University men in death-defying stunt that tops the lot

Transcribed from page 1 of the West Lancashire Evening Gazette,
Tuesday, 6 March 1962

In a death-defying publicity stunt, three Manchester University students climbed 500ft up an ice-covered Blackpool Tower structure in the early and dark hours of today and planted a "Rag" flag on the crow's nest.

As they made their perilous descent about 3.0am they were spotted by a Tower security guard who, after summoning the assistance of colleagues and detaining the youths, called the police.

Two squad cars raced to the Tower Buildings and the students, 21 and 19 years old were taken to the Central Police Station.

There they were questioned for an hour before being released to return to Manchester by their own car which they had parked, before embarking in this most daring of Tower exploits, near the Promenade.


For the Tower Company Mr. Donald Gledhill, General Manager, issued a stern warning.

He told "The Evening Gazette" : "Whilst we are sympathetic to the high spirits of modern youth, we cannot imagine a ill-advised and dangerous performance."

"The danger to these students and other people far outweighed the publicity benefit they could ever achieve."

"Apart from the hazards of climbing the Tower under normal conditions, it was particularly dangerous in the hours of darkness early this morning when there was a sea mist surrounding the Tower and ice conditions had formed on the structure."

"The tower Company cannot look without concern on such foolish pranks and legal action will definitely be taken against any other persons attempting such a hazard."

Magazine too

When the workman today climbed to the Tower's crow's nest to remove the flag - a 10ft by 8ft roughly cut heavy piece of canvas with the letters RAG daubed in blue paint - they found a Manchester University Rag magazine laying alongside it.

Written in the magazine was the message: "To the Mayor of Blackpool with the compliment of the Royal College of Advanced Technology, Salford."

The identities of the students has not been disclosed.

The students started their climb by scaling the 85ft front of the Tower building from the Promenade and then crossing the roof under cover of darkness and mist to the foot of the giant steel structure which in the light of a torch glistened with 11 degrees of frost.

Mist and ice hazards

The first 200ft of the climb was up a 3ft wide stair case, a comparatively simple operation.

It was at the 200ft level that the hazards began.

From this point to the 480ft level, which is open to the public, they had to scale a man-wide steel perpendicular ladder which is attached to the South-West leg.

Once on the 480ft level they could reach the crow's nest with ease and comparative safely, and they lashed their flag round the nest, almost completely enveloping it.

Then began the perilous descent.

It was while this was taking place that a patrolling Tower security guard heard voices coming from the structure. He hesitated to make sure that he had not made a mistake, then called for assistance.

By the time the youths reached the Tower building roof there were enough security guards to surround them and to escort them into the building to await the police.

The Tower Company statement says: "The Chief Fire and Security officer (Mr J Bramly) quickly arrived on the scene along with other members of the security staff."

"They detained the students who had broken into and entered the building."

The youths were taken to the Central Police Station at about 4am.

One of them was wearing climbing boots, another sandals and the third, ordinary shoes, and their clothing was of the kind used by climbers.

None the worse

A tower security officer said: "When they found us waiting for them at the foot of the structure they didn't seem a bit concerned. Certainly they didn't look any the worse for their adventure, in fact, they said very little and went quietly with the police. To look at them you'd have thought it was something they did every day."

Another spokesman said the weather conditions were such - the temperature at Squires Gate airport at the time was 11 degrees below freezing - that experienced Tower workers would not have been allowed on the structure.

So far as we know it was the first climbing of the Tower by unauthorised persons.


The late George Formby offered to make the ladder ascent shortly before the last war as a wager, but only an hour or two before the attempt was due to start the famous comedian was forbidden to undertake the stunt by a film company with whom he had a contract.

About four years ago the Tower Company heard that an attempt might be made by Blackpool Technical college students, but security precautions were strengthened and if there ever was a plan it never materialised.

This afternoon the Deputy Chief Constable (Chief Superintendent Stanley Parr) said: "At this stage it would appear unlikely that any legal action will be taken by us, but the facts are still under consideration."

"It was a very stupid and irresponsible action for the youths to take, although it is only the type of thing we have come to expect from these young people."

Note: The above article is largely correct. Two of the three climbers were from the RCAT, Salford - soon to become the University of Salford - the third was from Loughborough University. The temperatures referred to were degrees Fahrenheit. The sentence about the footwear is wildly inaccurate. In the 60's, Salford University participated in the Manchester University Rag: not sure what happens these days.