1963’s big freeze brought tragedy and haunting to the life of a Shropshire television repairman, says ANDREW HOMER
Car heaters are no longer considered a luxury, but in the big freeze of 1963 television repairman Vince Price was certainly glad his new Ford Cortina had got one.
He was on his way back to Stourbridge from a repair job in rural Shropshire on a freezing cold winter’s night.
Heavy snow had caused him to be out driving much later than he had intended but he was reassured by the snow chains he had wisely attached to the wheels of his car before setting off for home.
Rounding a sudden bend on an isolated country road, he came across an old car slewed into the verge with two figures standing beside it.
As he neared the vehicle, he could see that one of the figures was a child and the other appeared to be a man.
Drawing his car up alongside, Vince wound his window down and asked what the problem was.
“It’s only a puncture”, the man replied.
Vince asked if he needed any help but was told that the wheel was easily changed and that he and his daughter would soon be on their way.
The little girl, who looked about six or seven years old, was standing next to her father.
Vince could see her bare legs shivering in the freezing cold beneath her short coat.
Neither of them looked to be dressed for such a bitter cold night.
“Look”, said Vince, “why don’t you let me give you both a lift and you can arrange to get the car fixed tomorrow? At least let your daughter sit in my warm car while you change the wheel.”
The man thanked Vince but assured him there was no need and the job was nearly done anyway. At this Vince left them to it and drove off for home.
Vince was required to attend the inquest as it turned out he was the last person to have seen the pair alive.
Apparently, after changing the wheel the car had remained stuck in the icy verge and both father and daughter had frozen to death during one of the coldest nights since records began.
They had eventually been discovered by a snow plough crew, huddled together for warmth.
The Coroner said that if the old car had been fitted with a heater it might have been a different story.
A verdict of death by misadventure was returned with no blame directly attached to Vince, but that didn’t stop him feeling guilty for leaving them there in the freezing cold that night.
It was some years later that Vince found himself driving back alone along the same stretch of road on a similar dark winter’s night.
Passing the spot where the tragedy had occurred he couldn’t help but take a quick glance through his rear view mirror.
Just for a moment he caught sight of an ashen faced little girl staring back at him.
She was sitting on the back seat of his car.