Len Preston - my recollections of a funny, quirky and caring man - by James Henry Clarke.
I came to Fleetwood Nautical College as an eithteen year old to study to become a Radio Officer and was fortunate to find myself boarded out with the Prestons at their Balmoral Terrace home. The household comprised Len & Dorothy plus Aunt Priscilla and the children Stephen & Sylvia who then just a school girl had long blond hair.
Coming from a strict Catholic home I was probably more prepared than other students for the strict adherence to the Methodist lifestyle which was a hallmark of the Prestons - led by Metodist Lay Preacher Len. One example of which was the handwritten sign that sat on top of the Black & White TV (Colour only came to British TV in 1968) in the boarders' lounge which read "On Six Days I work and on the Seventh Day I Rest". Now, given that us diligent students found ourselves most evenings studying for our exams it was to the weekend that we looked forward (those of us who did not have our family near enough to travel home) for a bit of rest and relaxation. So, to discover that the whole of Sunday was to be a TV-free day turned out to be a bit of blow. Still, that was one of the inducements that led me to take up buying (one of my few luxuries) and reading the voluminous Sunday Times - something that I continued for many years when I eventually came ashore in the mid-1970s. Then my attention was diverted from silly things like television to more serious matters like my growing attachment to my new girlfriend Sue Dixon from Manchester. Initially, Sue travelled by coach from Manchester about one weekend a month and Len & Dorothy kindly provided B&B for her. On several weekends I used to hitch-hike to Manchester to stay with the Dixon family. This it turned out very much suited Len & Dorothy since it freed them up from having to cater for me (sometimes the only student who remained 7 days a week) on those weekends and facilitated Len's growing duties on the Methodist Circuit which often involved travel to some far-flung Churches to be guest-preacher on Sunday. Then I somehow got my hands on an old 405 Line VHF television set which I installed in my room (by then I had graduated from sharing with several colleagus to my very own room) and courtesy of a handy bent wire coathanger I fashioned a Heath-Robinson aerial. I made sure to keep the volume very low and seemed to spend quite a bit of time trying to stop the picture from moving up the screen by adjusting the horizantal hold on the back of the set. As the valves warmed-up and the various components' temperature rose of course the whole thing became a rapidly jumping picture with me jumping up and down as I tried to freeze the frame of the picture. It sure kept me busy on Sundays what with that and the Sunday Times.
Whilst Dorothy was the serious and industrious housewife and mother to her children (and a surrogate mother to us boarders) Len was the jovial and quirky friendly type who liked to test out his humour on us youngsters. Little did we know that he was in the early stages of studying to be a Secondary School Teacher and perhaps we served as his guinea-pigs as he practised his skills in communicating with the younger generation. He obviously did it well since Sue (who became my wife a couple of yerars later) and I never forgot Len & Dorothy and we not only kept in touch via Christmas cards each year but also visited each other from time to time over the years.
I will miss Len as the kind of father-figure to whom I could turn for advice if I ever felt the need and I am sure that I am just one of many tens of thousands who are thankful to have met and been helped by Len Preston. I know that Len will be entertaining many more in Heaven where no doubt he is testing his quirky sense of humour on a whole new population of kindred spirits.
Sue and I extend our sincere condolences to Dorothy, and Stephen (daughter Sylvia sadly pre-deceased Len in 1995) and family.