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28 October 2014

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You are in: Isle of Man > History > Black Thursday

Funeral car

People pay their respects (MNH)

Black Thursday

This is the story of two people whose lives were changed forever when a plane travelling from the Isle of Man in 1958 crashed into the side of a mountain near Bolton in England.

It was February 27 1958 and 4 year old Howard Callow had been given the day off school due to a childhood illness. 

His mum was downstairs making him a hot drink and his dad was away on business.

Howard Callow

Howard Callow

Despite feeling a little poorly, Howard was enjoying being at home in bed listening to the radio.

All was peaceful until a news bulletin came on air which was to change the young boy’s life forever.

“I was lying in bed and I heard the announcement from the BBC that reports had started to come in of a plane crash near Manchester.

The front of the Silver City Plane

The front of the Silver City Plane

I was aware that my father had gone on a plane that morning to Manchester so I shouted to my mother and that started the whole chain of events which led to her finding out that my father was dead.”

Howard’s father was one of 35 Manxmen who were killed in the plane crash which happened when a plane from the Isle of Man crashed into Winter Hill in Lancashire, after it went off course en route to Manchester.

Wreckage of the Winter Hill crash

Wreckage of the Winter Hill crash

The Silver City Airways plane was taking a group of Island businessmen, including engineers, technicians, service station owners and salesmen to a Battery factory but the group, most of whom knew each other well, never arrived in Manchester.

It was thought at the time that the Bristol Wayfarer aircraft cart-wheeled in midair after hitting the mountain in a storm.

There was no fire at the accident scene and a few survivors miraculously walked free of the wreckage.

Fred Kennish from Douglas was not one of them.

Aircraft remains

Aircraft remains on Winter Hill

“I remember the journey down to the airport.  We were all laughing and joking.  The last thing I remember was being on the plane and taking a puff of a cigarette.

Then everything went black.  I do not remember anymore but I have heard lots of stories from people who rescued us.

The emergency crew who were called out to Winter Hill only had two stretchers.  I was the first person they came across and my injuries were so bad they assumed I was dead.

They straightened me up into the dead position and left me there while they dealt with the others who were showing signs of life.

The next thing I remember is being in the ambulance when I was having difficulty breathing.  I had punctured my lung and it felt like I had a hole in my back.

Every time I took a breath in it felt like the air was leaving my body through my back.

Aircraft remains on the site of Winter Hill 1958

Aircraft remains on Winter Hill

The doctors couldn’t believe I survived the crash. Nearly every bone in my body was broken and my ribs were all smashed.  My scalp was ripped back from my face, both my collar bones and shoulder blades were broken and my spine was fractured in three places.

Apparently my leg was only just hanging on and later they thought they would have to amputate but luckily it was avoidable.

They had to carry me down the mountainside on a stretcher with snow drifts and frozen bogs everywhere.  They must have had a hell of a job getting us to hospital.

Fred Kennish

Fred Kennish

When they did get me to the hospital I was given the last rights a couple of times and then to everyone’s surprise I started to get better.

When I came round I was in the same room as my business partner, Crosby who also survived. 

We worked out that there must have been a plane crash but they doctors did not tell us how many people were already dead. I just assumed the others were in a different ward.

It was a week later before we found out that so many people had been killed.  That was a real blow because we knew everyone on that plane.  I worked with them every day.  We were all a close knit family.”

Funeral procession.  Image courtesy of MNH

Funeral procession after Winter Hill

Speaker of the House of Keys at the time was Sir Joseph Qualtrough.  He said in a message broadcast in the BBC news on the evening of the crash, “This day will long be remembered on the Island as Black Thursday.  This holiday Island is tonight a place of gloom”

This month, 50 years on, we remember those who died and all the families affected.

last updated: 20/03/2008 at 14:12
created: 26/02/2008

Have Your Say

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Jackie Jackson
So glad you made it Uncle KiffyLove Jacqueline

david osborne
i was there today 9/4/09 and seen the sight,now i have looked up,what went on,i feel sad for the loss of life and share the hurt of years gone by.

Ian Melrose Hill
Fred is my cousin and I would love to have a copy of the interview. I have not seen it so I cannot comment but the story has been in our family all my life and I am 55.

Gill Cain
I am related to Tommy Callow (Howard's Dad) and my Mum used to remember him fondly. I am very glad this sad event in IOM history has been remembered.

Ken Williams
I'd like to thank the Douglas Rotary Club for staging the memorial service at St Johns.Excellent job.One minor criticism....The relatives have always been overlooked. Why couldn't any of those directly affected have been offered the opportunity to carry out a reading? It felt as though, 50 years later we were still being 'talked' about rather being talked to.Anyway...A great service.ThanksKen Williams

Chris Lea
The site in Clifton, Salford where the party were intended to visit still stands today. The Chloride Industrial Batteries plant has gone through several waves of downsizing and now only operates as a UK sales and Warehouse function for Enersys (formally Chloride).Several of us today discussed with sadness the tragedy and would like to pass on our thoughts to the families who lost loved ones in the tragedy.

Dawn Oakes-Dean
How can I get a copy of the BBC interview as the last man interviewed was my Grandad Mr Pilkington and would be good to give to my mum.

What an incredible story !!!My thoughts are with all involved.

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