Burrows on the beat
by Chloe McLaughlin
A lot has changed since 1970. Spotify wasn’t anywhere to be seen, mobiles didn’t exist and ABBA were only just making their debut. However, ABBA weren’t the only ones making their debut. 1970 was also the year that Colne Bobby, Dave Burrows, laced up his boots picked up his truncheon and began his first shift on the streets of Colne.
Known affectionately as Bas*ard Burrows, Dave continues to be a regular face on the streets of Colne and over the Remembrance period was sighted selling poppies, proudly wearing two medals – his Police long service medal and an RSPCA Bronze medal.
“IT’S THE LOSS OF
THAT’S THE BIGGEST
CRIME WHEN IT COMES
TO MODERN POLICING”
Dave 66, originally from the village of Bolton-le-Sands, began policing in October 1968 as a Police Cadet in his ‘home’ division based at the new Divisional Headquarters in Lancaster and the more homely Euston Road Station in Morecambe. Although at Morecambe, nine to five days was the wrong shift to work in winter as it was the cadets’ job to shovel the ten ton delivery of coke into the boiler house which usually arrived about 4.30pm and was tipped in the side street outside – meaning the first bus home was 6pm.
It was here that his first impressions of the force were forged. On the beat with ‘Big Jim Brodie’ he learnt his first essential lesson. On receipt of a radio message for a pub fight – ‘don’t rush to the scene, walk sensibly, when you arrive you are fresh and they have expelled at least five minutes of fighting so they have less energy to hit you!’ A week after his 19th birthday on the 27th April 1970 Dave was appointed a Full Constable, serving a week at Police Headquarters, Hutton followed by a three month residential course at the Police Training Centre, Bruche, Warrington learning national law and procedure returning to Hutton for a further two weeks on a local procedure course learning additional laws and powers that were specific to Lancashire. He was posted to Colne on the 24th August 1970, although he admits it was not his first choice.
“You could put three choices down for where you wanted to be posted, unable to nominate your home division and bearing in mind the motorway system was then still in its infancy and in fact the M6 terminated at Warton Island three miles north of Bolton-le-Sands (the M65 and M66 had not been invented), Dave requested Preston, Wigan or Warrington. “Imagine my surprise when I was posted to Colne, followed up by asking me if I had a pair of Wellies and if I liked sheep,” he laughs.
He’d never heard of Colne, and wasn’t particularly keen on sheep, however 47 years on, Dave continues to live and love the place known as the bonnie town on the hill, serving the town as a Police Officer until his retirement on the 23rd August 2001(exactly 31 years on the streets of Colne). However David’s policing was not just limited to the Colne area and took him to Toxteth and Moss Side for the riots of 1981 and Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire for the miners’ dispute of 1984. Dave also policed the tiny port of Glasson Dock near Lancaster where Polish coal was imported and has vivid memories of the infamous Battle of Orgreave in June 1984 in South Yorkshire.
He readily admits a lot has changed.
“You can’t condone crime but in the 70’s some of the thefts were because of need,” says Dave. “They’d take a bit of coal from the railway to light the fire because they needed it. Nowadays, it’s greed.”
Although his job was hard, Dave and his colleagues had a lot of fun and got up to a bit of ‘no good’ themselves. Dave remembers the many initiation ceremonies… “I remember PC Tufty Dale’s initiation. We set him up, telling him that suspicious activity had been reported on top of the former Natwest Bank. Once he was on the roof, we took the ladder away and left him!”
Dave’s initiation involved the local constabulary throwing dustbin lids at him from the roof of what is now Jack Fultons followed by the bin itself. “It comes as quite a shock to the system at the dead of night.”
But that wasn’t the only mischief that Dave got up to whilst working at Colne Police Station.
“There was an Inspector’s toilet. It wasn’t any fancier but it was nearest to the canteen so I nipped in there for a quick one and had a ‘run in’ with the Inspector when he asked: ‘what are you doing in there?’ So I told him exactly what I’d done.” Dave smirks, “Then I went to a charity shop, bought a pair of black shoes, sprayed them with some black polish, lay them in front of the toilet, locked the door and climbed over. They were there for a fortnight before they realised no one was in there.”
