Best-selling football book now available at city’s largest independent bookshop

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A best-selling book about a supporter’s 50 year passion for Brighton & Hove Albion FC is now available at the city’s largest independent bookshop.

Death in Grimsby – 50 Years Following Brighton & Hove Albion which chronicles football fan Nic Outterside’s half a century supporting his beloved home town football team has already made more than 2,000 global sales via Amazon and other online outlets.

Now the book is also available exclusively in Sussex at City Books in Western Road.

Founded and run by Paul and Inge Sweetman, the shop is in the Brunswick area of the city. The shop has been shortlisted twice for the national ‘Independent Bookshop of the Year Award’ and won the Muddy Stiletto award for Best Bookshop in Sussex in 2018. Arranged over two floors, City Books has a large range of carefully selected books, including an extensive selection of books of local interest.

Early purchasers of Death in Grimsby have included several former Albion players including club legend Peter Ward and the personal backing of 1983 FA Cup Final and England hero Gary Stevens.

Nic has also received support for the book from the Albion’s former owner and chairman Dick Knight and current owner and chairman Tony Bloom.

This summer Death in Grimsby rose to number 2 in the Amazon football book sales chart.

The book is a collection of 21 short stories which charts the first 50 years that Nic supported his beloved Albion, starting with his first game at the Goldstone in 1967 and finishing with a match against Wolves at Molineux in April 2017, when his club all but mathematically secured promotion to the promised land of the Premier League.

Death in Grimsby – 50 Years Following Brighton & Hove Albion is still available as a large format paperback priced at £10.49 with FREE UK delivery from Amazon at:

And special personally signed editions of the book together with a FREE copy of Nic’s first ever paperback The Hill are also available at £8.99 plus P&P from Ebay at:

A Kindle e-book edition of the book is also available for £3.00 at:


Remembering Aberfan – a personal recollection

IT was a miserable and wet Monday morning on 24 October 1966 as 300 young children were told by their class teachers to go “quickly and quietly” to the school hall for a Special Assembly.

The autumn wind and driving rain swept across the playground of this seaside primary school in Hove, as I joined my friends in the wide windowed hall.

Over the weekend our parents and flickering images on our black and white televisions made us all aware of the terrible event that had occurred three days earlier, and some 214 miles away, in the Merthyr Vale in South Wales.

On that day, 21 October 1966, a colliery spoil tip collapsed and slid down a mountainside into the mining village of Aberfan.

It engulfed Pantglas Junior School and around 20 houses. In total 144 people were killed… and 116 of them were children.

Children who were innocently attending school, just like we were in a wet but safe Sussex town.

We listened intently as our headteacher, Mr Whiting, recounted the terror of Aberfan and announced that over the course of the week the school would collect money and foodstuff to send to the families of the bereaved.

We sang hymns and after a full hour most of us left the school hall with tears reddening our small eyes.

We did not know Aberfan, but now we could find the village on a map and offer childlike solidarity with the children who were lost.

And as the years rolled by I, like thousands of others, learned more about Aberfan and the tragedy that unfolded on that grim October day, 50 years ago.

My own solidarity was hardened when I worked as a teacher in a similar mining village of Darton in South Yorkshire in the early 1980s and witnessed at first hand the grim reality and dangers of deep pit mining.

Many of my pupils left school to cut coal.

My solidarity hardened still further when in the late 1980s I was hospitalised with lung cancer in Llandough, near Cardiff.

Many of my fellow patients in the ward and at the radiotherapy clinic were former miners from the south Wales valleys and sufferers from pneumoconiosis and consequential lung cancer.

I listened at first hand to their stories of life in the pits and the betrayal of their futures and communities, first by the National Coal Board (NCB) and later by Thatcher and her minions.

So now I look back with clearer eyes and stronger solidarity at the reality of what happened in 1966.

It took just five minutes for the coal tip above Aberfan to slide down the mountain and engulf Pantglas Junior School.

