Interview by Gary Radice
: Added October 2006
As if fate was at work here I was admitted free to Belle Vue on the final day due to the fact that the large gates at the Longsight entrance had been swung open to admit a large coach party of visiting speedway fans so I simply joined them and just walked in alongside. Naughty I know, but in hindsight - appropriate!

An interesting point here is that the cost of admission at the time was 2/6d, the same as a ride on Bobs. Furthermore, it is notable that during all the time I went to Belle Vue those costs often tallied!
So to that final Saturday...

I had total of five rides on Bobs and just one on The Scenic Railway.
I would have had more normally, but the repeat rides facility wasn't operating - presumably because of the presence of the many early arriving Speedway supporters.

So, little did I know at the time, but it must have been around 4.30pm that I took my final ride. Certainly if any of the staff on Bobs knew that it was the end they weren't letting on. Probably they didn't know because I was familiar as a 'regular', so I am sure they would have told me.

So, that was it. The end.

Move forward to the Manchester Evening News later the following week. There under the heading "BOBS TO GO" was a short news report of no more than a dozen or so lines which simply stated that Belle Vue's world-famous and record holding rollercoaster BOBS had closed for good and was to be advertised for sale.

Acting on intuition I went into a large newspaper shop in the city centre later the following week and browsed the latest edition of 'World's Fair'. There it was!

One of the middle pages carried a half page advert complete with photo advertising that Bobs was for sale and inviting approaches. "May be seen operating by appointment". I kept the page from the paper and indeed still have it.

Just how serious Belle Vue's proprietors (by that time the Forte Group) were about their "For Sale" notice still escapes me. For sure there was no way the ride's structure could be dismantled like a Meccano set and re-erected elsewhere. It was just not on. Anyone with an ounce of brain would realise that the only way Bobs could rise elsewhere would be by a complete rebuild from the original plans!

Nothing daunted, advertise they did, and remarkably just into 1971 a Manchester Evening News news report stated that a would be buyer had been found! No details of this pending sale were mentioned other than that a deal would be subject to planning permission being granted at Whitley Bay where Bobs aspiring new owner (unidentified) operated his business.

The following week it was announced in the press that "planning consent had not been forthcoming" so the planned sale (if there had ever been one) had fallen through. In the same report Belle Vue wasted no time in letting it be known that as a result of this "failed sale" there was to be no further delays and demolition of Bobs Coaster would commence on Monday January 25th 1971. Yes it was the end, to me it was if I had lost a brother. I was truly bereft.

So, January 25th dawned. The Radio 4 'Today' morning programme carried a brief report presented by Jack deManio, in which the demolition contractor stated that "the job should take no more than four to six weeks". The 'Look North' TV news programme later that day also carried a report in which one of the trains was shown being smashed to bits with a sledge hammer. Heartbreaking.

As it turned out Fred Church's Bobs was made of tougher stuff and it was the middle of May before the destruction of Bobs was completed. Although I had no wish to see the destroyers at work I had occasion to pass down Hyde Road some six weeks after demolition commenced. Two thirds of the structure was still intact still with the proud signs - "BOBS" - still there either side of the highest point.

If anything is certain in this world one thing is that the destruction of Bobs was the huge nail in the coffin that spelt the end of Belle Vue. Within a few short years the Scenic Railway was closed, and subsequently demolished (no pretend sales attempt here). The Water Chute closed and demolished (parts sold to Blackpool Pleasure Beach where there was a rebuild in metal). Some of the smaller movable rides were sold off. The rest of the story including the eventual total closure of Belle Vue is now history.

As for myself, with the demolition of Bobs I was determined never to set foot in the place again - and I didn't. Mind you, Belle Vue in its heyday is the likes of something we can never ever see again.

Truly the NO REPEAT RIDES sign will stay...forever.

From fairground trade newspaper, World's Fair. Image: George Drew.

"I got a friend of mine to take this photo of me on 'Bobs' - that's me waving from the second car - at a crucial split-second as the train raced round the second bend after the second drop. Astonishingly he couldn't have got a better shot seeing as he knew less about photography than the nearest monkey!" Image: George Drew

The beautiful structure of Bobs. Image: David Wragg Collection, courtesy of www.joylandbooks.com.

Your Comments
"In the ‘60s I and a few friends used to follow Derby County all over the country (before away supporting became as popular as it did in the '70s). Back then trains ran direct from Derby to Manchester Central and we used to aim to get in Manchester around 12 if playing in or around Manchester (Bury, Bolton or even in Liverpool). We always made our way to the Shakespeare, on Fountain Street, for a pint or two of their excellent Bass, then on the the match.

After the match it was always back to Belle Vue for a ride on the BOBS, then if the Speedway was on, go there, if not then another ride or two on the BOBS before heading back to the Shakespeare for a few pints of the aforementioned Bass before catching the mid-night ‘milk’ train back to Derby.

I was never one for roller coasters but one had to go on the BOBS otherwise one had never been to or through, Manchester. It was a must do thing.

What sad times today, no direct trains Derby to Manchester, no Belle Vue, no BOBS, please tell me that the Shakespeare still serves cask ale of the highest quality."
Dave Trigg

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More on Belle Vue and its famous Bobs roller coaster
Footage of the Bobs in action (including on-ride) at YouTube
'Looking Back at Belle Vue': Book by Robert Nicholls

'The Belle Vue Story': Book by Robert Nicholls
'The Belle Vue Story': Book by Robert Nicholls - secondhand copies

'Belle Vue': Book by Jill Cronin
'Belle Vue': Book by Jill Cronin - secondhand copies

'Pocket Belle Vue: Manchester's Playground' by Heather Stackhouse and Daniel Hyams
'The History of the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens': DVD series
'The History of the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens': Video series
'The Elephant Who Walked to Manchester': Book by David Barnaby
'Roller Coasters: Their Amazing History': Book by Robert Preedy features the Bobs
'Roller Coasters: Shake, Rattle and Roll': Book by Robert Preedy features the Bobs

Information on the history of the Belle Vue Water Chute
The Water Chute in the glorious summer of 1976 (You Tube)
'Mad for it at Belle Vue: Taking in the scenery on Manchester's finest ride': Article by Nick Laister - coming soon
About George Drew
George Drew has been employed by a brewery, worked eighteen years in the paint/wallpaper DIY distribution trade and managed a retail outlet during his life, but for the last 30 years he has worked in the funeral business. 
"Although I am now over retirement age I still go in to work fairly often which keeps me occupied and interested. I have to say (although it goes without being said) that none of my working life has been half as enjoyable as riding roller coasters!"

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