A great-grandad in charge of the shift the night Emley Moor TV mast came down has spoken publicly of his memories for the first time.
Senior shift engineer Brian Glendenning, now 86, has only told of what happened to family and friends.
But now, persuaded by granddaughter Donna, Brian has spoken to the Examiner about what happened when the iconic mast crashed down at 5.01pm on March 19, 1969.B
Dad-of-two Brian, of Skelmanthorpe, was in charge of the three-man night shift which had just come on duty on an icy and foggy night.
The 1,264ft tall structure suddenly collapsed, knocking out TV screens across Yorkshire.
Looking back some 46 years later Brian, who has four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, still struggles to comprehend what happened.
“All I can remember is a rumbling, thundering noise. I can still hear it today when people talk about it,” he said.
“We just had no idea what it was. No-one ever thought the mast could fall down. We rushed out and peered into the fog and eventually we saw it. There was just a 10ft stump left. It was a hell of an experience.”
Brian, who worked for the Independent Television Authority, was with fellow engineers Alan Redgrove and Pete Bottom on the night shift when pictures went off on the monitors and the transmitters crashed.
Emley Moor mast timelapse video below
It was Brian’s job to keep YTV pictures being beamed into people’s homes but when their efforts at re-setting equipment failed they realised something catastrophic had happened.
“We had heard some odd rumblings and we knew ice had been falling off the mast but this rumbling went on for quite a while.
“We ran down to the ground floor and the boss was in the office under a table, or at least somebody said he was.
“We went out and all we could see was what was left of the mast. We rang head office in London thinking there would be no-one still there at that time.
“But there had been a meeting and the someone answered the phone. We told them the mast had come down but I don’t think they believed us.”
The crew also called the police and “anyone else they could think of” and Brian also rang his wife Elsie – at the family home in Lancashire – and his parents in Leeds to tell them he was safe.
In fact, no-one was hurt and workers at the mast – including electricians who had been up the mast earlier – all escaped unscathed, a fact Brian still marvels over.
The nearest to tragedy was the Emley Moor Methodist Church. Clr Silverwood Burt, 68, and church caretaker Jeffrey Jessop, 42, were assessing damage to the roof caused by falling ice when the mast crashed on top of them.
Clr Silverwood was saved by the crash helmet he always wore to protect from the known hazard of ice falling from the mast and support cables. Mr Jessop escaped with a minor hand injury.
Once the authorities had been alerted there was little else to be done that night.
Still shaking, Brian, Alan and Pete took themselves off to the nearby Three Acres pub for a swift pint!
“Well, what else do you do when Emley Moor mast falls down?” smiled Brian. “There was absolutely nothing else we could do.”
Brian insists it was only the one pint and that they went straight back afterwards. But what happened the rest of that night is lost in the mists of time.
Brian recalls a young YTV reporter called Richard Whiteley fluffing his lines when reporting on the drama later and remembers how quickly a temporary replacement mast was erected.
“It can’t have been more than a day or so later before the small mast was put up to get the television pictures back on,” said Brian.
“The riggers worked in freezing conditions and kept having to come in for a warm up.
“It was said at the time that if the pictures hadn’t been restored that weekend YTV would have gone bust. No TV, no money.”
Brian still puzzles over reports that high winds were partly responsible. His recollection is that it was calm on the night.
He believes ice falling off one of the mast cables resulted in a piece of the structure coming away bringing the whole thing down.
The engineers also kept weather records for the Met Office. They collected data on wind speed, snow depth, temperatures and the like and the station received payment which was used for staff welfare and parties.
Brian said that ledger disappeared on the night and entries would have answered questions about the weather conditions.
Brian recalled there was a long-running investigation into what happened and he said staff were shown a mock-up of the mast and a demonstration of how it was said to have collapsed.
The model was very basic and caused much amusement and those giving the explanation apparently gave up trying.
Brian’s son John, 57, listened intently as his father recounted the experience.
WATCH below as Lauren Ballinger takes a trip up Emley Moor mast
“It’s never been put down before,” he said. “It’s part of local history and people still talk about it.”
Building work on the current tower started in 1970, and colour transmissions began on January 21, 1971.
The Grade II listed Arqiva Tower is now is one of Yorkshire’s favourite landmarks. It is the UK’s tallest freestanding structure at 1,084ft (330m) and takes seven minutes to get to the top.
Arqiva has just applied for planning permission to erect a temporary mast alongside the concrete one while essential work is carried out on the transmitter.