The pupils were just beginning their first lessons of the day when the rushing landslide of mud and debris flooded into their classrooms.

The Aberfan disaster was not just the single most appalling event in modern British history, it also represented a multiple betrayal of a whole community.

If the deaths of 116 children and 28 adults had been the result of a tragic accident due to natural forces – what insurance companies refer to as an Act of God – it would still have been a shocking tragedy.

But the criminal negligence of the NCB in failing to remove the tip that collapsed, coupled with the callous post-disaster treatment of the community by political leaders, made the loss of life even more heart-breaking.

Unlike the Hillsborough Disaster or miscarriage of justice cases that took years of persistent campaigning before the truth was recognised, the negligent conduct of the NCB was quickly exposed.

When he was appointed to chair the tribunal inquiry that investigated the disaster, Lord Justice Edmund Davies stressed that he would not be party to a whitewash – and he was true to his word.

It said: “Blame for the disaster rests upon the NCB.

“This blame is shared among the NCB headquarters, the South Western Divisional Board, and certain individuals.

“There was a total absence of tipping policy and this was the basic cause of the disaster.”

It criticised the lack of legislation regulating the safety of tips or guidance from the Inspectorate of Mines.

And it said the “legal liability of the NCB to pay compensation… is incontestable and uncontested”.

Its conclusion was: “The Aberfan Disaster is a terrifying tale of bungling ineptitude by many men charged with tasks for which they were totally unfitted, of failure to heed clear warnings, and of total lack of direction from above.”

But what made the negligence even worse is that from the time the tips began to accumulate there were compelling signs that they posed a significant danger.

In the years before the Aberfan disaster, complaints had been made to the NCB by local residents and by the local Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council.

On July 24, 1963 – more than three years before the disaster – a letter was sent by DCW Jones, the council’s Borough and Waterworks Engineer, to Tom Ritchie, the District Public Works Superintendent.

The letter was headed Danger from Coal Slurry being tipped at the rear of the Pantglas School.

It stated: “The NCB appear to be taking slurry similar to that which was deposited and gave so much trouble in the quarry at Merthyr Vale, up on to the existing tip at the rear of the Pantglas Schools.

“I regard it as extremely serious, as the slurry is so fluid and the gradient so steep that it could not possibly stay in position in the winter time or during periods of heavy rain.”

Mr Jones’ second letter was to D Roberts, Area Chief Mechanical Engineer for the NCB, carried the same heading and said that the Public Works Superintendent had been in touch with the Merthyr Vale Colliery manager Mr Wynne about the tipping.

He wrote: “I am very apprehensive about this matter and this apprehension is also in the minds of the local councillors and the residents in this area.

“They have previously experienced, during periods of heavy rain, the movement of the slurry to the danger and detriment of people and property adjoining the site of the tips.

“You are no doubt well aware that the tips at Merthyr Vale tower above the Pantglas area and if they were to move a very serious position would accrue.”

But the NCB took no action.

The inquiry heard there had been five incidents at three tip sites between 1939 and 1965: at Cilfynydd Colliery near Pontypridd on December 5 1939; at Aberfan Tip Number 4 on October 27 1944; at Aberfan Tip Number 5 between 1947 and 1951; at Aberfan Tip Number 7 in November 1963; and at the redundant Ty Mawr Colliery in Rhondda on March 29 1965.

Unmentioned at the inquiry was a tip slide that occurred on November 23 1960 at Parc Colliery, on the west side of the Rhondda Valley.

The South Wales Echo and Rhondda Leader reported at the time that spoil flowed down the hillside, felling a ropeway pylon as lather of waste swirled past it, strongly suggesting a flow-slide into Nant Cwm Parc.

The severe effects included a culvert on the Nant blocked with swept-down debris, the colliery surface and railway sidings flooded by water and tip waste, the evacuation of 44 families and restoration work that took 18 months to restore the railway sidings to normal use.

