The Cellmates Who Became Soulmates

With thanks to Mike and Sylvia Sunderland

Dave Webb

This experience with the Tewkesbury Police detailed below came to light when published in the Daily Mail on Thursday January 11 2024. Having read the article we contacted the Editor of the Daily Mail letters page who kindly forwarded on a request to contact the author for more information.

Back in the summer of 1964 as an 18 year old motorcyclist, I met a lovely 17 year old girl called Sylvia, who was happy to climb aboard as my pillion passenger.

Two months into our friendship, Sylvia told me she had been invited to visit relatives in Warminster. She had mentioned me and they were more than happy to meet me and able to give me a room, too.

We set off on a sunny afternoon after work, I had no qualms about getting to Warminster before dark.

My well maintained 650 BSA Gold Flash would be in its element. What could go wrong? We soon found out.

A wobble on the back suggested a soft tyre, quickly confirmed. I had the tools and repair kit to fix it, or so I thought. Delving into me tool bag for the pump, I realised I’d forgotten it.

Sylvia was very patient, watching her beau scratching his head for plan B.

We had passed a petrol station about a mile back. Off we trotted, me rolling and carrying the wheel in turn. If Sylvia was shaking her head in despair at all this, she was in hysterics when I went sprawling over the wheel, which was difficult to control.

We made it to the petrol station, successfully inflated the tyre and continued our journey.

Our trouble over? No, it was going to get much worse

Past midnight, as we entered Tewkesbury, the tyre deflated again. We decided we would look for somewhere to stay and buy a new inner tube in the morning.

We roamed around without seeing a soul or a B&B. We came across a police station and I banged on the door, to no avail.

Tewkesbury 1857-1966
(Gloucestershire Police Archives URN 10880-49)

Defeated we slumped on the step.

A little Mini police van cruised up and two big bobbies squeezed their way out of it. They shook their heads at any suggestion of accommodation at that hour.

But the older one said “we can put you in a cell for the night?”, We looked at each other, nodded and agreed. “Are you married?” said the older one, “No” we said.

“Well, we’ll have to put you in separate cells” was his matter of fact reply, “We will also be out on patrol again and will need to lock the cell doors”.

I had to watch as my girlfriend of two months was locked into a police cell with myself in the one adjacent.

Did our relationship survive my teenage ineptitude, three daughters, eight grandchildren and a great grandchild later, we celebrated our 57th wedding anniversary in December.

 Further information from Mike and Sylvia Sunderland

You asked for a date. Unfortunately we can’t give one. We can only give what is however a reasonable guess.

Back in the day many northern towns had a shutdown 2 weeks holiday known as wakes weeks. But in truth it could have been any summer weekend. I’m pretty sure it was a weekend trip and travelling down on a Friday evening. We do recall it only being for a couple of nights. Sorry we can’t pin it down.

We were travelling from Oldham, Lancashire. We still live here close to the Yorkshire border.

As you can appreciate our adventure was 60yrs ago so recollections of detail have faded. Also we were only in the company of the officers for maybe 30 minutes max. But here goes.

We weren’t offered any refreshments before being placed in the cells but we were issued with a blanket. Sylvia, recalls still feeling cold.

The officer in charge did contact Warminster Police. (Oh how I wish I had taken down their names). Pun intended. As you can imagine, we had relatives expecting us and no way to contact them. They didn’t have a phone. Nor could they phone Sylvia’s parents because they didn’t have a phone either. In the realms of today’s communication options – you couldn’t make it up. On the night (again a different world from today) Warminster was in the care of one police officer with a bike, as in pedal bike. Our actual destination was Crockerton, a hamlet 2 1/2 miles outside Warminster. I can’t recall the translation of his reply but he was unable to make the trip.

Auntie Edith and Uncle Charlie were left waving torches into the night sky thinking we couldn’t find them. The directions I had been given were precise, as I proved the following morning.

After our night in the clink we were woken with a cuppa around 6-30. We were directed to a café which is exactly what we needed. We were ‘released’ before 7 (shift changeover) and very grateful for the nights shelter.

I had located a motorcycle dealership the night before. We dallied over our breakfast until they opened. I retrieved the wheel from the bike and they fitted and inflated a new tube before we continued our journey uneventfully. Much to the relief of Edith and Charlie.

This page was added on 06/03/2024.

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.