Axe Cliff Golf Club’s Mick Swann and ‘all the tme in the world to get to know one another’

PUBLISHED: 11:16 13 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:16 13 April 2020

Overlooking the third green at Axe Cliff Golf Club. Picture KAREN CURNOCK

Overlooking the third green at Axe Cliff Golf Club. Picture KAREN CURNOCK


Continuing our look at some of the key folk at Axe Cliff Golf Club and this week it’s 2019 seniors captain Mick Swann who comes under the spotlight.

Axe Cliff Golf Club seniors captain from 2017 Mick Swann with his wife Sandra. Picture: MICK SWANNAxe Cliff Golf Club seniors captain from 2017 Mick Swann with his wife Sandra. Picture: MICK SWANN

Before we begin, a few lines from Dave Bruce, who keeps us ‘up to speed’ on all things Axe Cliff Golf Club. Dave says: “This is a ‘from birth to date’ tale from Mick Swann who took over from me as seniors’ captain in 2017. He did a superb job, testament to which is the fact that he raised more for charity in his one year in office than I did in all my three years as captain put together!”

And so, over to Mick...

I was born at 3.15am on Sunday, October 30, at Heanor hospital, Derbyshire. My dad worked for Raleigh Cycles in Nottingham and as a keen sportsman, was a member of the factory football team. He claimed that my arrival into this world was responsible for him netting a hat-trick that Sunday afternoon! I wasn’t there to witness it, so I had to take his word for it. My dad was a great storyteller, always laced with humour. It was very difficult, at times, to separate fact from fiction.

My brother was born five years later, in November,1960 and we both enjoyed the happiest of childhoods, growing up in a newly built semi-detached house in the small Nottinghamshire village of Trowell. To this day, I still struggle to understand ‘how on Earth’, Trowell was awarded the 1951 Festival Village of Great Britain! Situated on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border, near to the Erewash Valley and with the shadow of the huge Stanton and Staveley ironworks looming over the horizon just across the River Erewash, it was never going to be recognised as the most picturesque village of Great Britain.

It was awarded this accolade as one of 1600 competing villages for the title across the country and although I was proud to be a resident of the 1951 Festival Village, I’m sure that the inhabitants of the other 1,599 villages would have felt a little miffed to have missed out at the time!

The Festival Inn, a substantial pub and ballroom, complete with a big stage to house the resident dance band, was constructed to mark the occasion.

The footprint of this huge building overshadowed such a small village. It was situated at the end of my street, St Helen’s Crescent, opposite St Helen’s church and during closing hours, the large car park became the local informal football ground where my brother, my mates and I honed our footballing skills during our youth.

My brother and I were both educated at the village C of E primary school. During the mid-sixties, as my primary school days were concluding, the north bound extension to the M1 motorway was being constructed a few hundred yards from my classroom window. Unfortunately, I failed my 11 plus exams thanks in part to the distraction of gazing constantly at the huge plant and equipment moving heaven and earth, building banks and bridges and constructing the Trowell motorway services a half mile further north.

With the help and advice of a neighbour, my dad was persuaded to buy his first car. This was early 1966 and the vehicle of choice was a second-hand cream Austin A35 with red plastic seats. After accepting a few informal lessons from the neighbour, followed by few formal lessons from a qualified driving instructor, the driving test exam was booked. Apparently, in those days, you could nominate to take the driving test in your own vehicle. My dad polished the A35 to within an inch of its life. He paid particular attention to the windows, making sure they sparkled, crystal clear.

He liberally applied ‘Windowlene’, a thick pink goo of cream, that required herculean efforts of ‘elbow grease’ to finally remove the residual smearing.

The following day, the driving test started under overcast skies and it didn’t take too long before the rain began to fall. “It’s raining” observed the examiner rather brusquely. “Shall I switch the wipers on?” my dad asked nervously. The examiner gave my dad an aggressive stare that he never forgot. My dad reached for the window wiper switch and set the blades in motion. All at once, the window-screen turned opaque and forward vision was reduced to zero!

The examiner spoke calmly. “I’m having difficulty seeing where we are going.” “So am I” replied my dad. “Well stop the ****** car then!” screamed the examiner. So, my dad stood on the foot brake pedal with all his might and executed the emergency stop procedure, a crucial part of the driving test exam. The examiner was less than impressed with my dad’s performance during the test and issued him with a fail certificate.