On an unrecorded date in 1965 this tip failed again, with evidence suggesting that a substantial outburst of groundwater probably occurred there, emanating from a buried spring.

So, between one and six years before the Aberfan disaster, the NCB had experienced serious tip failures displaying characteristics very similar to those at Aberfan.

Almost all the senior managers and engineers at divisional level at the time of the Aberfan disaster had been in post at the time of the Parc Tip failures in 1960 and 1965.

Some 30 years after the disaster, in 1996, a paper written for the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology called Rapid failures of colliery spoil heaps in the South Wales Coalfield identified 21 significant incidents over a period of 67 years to 1965.

With all these precedents, it’s difficult to explain the inertia that seemed endemic in the NCB when it came to the overriding need to safeguard the lives of people living and working beneath the tips.

Such negligence that led to the loss of so many lives is impossible to excuse.

The tips were the responsibility of a nationalised industry which was supposed to be dedicated to the collective good in mining communities which themselves were founded on the finest of humane principles.

In betraying the people of Aberfan, whose lives were cruelly dismissed as insignificant and unworthy of protection, the NCB also trashed the ideal of social solidarity on which the common ownership of the mining industry was built.

Aberfan was just one example of the huge environmental and human cost that coal extracted, and which represented the other side of coal’s significance for scores of communities from Lanarkshire and Northumberland to Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and South Wales.

The Aberfan Disaster led to a gradual but significant programme of clearing land given over to the colliery waste heaps and the tragedy played a part in the greening of the mining valleys again.

But coal has not yet been consigned to the past. Nothing has replaced the Coal mining itself might be gone but the economic impact of the failure to replace it is everywhere. Just as Aberfan was let down by the government in the 1960s, it, and mining communities across Britain, continue to feel let down by the authorities.

Earlier this year I visited the grave of Andrea, a dear friend who died in 1990 and whose family lived and worked in a neighbouring former mining village of Rassau. I also visited Aberfan.

Like my former home of Darton, both villages now hold little resemblance to the time when coal was still king. Grassing, landscaping, new housing, small industrial estates and a working class gentrification has changed the local demeanour.

Gone are the pit head wheels, gone is the black dust which clogged the air, gone is the noise of the shift claxons and gone are the coal trucks which rumbled along the lanes day and night.

They are all gone… but the memories remain.

  • A minute’s silence is being held tomorrow (Friday 21 October, 2016) to remember those killed in the Aberfan disaster.


Love lived here… in a Hove cinema

It’s hard to believe

That this is the place

Where we were so happy all our lives

Now so empty inside

And feeling no pain

Waiting for a hammer, and a big ball and chain

They can tear it all down

And build something new

But only I remember what was here

(Rod Stewart)


WHILE doing a bit of online research for a larger project, I stumbled upon a picture which brought some long forgotten memories tumbling back into my consciousness.

The photo was of an old building – the Gala Bingo Hall in Portland Road, Hove. A gorgeous art deco structure which is now sadly demolished.

Plans to turn the former bingo hall site in Portland Road, Hove, into 35 flats and a doctor’s surgery were approved in October 2010.

The bulldozers moved in, in April 2013 and the new development work was completed last year (2015).

So why should I care?

After all I have never played bingo or had any fascination with bingo halls.

It is something much deeper.

The reason why I care is simple… before the building became a bingo hall it was an amazing cinema – the ABC Capitol.


And that cinema was a key part of my childhood.

Not only does it hold fond memories of my late father taking me to watch blockbuster movies such as Tarzan’s Three Challenges and Robinson Crusoe, but something much more.

From about the age of eight-years I would meet my best friends Mark and Michael Newlove at the end of our road at 9am every Saturday morning. Together, as loud primary school kids we would catch the number 26 bus from Mile Oak – our village tucked away on the South Downs – to a bus stop next to the cinema in downtown Hove.

