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1978 was the most miserable year on record - but not in Ipswich!

PUBLISHED: 19:30 28 November 2019

Ipswich Town captain Mick Mills, left, and Roger Osborne, who scored the winning goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley, hold aloft the trophy as they arrive at Ipswich Town Hall in 1978  Picture: PA Archive/PA Images

Ipswich Town captain Mick Mills, left, and Roger Osborne, who scored the winning goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley, hold aloft the trophy as they arrive at Ipswich Town Hall in 1978 Picture: PA Archive/PA Images

PA Archive/PA Images

Researchers recently declared 1978 the worst year on record for happiness...but perhaps Ipswich bucked the trend? The town and surrounding area often wore a sunny smile as wide as the River Orwell. Steve Russell finds reasons to be cheerful.

Ipswich Town manager Bobby Robson (left) and coach Cyril Lea are escorted by players David Geddis and captain Mick Mills (hat) as they parade the FA Cup in triumph at Wembley Stadium in 1978  Picture: PA Archive/PA ImagesIpswich Town manager Bobby Robson (left) and coach Cyril Lea are escorted by players David Geddis and captain Mick Mills (hat) as they parade the FA Cup in triumph at Wembley Stadium in 1978 Picture: PA Archive/PA Images

There's not been a bigger, better or brighter year for Suffolk sport than 1978 - and it peaked with Roger Osborne's 77th-minute goal at Wembley that earned Ipswich Town Football Club its first and only FA Cup Final triumph. Ipswich Cornhill was the next day packed like Trafalgar Square on New Year's Eve as the conquering heroes showed off their silverware from the town hall balcony.

Actually, there was a real feelgood factor in Suffolk for much of the year, as the Blues advanced towards that memorable date with destiny on May 6. Golly, even my geography teacher paused lessons on Mondays so we could hear the FA Cup draws on the radio and learn who Ipswich faced next.

"Sleepy" Suffolk certainly caught the rest of the country napping that year. The motorcycle sport of speedway wasn't as high-profile as football, but in October the Ipswich Witches held aloft the Knockout Cup after trouncing the Belle Vue Aces and sending them back to metropolitan Manchester with bad memories.

The year of 1978 has been in the news because academic researchers reckoned UK folk were least happy during the so-called Winter of Discontent.

August, 1978. We’ve come a long way: An Evening Star advertising feature trumpeted the opening in Westgate Street, Ipswich, of a Holland & Barrett store, reflecting “the fast-growing popularity of what has come to be known as ‘health foods’.”  Picture: STEVEN RUSSELLAugust, 1978. We’ve come a long way: An Evening Star advertising feature trumpeted the opening in Westgate Street, Ipswich, of a Holland & Barrett store, reflecting “the fast-growing popularity of what has come to be known as ‘health foods’.” Picture: STEVEN RUSSELL

This was when James Callaghan's Labour Government, trying to tame inflation by keeping a lid on pay, was dogged by strikes in the public sector from late 1978 until early the following year.

In some parts of the country, uncollected rubbish piled up in the streets - a potent image of a troubled nation.

Researchers have analysed millions of novels, memoirs and newspapers going back to 1825, noting key words that reflected widespread happiness or sadness.

Folk were said to have been consistently chirpy between 1825 and the early 1900s. The 1920s, between the world wars, were cited as the happiest era for the UK.

September, 1978. Tim Whitnall, 17, was about to mark a year of playing the young Elvis Presley at the Astoria Theatre in London’s West End. He’d been plucked from the lower-sixth at St Benedict’s school, Bury St Edmunds, the previous year, and launched into stardom  Picture: STEVEN RUSSELLSeptember, 1978. Tim Whitnall, 17, was about to mark a year of playing the young Elvis Presley at the Astoria Theatre in London’s West End. He’d been plucked from the lower-sixth at St Benedict’s school, Bury St Edmunds, the previous year, and launched into stardom Picture: STEVEN RUSSELL

But was 1978 actually so gloomy in our part of the world? The afterglow of Suffolk's sporting success surely inoculated us from any pessimism-at-large.

Away from the sporting arena, there were many other reasons to be cheerful, as this gallop through our archives shows.

An annus horribilis? Not if, 41 years ago, you lived in or near Ipswich.

As industrial unrest worried the nation, we found light relief in Larry Grayson’s Generation Game on BBC TV.
Local contestants Gordon Smithson and daughter Angie are shown with the host Picture: STEVEN RUSSELLAs industrial unrest worried the nation, we found light relief in Larry Grayson’s Generation Game on BBC TV. Local contestants Gordon Smithson and daughter Angie are shown with the host Picture: STEVEN RUSSELL

January

Great news to start the year. The Evening Star Christmas Tree Fund claimed a record after reaching £1,679 - with the likelihood of more to come by Twelfth Night.

There were collection boxes on Ipswich Cornhill and a heart-warmingly-sweet £2 anonymous donation from two senior citizens.

All the money went to the WRVS, Ipswich Old People's Welfare Association, and the town's Wellington Work Centre for handicapped young people.

February

A high-performance linear accelerator - mainly for treating cancer - was commissioned at Ipswich Hospital's Anglesea Road wing. It was the first of its kind to come into service in Britain.

Its stable beam could deliver accurately the dosage to a diseased area with minimal damage to nearby healthy tissue.

March

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Joan Leathers was dreaming of down-under after a £400 win in Ipswich's Wolsey Theatre Lottery.

It meant she could attend her son's August wedding in Australia without feeling the pinch. "And I won't have to wear the same outfit as I wore to my daughter's wedding last year," she said.

Mrs Leathers had last seen her son seven years ago, when he was 20. "Now we will see him as a man."

April

Ipswich Town fans queued overnight to secure FA Cup Final tickets - and the team recorded a song. Remember "Ipswich, Ipswich, Get That Goal?"

A spokesman for Town said "the record company is confident of a sales figure approaching 100,000. We are also hoping to secure a Top of the Pops appearance".

May

Unemployment in the Ipswich area (which also included Felixstowe, Leiston, Woodbridge and Stowmarket) fell to its lowest level for two years.

On May 11 there were just over 3,000 people out of work - 2,801 adults and 288 under-18s.

June

The Suffolk Show proved a record breaker, when the combined two-day attendance figure hit 65,609. This was more than 4,000 up on the record set in 1976. Later on the Thursday, the number had climbed to 67,193.

November

Northgate Grammar School for Boys pupil Stephen Cooper was runner-up in the national Royal School of Church Music Choirboy of the Year competition.

The 15-year-old, from Ipswich, won stereo equipment for himself - and £250 to improve choral facilities at his church: St Mary-le-Tower.

December

As industrial unrest spread, we found light relief in Larry Grayson's Generation Game on BBC TV.

Gordon Smithson and daughter Angie, 19, won all but two of the prizes on the famous conveyor belt parade at the end of the show.

Gordon, director of a shipping business at Felixstowe Docks, said about trying to name all the prizes after they'd passed rapidly before his eyes: "It's when you know you only have one and a half minutes to provide the right answer that you get tongue-tied or can't remember."

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