A few weeks later, my dad successfully passed his driving test at the second attempt. Our annual one-week vacation had to coincide with one of the first two weeks of August, a time when the factories across the Midlands shut down. Instead of our usual pilgrimage to Skegness on the east coast, the ambitious decision was taken to head due south for the first time.

The family ventured off into the unknown using the trusty old Austin A35. Bournemouth was our destination of choice and the eight-hour journey was peppered with stops to replenish the petrol tank and oil sump! The petrol and oil were competing with each other to see which one of them could return the lowest miles per gallon! The plumes of bluish, blackish smoke emitting from the A35’s exhaust was becoming a concern. My pocket money was on the oil!

The date is clearly etched into my memory. Saturday 30 July 1966. We arrived at the guest house near Alum Chine around 5pm. My mother opted for a lie down in our guest bedroom, trying to recover her senses after the tortuous journey that we all had just endured.

Meanwhile, I heard the excited commentary of a football match coming from the guest house lounge, so I decided to make my way in that direction. On entering the lounge, I looked on in frustration at the small black and white television in the corner of the room as the dulcet tones of Kenneth Wolstenholme declared, “They think it’s all over….. it is NOW!” It was for me. I’d missed the whole match!

After a couple of days of spending most of our time on the beach, we agreed we needed a change of scenery and opted to visit the nearby Beaulieu Abbey Motor Museum. The old Austin was pointed towards the New Forest and off we went.

After an exciting day out for two young lads we made our way back to the car park. As we reached the car, my dad suddenly declared that he’d lost the car key. A frantic period of time passed by. “What are we going to do, what are we going to do?” My mother was beginning to panic. My dad went to the reception and left his information with the receptionist just in case the key was found and handed in. There was a chap standing by the side of his car parked next to ours, watching the drama unfold. He walked over to my dad and informed him that he was a mechanic by trade. He told my dad that he could ‘fix’ the problem by fiddling around with the vehicle wiring. “Forget the key, mate. Just touch two bare wires together and the engine will start.” He gained entry to the car by pushing against the driver’s window and pulled it part way down. He then reached inside to unlock the door to gain entry. My dad then gave him permission to start cutting wires. There was no steering lock on cars back then. After a short while, the engine burst into life. Phew!

Moments later, there was an important announcement over the public address system. “Would Mr Swann please make his way to reception. Your lost car key has been found and is now ready for collection. Thank you.”

Upon our return to Trowell, my dad’s confidence in the A35 was shot. A combination of poor petrol consumption, even worse oil consumption and the constant fight with the spaghetti of wiring to start the car had taken its toll. It had to go! A few weeks later, my dad arrived home in his nearly new, dark blue with a light blue flash, leather seats and a polished wood dashboard, Singer Gazelle. The Swann family were becoming upwardly mobile!

September 1967. I joined the orderly queue of just over one hundred new students in the lower playground of the ‘big’ school. Bramcote Hills Secondary Modern School for Boys was going to be responsible for my education for the next five years. I was directed to a classroom with the sign 1L1 screwed to the door, accompanied by twenty-nine other students. The rest were equally divided and directed to 1L2, lL3 and 1L4. Classroom 1L1 was perceived to be made up of the students that should have passed their 11 plus.

My disappointment at not passing quickly subsided as I made new friends with like-minded people.

The school campus was huge. The local primary school was at the back of ‘Bramcote Borstel’ the recognised colloquial name given to my school. The Grammar school and the Technical Grammar School were further up the hill. All the students that passed their 11 plus made it to one or the other of these schools and to add salt to my wound, they were mixed gender!!

Both of these schools allowed their students to leave at 3.45pm, but we were not released into the world until 4pm.

I had noticed a girl in a Tech grammar uniform walking past our school and heading for Bramcote Park most days.

I made enquiries with one of the girls from Trowell who also attended the Tech and asked her to introduce us. To cut a long story short, a date was arranged. A mixed gang of us from Trowell made our way to the local town of Ilkeston most Friday nights. We visited the Scala cinema to see the latest films.

On Friday, May 1, 1970 Sandra and I had our first date. I was 14 and Sandra was 13. The film was the latest Bond movie, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ starring George Lazenby and Diana Rigg. The love song sung by Louis Armstrong in the film became our song, ‘We Have All the Time in the World’.

at the time of writing Sandra and I are fourteen days away from celebrating 50 years since that first date. We’ve had all the time in the world to get to know one another.

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