November 7 2018: flight of fancy

Grass Routes is chiefly intended as entertainment, or at least to be mildly different. Many can write a decent match report, many more rant.

So here’s the dilemma. On the infrequent occasions that the blog feels compelled to get a bit cross – usually involving our friends at the Football Association – the visitors’ graph takes off (an appropriate phrase, as we shall see.)

When Monday’s blog bemoaned the wretched regional straitjacket that is the FA Vase third round draw, the average number of hits doubled.

Keith Stoker thought that the competition should be drawn north/south from the first round, with 256 clubs, and nationally from the last 64 – with money from the Premier League used to offset costs.

Bishop Auckland legend and long serving FA Council member Derek Lewin is forwarding the blog to former colleagues at Wembley in the perhaps optimistic hope that they might do something.

Much the greater interest, however, was in West Auckland’s third round opponents – Avro, based near Oldham. We’d wondered what was behind the name and received a remarkable response.

Avro was a pioneeering aviation company founded in 1909 by Alliott Verdon Roe, a doctor’s son who’d been fifth engineer on the SS Jebba before reaching for the skies.

We’re grateful to John Maughan for excluding the Australian use of “Avro”, which apparently is short for “Good afternoon.” Perhaps he’s been reading too much Bazza Mackenzie.

The most famous Avro aircaft was the Lancaster bomber, of which 7,000 were built – some at Chadderton, also in Oldham, but most by 17,500 people employed on a 1.5m square foot site – Europe’s biggest building – at Yeadon, now home to Leeds/Bradford airport.

To confound the enemy, the roof was planted with fields and hedgerows. Whether they added a few sheep and a scarecrow is unknown .

Keith Bell, in Canada, reckons that for folk of a certain age over there the name Avro Arrow still brings a tear to the eye – “either of rage or sorrow” – but that was to do with a project scrapped by Prime Minuister Diefenbaker in 1959.

“Legend has it that many of the technically gifted ex-employees found work on the UK’s Concord project,” adds Keith.

Knighted in 1929, Roe was also a member of the British Union of Fascists and a supporter of Oswald Mosley. He died, aged 80, in 1958.

As well as all those mentioned above, real thanks to Mike Bateman, Steve Jones, Simon Mears, Stewart Taylor, Paul Wilson and Steve Wolstencroft for their help and interest.

For a jobbing journalist, of course, the additional attraction of the match on December 1 is its potential for punning. It’s to be hoped that West Auckland clip Avro’s wings, anyway.