Les Lowther, Friend And Man

14 Sep

When I was seventeen years old in 1955, I went to the local night school in trying to further my education! In the class was a well-built lad who wore a long midnight blue jacket with velvet collars and matching drain pipe trousers with all the accessories that go with it. He was the same age as me and he was named Les Lowther. His father was the landlord of the Devonshire Hotel on Barrow Island where Les was brought up, which is a tough part of Barrow-in-Furness and still is
Every week for the first five weeks, Les came to the class in a different coloured long jacketed velvet collared suit with drainpipe trousers, including a post box red one. He was a tough lad, but he never threw his weight around. As you the reader are aware one has to be tough wearing those suits. I knew from the first time I laid eyes on him one noticed how smart and articulate he was wearing those suits. At that time he also had a friend in the class named Martin Bowes, both he and Les had motor bikes and rode them very fast. Those days you did not need a helmet and many a lad lost his life, because of that. A year or so later Martin Bowes was killed in an accident. Les told me many years later that Martin’s death was a big blow.
Les Lowther was also a very good rugby league player who signed professional forms for Barrow when he was eighteen years old in 1956. He was a very fast tenacious player and played on the wing many times for Barrow.
I got to know Les Lowther a bit more the day we were called up to join the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment. Along with Geoff Stubbs, I met him on Barrow Station on route to Fulwood Barracks. During training and at the battalion we were in different platoons and Companies. But we kept in contact. When the regiment went to the Cameroons I was in (S) Company at Bamenda and Les was in (B) Company at Kumba. I never saw him again until I was on the troopship Devonshire returning home 10 months later.
Returning after disembarkation leave to Barford Camp at Barnard Castle, Les and I were put in the same billet. Both of us played for the regiment and we became good friends and he was a man one could rely on 100%. He was the best turned out man in the company if not the battalion. Les spent time on his uniform, boots, beret and overcoat; he was also excellent at rifle drill. This paid dividends, because he was always picked out as stickman. Both Les and I were on three guards of honour for Generals who visited the battalion at Barford Camp. As Bobby Driver the CSM said we were his bullshit men!
It was at this time in 1961 that the new dance craze hit Great Britain it was called the Twist and with Les being a good dancer he taught all the lads in the billet how do the twist, but it wasn’t easy as you must understand. The laughs and mickey taking as we learned this dance was so humorous. This week in our local paper they have 50 years ago articles. It read, more than 700 people attended the final of the twist competition held in the Barrow Public Hall. It was won by a Whitehaven Rugby League player Les Lowther and an unnamed partner.
I travelled home with Les on our Demob day back to Barrow in February 1962 and after that I hardly saw him again. He was transferred to Whitehaven RLFC from Barrow. He later packed it all in and moved away. I never knew what happened to him until his daughter Sally wrote to me and told me Les got married and happily raised his family. Sally said he was a good father and provided well for the family. The sad part was a few years back Les took ill and after bravely fighting his illness, he passed away.
I look back on my time both during national service and civilian life and I feel honoured that Les Lowther passed through my life. He was indeed a friend and  man.

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