The Dawn Raiders - Greg’s Story
Greg Pettit virtually lived in Percy’s fishing tackle shop from the age of 11 years old. He would prepare the casters, clean off the maggots and serve behind the counter. Greg probably has the most stories to tell of adventures with the person he called father. But first I must tell you how Greg and I first met you see. I was encouraged to fish my first junior match by Percy on Histon’s water on the Old West. My father dutifully transported me and a couple of kids to the match, which was held at Locksplit on the Old West. Despite having a reel with the handle the wrong way round for a left-hander like me and despite fishing a wire stemmed stick float I managed to come third out of 60 youngsters which kind of elevated me to the attention of Mr. Anderson and indeed with the other kids. I was a very shy little boy and so meeting up with these rufty tufty lot from the Coleridge area of Cambridge was quite an experience for me. The CFPAS Junior Match at Baitsbite Lock. One hundred or so kids all crammed round the Lock. Masses of prizes and glittering trophies – I was hooked. I drew a peg almost opposite Horningsea Church – a spot that has remained a favourite of mine on the Cam. This was at a time when anglers would wade in the water to get presentation of their stick floats spot on. Of course us lads would copy our elders and so there we were complete with green waders and those funny green visors that Card sharks use to have – all part of the fashion of the day you see. We must have looked ridiculous like frogs with green legs. My Dad helped me to my swim and as I was already almost a champion and one of Percy’s “New boys” I must admit I had a bit of a swagger about me. All this changed as I had the horror of one of Percy’s top boys below me. Yes Mr. Pettit. I had never experienced anything like what was to happen coming from a quiet background. Basically Greg talked for the complete four hours of the match. He would shout up oooou I have got another one or wey hey hey it’s a Gudgeon or would give me graphic details of how he was fishing. Greg’s technique in fishing and in particular his stick float presentation is second to none, however his constant changing of depth and shots I feel has often hampered him. My nerves were shot with his “I’ve got another one” or ooo aaah. I was shattered and well beaten but still got invited to the Junior Match group meeting by Percy. Quite frankly I don’t remember much about the team talk because Percy was really quite hard to follow – basically to learn from him you needed to watch. So after two pints of light and bitter - what an 11 year old – I know, I know Percy said it was alright! Who should appear in the Gents but Greg. Hello again he said in his chirpy voice and went to stand at the long black stone urinal. This was my first time drinking a couple of pints and so I was a little embarrassed it was going on so long. Greg unzipped, stood to my left but back a little from the cold smelly slab. You know us blokes when this sort of thing happens just stare into space but I could not help but admire the distance and range my friend was achieving. Blimey, I thought, were things ever going to change for little me! When Greg shook up, the sound was like a lasso for the second time in a month I was quite in awe. I learnt a few years later from Tony Phillips that Greg really could have made a mint from movies such is his manhood or is it a weapon of mass destruction! It is fair to say that partly due to Greg’s unbelievable kind nature that it always seemed that he did all the work for Percy. I was treated differently – being the poet and all! Percy recognised the sensitive side of me so I never got into the scrapes Greg seemed to. On one such occasion Greg was charged with looking over Percy’s paint pots while Percy was up the ladder painting a shop sign. It was somewhere in Cambridge where the pavement backs on to one of those concrete graveyards with ancient stones that appear to just about be standing up. There was railing behind where Percy was working which identified the boundary to the Church grounds. Greg never really took to painting and decorating and on this hot summers day just kept on chattering and on one occasion passing up to Percy another paint pot. All passed well for a couple of hours until Percy demanded “Don’t move the ladder” but reach across and overstretched. He cried out as he fell back from the ladder towards the spiked railings. Greg could do nothing as Percy fell, he landed against the railing on his back both arms raised as if in surrender, one arm falling between railing and the other the same. His head and neck fell against the railing but remarkably just at the spot there was one spike missing and so his neck just fell against the crossbar. Percy jumped up and apart from some bruising and a few scratches was unhurt. One of Percy’s nine lives! Return to Contents The Dawn Raiders - Ian’s Story Inertia property of matter by which it continues in existing state of rest or motion unless acted on by external forces. Yes, we have turned over a new leaf on this website and gone all “Educoutional” as Percy would say! Many years ago a certain very skinny Master Darler was one of a group of youngsters who enjoyed success in the CFPAS Junior Team. These lads were the “second generation” who received master tuition from Percy. Such names as Mick Dant, Dave Lindsay, Snowy Ison, John Calder and Tim Drake were amongst the group. Percy’s two-week summer courses were legendary, the lads received talks and demonstrations in the Seven Stars pub next to Percy’s