Angling: Heartfelt story has a powerful message

Power cables and pylons are an obvious danger to anglers.
Power cables and pylons are an obvious danger to anglers.
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REMEMBER last week I told you of when Peter Hardcastle was packing up his gear after a fishing session at Straveley Lakes near Harrogate when his pole came in contact with a low-level power cable which was carrying 56,000 volts and he suffered the full effects of that.

Fortunately there were a couple of other anglers at the lake and they immediately called for an ambulance. The outcome was that Peter suffered horrendous burns to his body and he also lost his lower left leg.

He was transferred to St James’s Hospital in Leeds and for six weeks he remained in a coma and was even given the last rites by his parish priest. I used to visit him regularly but it was family only, so his wife told me to say that I was his brother, so I did, and that gave me admittance.

As I have said many times, Peter was as tough as old boots and so determined was he to get back by the waterside with a rod in his hand. Eventually, after almost a year in hospital, he was released after being fitted with a prosthetic lower leg.

Obviously he could not fish in the big contests that he used to dominate, but that period was the birth of the commercials so he started at a small club that fished venues giving him easy access, with people who were always willing to help him with his gear. And he even won four of his first six matches. He then discovered a venue that really suited him, Fleets Dam near Barnsley which was owned by local star Alan Hansen.

Peter loved the place but the only snag was that he was not allowed to travel on his own and he had to have someone to accompany him at all times.

The matches that we used to fish were on a Wednesday so, after explaining the situation to my then employer, it was generously agreed that I could take my annual two weeks holiday on 10 successive Wednesdays. Peter by then had received his compensation cheque from the power company which allowed him to buy his council house and also, for the first time in his life, a decent car.

By then he had a part-time job in an Armley tackle shop, so probably for the first time in his life he was financially stable. The people at Fleets Dam were brilliant with him, bending the rules so I could have the adjacent peg after Peter had drawn his. He was also allowed to park his car behind him.

Everything seemed to be going well for the next year or so but then he was taken ill, this time with cancer. It was obviously a question of time and the last time I saw him in hospital – in 1992 – he was very ill. His three grown-up children were there and Peter said, “I am a bit tired so I will have a little sleep,” as I left.

By the time I got home the phone was ringing and it was Peter’s son to tell me that his dad had just died. He was just 61.