Then, in a childish rite passed down by older peers, we would cross the road and enter a small joke shop. With a few pence clenched in our sweaty palms we would buy a box of small stink bombs or a cache of itching powder before crossing back to queue at the ABC Capitol.

We were fully fledged, excited and paid-up Minors of the ABC!

With bubbling anticipation we would make our way to our usual seats in the cinema’s upper circle and lose our imaginations for two hours in fun cartoon features and a kids’ adventure movie – either a sci-fi romp or a swashbuckling battle between pirates or medieval knights.

This Saturday ritual was of its time and now quite timeless – the magic of a childhood gone forever.

Oh, the stink bombs and itching powder… they were for throwing over the balcony onto the poor souls below sat in the stalls!

Sadly, according to archive records, the conversion from cinema to bingo hall in the 1980s ripped any soul, or semblance of cinema’s heyday, out of it. The interiors that had once been quite grand, had been replaced by tacky stucco and a suspended ceiling.

And now it is no more.


There’s danger on the battlefield where the shells of bullets fly


MY life should have ended in the summer of 1966 in a mess of blood spatter and body parts.

Come to that, my best friend Johnny should also have perished.

But a simple twist of fate and my father’s quick thinking saved us both.

I spent six idyllic early years of my life with my family in a spacious bungalow in the new village of Mile Oak nestled on the South Downs, near Hove. These were my growing up and playing-till-the-sun-went-down years. They were blissfully happy in their innocence and the summers were never ending. The warmth of those years will always stay with me, locked into my memories like scenes from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

My mother gave me freedom to roam on the wide open hills that surrounded us, and play at soldiers, cowboys, Wild West frontier explorers or whatever fancy captured our childish imaginations.

I had three close friends at the time, the brothers Mark and Michael, and my next door neighbour, the aforementioned Johnny. We rarely played indoors and even when the weather was wet, we ventured forth either as a group or in pairs onto our natural playground. I guess in hindsight our mothers harboured few fears for our safety, as long as we were back for lunch and tea… and definitely before it got dark.

So nothing stopped us exploring a disused isolation hospital, a chalk quarry, a tumble down witch’s cottage or a former army training ground. It was real time adventure and unbridled fun for nine and ten-year-old boys.

But it was the military training ground which took Johnny’s and my fancy this warm August day in 1966.

My dad and I had discovered the site one year earlier. It was a vast area of down land once used to train soldiers during the 1st and 2nd World Wars. There was a sand-faced firing range, some dry trenches and shooting positions and acres of other terrain, still littered with rusty bullet cartridges. Most of the land had been cultivated for farming, but eagle-eyed boys and visitors could still unearth a treasure trove of old military finds.

By the time Johnny and I ventured forth on that ominous day, I had already accrued a collection of 303 rifle bullets, smaller pistol cases, machine gun shells and noses, a few old smoke bombs and three heavy artillery casings. All had been lovingly cleaned and polished with Brasso and stored in an old chest of drawers in my father’s shed.

So, with the sun on our backs, Johnny and I walked the leisurely mile to the training ground, climbing barbed wire fences and rickety five-bar wooden gates along the way.

The field before the military area had been freshly ploughed – for the first time in our childhood memories – and we chuckled with anticipation at what the newly-turned earth might reveal. There were no bullet shells (those tended to be found nearer to the firing range) but loads of heavy artillery casings and other unfamiliar iron clad artefacts, which we inspected before deciding whether to discard, hide for later, or take home.

After half an hour of searching, we were both excited by a new and very unusual discovery. We kicked the caked earth from a metal object that could have been dropped by a flying saucer. Johnny picked it up first and we both inspected it with awe. It was a grey metal oval object the size of a cricket ball with a small saucer shaped base, a handle down one side and a looped piece of wire on top. Once we had scraped away the earth, we realised it was in almost perfect condition, except for some rusting to the wire loop.