fishing tackle shop. They would be shown how to tie hooks, make floats from peacock quill, anything Percy could think up. I remember at the time that Percy had developed the use of a very long quills, sometimes 18 inches and called them big Berthas. He would get the lads to make them some with black tips, some with red. The good ones he kept to share out with his team mates in the Pimpernel Teams (including myself). The floats these lads made were fantastic with really neat paint jobs. Many- though landed on the floor of the pub broken in two, as Percy would deem them not fit purpose, my words not his! Hours and hours were spent making the floats and I could never see the difference in the “good ones and the bad ones” but Percy could and strangely he never lost any friends when he broke our floats! The teach-ins were also used as team talks as Percy had gathered together lads who were to fish against Gipping juniors and in the Junior National. It was at such a meeting that Mr. Darler learnt about inertia. It was Percy explaining the principle about float fishing and what happens in the water to the float when you get a bite all very technical stuff and something Ian took to heart. Ian on his own admission will tell you that his schooldays were torture. He longed to be outside rather than doing all this book stuff and so when it came to the “ word of the week” Ian remembered what Percy had taught him “Inertia, miss” He spelt it and explained what it meant. The look on the young miss’s face must have been a picture. “Where did that come from?” Ian’s interest in such things as words and spelling had been limited as a nine year old. So Ian told his teacher from whom he had learnt the word “from Percy Anderson”. The teacher was so impressed, Ian was awarded a gold star, which was to be his first and last in his entire schooling. From what Ian tells me his teacher must have been relishing the following weeks word of the week from Ian as she thought that with the help of Percy here was a young lad making progress. Anyhow, back at school the teacher asked “what have you to tell us this week”? Ian chirped up with equal enthusiasm. You see the teaching he had received about inertia was part of Percy’s briefing for the youngsters trip to the River Welland on the Saturday something all the youngsters were looking forward to and of course after the trip young Mr. Darler was full of it as he had never been out of Cambridgeshire to fish let alone with a group of youngsters lead by the Pied Piper. So come the following week at school and the inevitable question Ian was positively bursting to share his experience. “Well miss us lads were taken to fish the River Welland in Lincolnshire with Percy Anderson”. The teacher welcomed this news as she had witnessed the master’s teachings and the influence he had on Ian. Yes Ian exclaimed ”Mr. Anderson explained a lot Miss” tell us she said. Well you see when we arrived I was desperate for the toilet” Hmm yes so I asked Mr. Anderson what should I do. Now imagine this skinny little kid in a large group of lively lads all of who had just had a greasy breakfast oh no, oh yes! Percy in his usual manner was quite dismissive, “Well go over there then son” His booming voice with that characteristic change in tone scolded the young lad. “Mr. Anderson you don’t understand” I neeeeed to go to the toilet”! Oh, oh, Percy replied and then putting on his matter of fact voice he guided Ian to a barbed wire fence put over a towel on the spikey rail “look son climb on here drop your trouser and sit on the edge of the fence” Percy advised young Ian in a way as if saying look son how come you don’t know this, I’m busy just get on with it. So Ian did, but then the little nuisance chirped up “what do I use for paper Percy?! Now the master was getting impatient he reached out into the River Welland and pulled up a Lilly leaf and handed it to Ian along with an empty crisp packed, use this son” This teach in was clearly on Ian’s mind as he told his teacher. “Yes Miss I learnt how to do a crap outside. This was Ians word and teaching of the week. The young miss was less than impressed and gave a black mark against Ian and told him to stand in the corner, one of many he would receive at school. A bit harsh especially for a nine year old. Still not much harm has come of it! On this same trip many of the lads were to meet him for the first time and the local school rivalries would cause great banter and fights. A lad called Peter challis always seemed to get picked on quite why no one knew. Anyhow on the way back the kind Mr. Anderson took everyone into this huge Fish and Chip Shop. Imagine it, Percy and Frank Morgan and 10 or 12 lads all in this shop. The inevitable fights broke out and there was this almighty din. Undetermined err undeterred, Percy growled, pack it in else you wont get any. It stopped except for the usual barging into each other. “Now what doe you want!?” Percy exclaimed. I’ll have sausage and chips, I’ll have pie. The joker of the pack Mick Dant pressed his face to the counter and exclaimed “I’ll have cods head and chips”, everyone fell about laughing! The chip lady turned and went to get the cod stopped in her tracks as if to acknowledge “Did I just hear right?” Look son stop being funny Percy growled “OK codshead” Mick replied. So this is how Percy got his nickname ‘Codshead’. Some of you will be thinking it is a bit cheeky especially after the generosity of Mr. Anderson buying the chips but spare a thought for Frank, as it was him that lent a fiver to Percy to buy the chips! Never to be seen again – quality.