed shortcomings in social care which led to the law being changed. This followed a sensational public inquiry lasting several months in Brighton.
There were 15 other murders in Sussex that year, an unusually high number, all investigated by Detective Superintendent Jim Marshall and his team.
Through painstaking police work they solved the lot including the case of Clive Olive, victim of a Hells Angel feud, whose body was dumped in Shoreham Harbour.
Marshall wrote a book about that case and sold his memoirs to the Sunday Mirror which dubbed him Supercop.
While this case was proceeding at Lewes Crown Court, the Palace Pier in Brighton almost met its end.
A barge which had been tied to the landing stage broke free in a storm and started demolishing the pier head. The theatre was so badly damaged it was never used again.
Several structures fell into the sea before the gale stopped including a telephone kiosk. When divers recovered it a few days later, they found someone else had already taken the coin box.
Alderman George Lucraft had an eventful start to his mayoralty in Brighton. At the civic banquet held to honour the new first citizen, republican councillor Arthur King, despite his name, refused to stand up for the loyal toast.
The patriotic medical officer of health, Dr William Parker, responded by pouring his glass of Yugoslav Riesling over King’s head, inciting Labour councillor Brian Fitch to empty his glass on to the doctor’s bald pate.
Two days later, the Mayor opened an archery tournament in a field off Carden Avenue. He was a powerful man and when he fired the first arrow it soared far above the target – and smacked straight into a number 26 bus.
My old boss John Connor, who ran a freelance news agency in Brighton, said he never expected to see a better year for stories. He never did.
Will 2013 be equally newsworthy? All reporters on The Argus will be hoping so – and it starts in only three days’ time.
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