We whooped with excitement… we had found an army radio and we had to get home to clean it and make it work!

Such was our excitement, we ran back home, taking turns to carry the new find and went straight into my dad’s asbestos garage at the end of my garden.

Quickly I opened the jaws on my dad’s bench vice and gently clamped the ‘radio’ in place. Then with a can of lubricating oil and a wire brush, Johnny and I took turns cleaning the object of our affection.

After five minutes we could make out some numbers stamped onto the base. It was then that Johnny suggested we should try and extend the aerial loop at the top and look for a switch to turn the radio on. I found a pair of my dad’s pliers and began the job.

Then it happened…

I suddenly felt the iron grip of my father as he lifted me off my feet and ran me out of the garage while simultaneously shouting in a panicked voice: “Bloody hell, what have you got here, you stupid, stupid boy!” (in actuality his expletives were a lot stronger than ‘bloody’). He threw me onto the lawn of our garden before running back into the garage to grab Johnny and repeat his rantings.

Johnny and I were both crying as my dad yelled at us to get into the house quickly and not come out until he told us. As we ran up the garden path to the kitchen door, I looked over my shoulder to see dad gingerly venture back into the garage. He wasn’t there long before joining us in the kitchen.

“I hope you realise that is a bloody hand grenade you have there in our garage!” he barked at us. “And by the looks of it you have half-taken the pin out!”

Gobsmacked, we were told to go and play in my bedroom, while dad rang 999 for the police.

Within 20 minutes two police officers arrived, chatted to my dad and to me before visiting our garage. They didn’t stay long in the asbestos building before using our telephone to call for assistance.

About two hours later, around tea-time, a khaki coloured army truck arrived and two soldiers removed the grenade from my father’s industrial vice.

Later I was told they had taken the grenade – which was indeed still live – and detonated it in a safe place.

No doubt if my father had not stepped into the garage at that precise time on that August day in 1966, I would not be writing this piece now, some 47 years later. Two young lives would have ended; it would have made a hell of a mess of my dad’s garage and with the tins of paint, petrol and paraffin stored in the building, the explosion would probably have taken out half of our street.

Thanks, Dad!

Note: The old military training ground was later fenced off and cleared of any remaining dangerous hardware. Johnny and I were banned from ever visiting it again.


Brief Encounter #1

Leo Sayer

THIS was my first encounter with anyone recognised as widely famous.

I was brought up in the Sussex coastal towns of Shoreham by Sea and Hove. They were years of endless summers and wide-eyed innocence.

At the time of meeting the as-yet undiscovered talent of Leo Sayer I was in sixth form in nearby Lancing and occasionally (and illegally) attended music nights at the Swiss Cottage public house in Shoreham. Often on stage for a few songs was the talented Mr Sayer – long curly hair above a T shirt and blue denim jeans and except for his unique voice unrecognisable from the Leo everyone later came to know.

The following summer I worked the vacation before going up to university at our local general infirmary: Southlands Hospital. It was hard graft but an enjoyable student job, full of lasting memories.

No memory is sharper than in the week I started, when walking past me in a corridor outside Ward E and pushing a patient in a wheelchair was Mr Sayer!

On returning to the ward, and full of curiosity, I immediately asked after him. After all, what was a pub singer doing working in my local hospital?

“Oh that will be Gerry,” the staff nurse Cherry volunteered with a dismissive shrug.

“He sings a bit and I hear he is quite good,” she added.

“I know,” I replied, “I’ve heard him!”

Back home, my mum, who was a nurse at the same hospital, confirmed that Gerry had worked alongside her as a porter for quite some time.

A few months later Leo (real name Gerard) Sayer premiered two of his songs on my favourite TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test and soon after enjoyed a huge chart hit with the single The Show Must Go On.

I and many other teenagers from our local town bought his first album Silverbird. The rest as they say is history… but I can genuinely say I knew someone BEFORE they were famous!