THIS WEEK we have been featuring the diary belonging to Jerry Woods, a Celtic supporter from Fife who was 23 in May 1967 and decided to drive to Lisbon with a carload of fellow Hoops fans.
Jerry has told the full story of their unforgettable trip to Lisbon in his new self published book, To Lisbon and Back on a Fiver. Yesterday the Bhoys reached London and that was an eventful day in itself, read back on The Celtic Star’s home-page to catch up with the earlier posts going back to Sunday.
Today Jerry tells us what happened on Monday 22 May, so over to him to continue their story…
Monday 22 May – Mission Impossible and Hail, Hail Mary
Today was an early start after a most uncomfortable sleep in the car. We found a local bakers and bought milk and sandwiches which we returned to the car to eat.
We departed our overnight parking just after 8.00 am, then we had a short drive to the Prudential Insurance Head Office (Holborn Bars, London EC1N 2NQ) and parked outside the Main Entrance for the 9 am opening. At Reception, I explained my requirements and handed over the letter written by my Insurance Broker in Kirkcaldy.
The Documents required to obtain an “INTERNATIONAL MOTOR INSURANCE CARD” (called a Green Card) were full UK Driving Licence, Certificate of Car Insurance and Current Log Book for the car. The cost of the Green Card was £2 and was valid for one month. I had no problem obtaining an Insurance Cover Card, and we were on our way to the Automobile Association Headquarters by 9.50 am.
We arrived at the AA Head Office about 10.15 am (Fanum House, Leicester Square, London WC2H 7LU) to obtain an “INTERNATIONAL DRIVING LICENCE PERMIT”. The documents required for the permit were the same as the Green Card plus a photograph, the same as for the Passport.
The Counter Clerk at AA noticed Brian and John with tricolour flags and told me he was from Cork in Ireland. I explained I required the permit quickly to proceed with our last minute plans to Lisbon and the Celtic game. The Clerk promptly issued the permit (free of charge) and returned all my documents. Outside the AA Headquarters in Leicester Square (now a pedestrian precinct) Brian and John had been entertaining the residents with their songs and flag display.
We departed Leicester Square about 11 am and headed south on the A20 for Folkestone via the Dartford Tunnel (toll 2 shillings 6 pence). The distance from London to Folkestone was about 90 miles.
We arrived at Folkestone at about 1.00 pm for the Folkestone/Boulogne ferry, only to discover that there was only one ferry per day from Folkestone and that ferry had already departed. We also found out that the only loading procedure for that type of ferry was by “craning” (ie one car was lifted onto the ferry deck by crane one at a time) and that the ferry could accommodate only a small amount of cars.
After this Folkestone ferry fiasco, I realised there and then that my four fellow passengers had not done any research or forward planning for this Lisbon journey. I decided then that I would take control of all details for the rest of the trip ahead.
A policewoman had noticed our predicament (and also the flag display) and enquired if she could help. We explained the situation and advised us that our only option was to drive to Dover to try to catch one of the new Townsend car ferries. This new type of ferry had a RORO (roll on roll off) procedure, had a double deck and could accommodate 200 cars and 940 passengers.
This Ferry was called the Free Enterprise 1. It was 8 miles to Dover, and the last sailing for Calais was at 3.00 pm that day. To assist us out of Folkestone quickly, the policewoman (in her car) escorted us back onto the A20 Dover road. We arrived at Dover Port at about 2.00 pm.
While waiting in the Booking and Customs queue, John, at my request, nipped out to the small ferry shop and purchased a large Road Map to cover France, Spain and Portugal and a GB sticker for the rear of the car.
When it was our turn at the Booking/Documentation cabin, the Clerk on noticing the John/Brian flag display and promptly closed his shutter. As time was now short and cars were boarding, we kept knocking on the shutters until the Clerk re-opened. We enquired what was his problem and he explained that there had been an earlier incident with the Celtic Cavalcade, and he thought we were the Rear Back-Up Column!
