Long before Norman Lamont’s famous “Black Wednesday” – with our future Chancellor of the Exchequer just 23 years old – Falmouth suffered a very black day of its own, writes Mike Truscott.
Friday, the 13th of August 1965, was definitely unlucky for numerous puzzled and angry residents and workers in the town.
A film of oily soot invaded houses, shops and hotels, and turned white cars black.
At the Falmouth Club’s open tennis tournament, it was a case of “new balls, please” to replace the blackened ones.
Throughout the day, housewives, shop assistants and hotel staff were engaged in “a back-breaking, never-ending spring-clean.”
Properties near the harbour were the main sufferers, but the soot also penetrated homes as far inland as Boslowick estate and the edge of Budock parish.
Harold Lovell, of Norma Lovell, gown shop, complained: “The whole of my shop is sprinkled with soot. Valuable dresses are ruined.”
Basil Bradley, Old English Tea Rooms: “We had to spring clean the kitchen and scrub the table tops in the café. This is just too bad when we have thousands of visitors in town.”
Miss E Uren, manageress, Cresta Gown Shop: “I have called in my London head office because there was so much damage to stock and so much dirt on the outside of the shop.”
John Bowen, chemist: “I have never seen such a mess. The pavement and street were black. It took my three girls a solid hour cleaning up outside the shop alone.”
The culprit, it seemed, was the newly-converted schools cruise ship Nevasa at Falmouth Docks.
Tests were being carried out on her boilers and turbo-generators, and an accumulation of oily soot was said to have been dislodged and driven across town by a strong wind.