And did he ever get caught? “It’s not an offence to leave a pair of shoes!” He chuckles.
The bond Dave had with his colleagues is evident in the stories he tells and he admits it’s the camaraderie with the lads he misses the most about his job.
Although the shift patterns may still involve a lot of unsociable hours, a lot has changed since Dave was on the beat including the number of Police on duty. Dave believes it’s the loss of local knowledge that’s the biggest crime when it comes to modern policing.
“If I’d rang 999 years ago, I’d have got through to a local police station. Now it’s all at Police HQ. You might get someone from Skelmersdale.”
He recently had to call them after witnessing a road traffic collision. “They asked if I had the post code and I rattled off the phonetic alphabet …Bravo, Bravo… the operator replied: ‘Slow down, you’re too fast, can you give it me again?’ I couldn’t understand it, we had to work to that speed surely with a computer they can work at that speed too?”
Dave’s knowledge of Colne is truly impressive and it’s evident that he has a love for the town. “I worked the town, lived the town and I’m still in the town. I tried to police with compassion. One Christmas Eve, a man got locked up for brandishing a Samurai sword. He’d smashed all the windows in the house so the wife and kids moved to a relative’s house and we returned back to their house to collect their Christmas presents. We didn’t have to do it – but we did.
“I went to Lower Burnt Hill Farm, there was a fire in the barn which was full of piglets. They were squealing their heads off, I grabbed them and they began ‘doing their business ‘all over me. I got 14 out but the fire brigade was running out of water.”
But thanks to his local knowledge he knew that Higher Burnt Hill Farm had an underground tank and was able to save the day! However, he didn’t touch pork crackling for months!
Although Dave makes light of some of his hairier moments, he admits there are some events over the course of his policing career that have stuck with him and still affect him.
“I MANAGED TO GET THE CUFFS ON THIS LAD AND STARTED CPR ON WALTER”
“We once received a report of someone stealing lead on Walton Street. It was the night Burnley played Celtic in the Anglo-Scottish Cup, 12th September 1978. To cope with the large number of prisoners from the numerous Celtic supporters every section in the division was stripped of its van, leaving policing for the day using the two door MKII Escorts, where if a prisoner did not want to get into the back a struggle ensued. I turned out with my colleague Walter. We got the lad and tried to get him in the Panda. A fight broke out and Walter keeled over. I managed to get cuffs on this lad and started CPR on Walter.”
Unfortunately, Walter didn’t survive but the trauma for Dave wasn’t over yet. “The Chief Inspector said: ‘You worked with him, you tell his wife,’ telling anybody is hard, but telling the wife of a colleague…”
You’d maybe have expected him to get the rest of his shift off but that wasn’t the case.
“They were short staffed so I had to carry on working,” he sighs. Dave had a firm but fair approach to his policing and recalls how he dealt with one particularly cheeky young lady.
“One lass used to sit on the doorsteps of Laneshawbridge flats and bang her elbows on the door, shouting ‘you can’t stop me’. So I went to her house in full uniform, sat on the step and banged my elbows on her front door. Her dad came to the door. I told him what she was up to. She never did it again.”
It was an unconventional approach and one that Dave admits couldn’t be used now, but it worked. It’s obvious that policing has changed but Dave also recognises the challenges facing the Police Force have changed too and that it is up to all of us to look after it. “The world revolves around money. If you don’t put money in to a resource then it can’t manage. If people in this country want a service, they need to pay for it. You can’t cherry pick. There isn’t any more money to put more Bobbies on the street but the calls are coming in greater and greater. People are calling 999 because their cat is stuck up a tree. It’s not a police job. It’s about what people are prepared to do themselves. If you want the police to do everything, then it’s going to cost you more money. It’s that simple. You have to respect the force and the respect in the street has gone. That’s the big thing.
“When I joined the job the ‘old lags’, the older end being former armed forces personnel referred to the job as not being the one they had joined and that was certainly the case for me. But as the service gears up for the 21st century it is at breaking point. Every primary school kid can be seen playing on their phone whereas in my childhood for most households the telephone was in one of those boxes on a street corner.”