The documentation required for ferry travel for the car and passengers to Europe was Passport, Full UK Driving Licence, current Car Log Book, International Driving Permit, UK Insurance Certificate, Green Card Insurance, and payment for either Single or Return Journey.
The payment required for the Ferry Crossing to Calais in 1967 was Car £6, Passengers £2 5 shillings. The total required was £17 5 shillings for a Single or £34 10 shillings for a Return. (No special deals in 1967). At my request we purchased Return tickets, although John and Brian would have preferred to purchase Single journey tickets (I expect their mode of thought at the time was with a Single, even if the car broke down, they still had money to get home) but I was ahead of them on this one “No Return, No Lisbon”.
After clearing Customs and Booking Office, I drove straight onto the ship, being the last on board with minutes to spare for the 3.00 pm sailing. The Ferry time to Calais was 1 and a half hours. In 1967, one was only allowed to take 15 shillings sterling from the UK.
On board the Ferry, I had a hand cloth wash in the toilets and changed socks, underpants and T shirt. The food on board was soup, bread, chips and milk. I did not see John or Brian again until we arrived in Calais. By their breath and behaviour, they were both well replenished. It’s a pity I had not got pissed in the bar and spent a restful night in Calais, instead of driving for another 5 hours.
When we arrived in Calais at about 4.30 GMT (5.30 CET), we cleared French Customs and decided that John would be the navigator for the whole journey. He proved an excellent navigator, so good that we only got lost once, near Le Mans.
The old mileage in 1967 from Calais to Lisbon was 1,273 miles, the French speed limit in towns was 50 (36 miles) km per hour, and all cars were required to have yellow headlights for night driving. On our route south, there were no Motorways and all routes through towns and cities were by “Toutes Directions” (By-pass). There were also no roundabouts, just cross roads with junctions and traffic lights, if busy.
The first road junction after the Ferry was controlled by a Gendarme in the middle of the road with a very loud whistle. When it was my turn to cross, I turned onto the wrong side of the road to the sound of a whistle and many hand movements from the irate Gendarme. I soon rectified my mistake, and John and Brian gave him the “flag” treatment. Welcome to France!
We drove south from Calais on the A1, A28 and then A138 towards Le Mans. En route we stopped at a town called Broglie for the third fuel-up. It was now dark but we continued towards Le Mans, and for the first and last time, we got lost for about half an hour. It was now impossible to drive safely without yellow headlights, and oncoming traffic were always flashing in anger due to our right-drive dipped lights. We stopped about midnight north of Le Mans. The distance travelled since leaving Calais was now 250 miles.
We pulled in safely to a lay-by just off the A138 Le Mans road. Martin, John and Brian decided to pitch their small tent in a field near to the car. This was the intended sleeping plan for these three, while I slept in the front and Danny in the rear of the car. While the other three were in the tent, I decided to examine John’s road map and to study the distance still required to reach Lisbon plus the return mileage. Then and only then, did I fully realise the enormity of the task I had undertaken.
It was Monday night, and the mileage just to reach Lisbon was just over 1,000 miles, plus another 1,800 for the return journey to Methil. It was a 10 year old car with no spares or breakdown cover. I only had £5, and here I was in France with four passengers who had not researched or planned this trip, and I was reliant on these four! (God help me!). To say I had tears in my eyes would be an understatement!
About an hour or so into the night, Danny and I were awakened by the other three from the tent who had decided to re-join us in the car. They could not sleep due to the cold. They had no sleeping bags (great forward planning!) The car provided a bed for the night, but there was no breakfast! Danny moved back into the front beside me, and the other three slept in the rear.
Tomorrow was a new day!
Jerry has self published his book ‘To Lisbon and back on a fiver’ and has a limited number of copies available. If you would like to order a copy please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be pleased to put you in touch with Jerry directly. Appropriately enough the book costs a fiver – with one pound going to The Celtic Foundation.