Well it all started when I received an email all the way from Canada in May. Professor Andre Kuczewski wrote an introduction and asked if I would support in guiding him around Kidsgrove if he were to make a visit in November. I took the chance to email him back to make him aware he would be most welcome. I was most impressed that someone from Canada was so interested in Kidsgrove and Butt Lane and for a very good reason. As many people will know Reginald Mitchell was the designer of the famous spitfire that some say helped us win World War II. R.J.Mitchell was born at 115 Congleton Road, Butt Lane, Staffordshire so Kidsgrove do have a special claim to this great mans existence.
Professor Andre studies the life of Reginald Mitchell and is also a professional photographer for a foundation website back in his home of Canada, Quebec. I have to say he truly is a fantastic representative of the people of Canada and he wholeheartedly believes in preserving our history. What is most amazing is that he knows more about British history than that of his home nation.
So on route from the train station the Professor took a visit to 115 Congleton Road where he took snaps of the blue plaque that is situated on the famous resident’s former home. Whilst the pictures were being taken a lady who lives in the property came out to find out what we were doing. I explained that the Professor had come all the way from Canada to see the blue plaque that was situated next to her front window. She then walked back into the home to then re-emerge with a souvenir booklet of Reginald Mitchell’s life to hand to our visitor. Her kindness and generosity was well received and Andre rustled in his bag to then hand over a gift box. She opened the gift box to find about 20 Canada poppy pin badges for her to share with her family and friends. After exchanging a few kind words we then got into the car to drive Andre through Reginald Mitchell way in Sandyford to arrive back at Kidsgrove Town Hall for about 9.15am.
At Kidsgrove Town Hall a reception had been organised by Kidsgrove Town Council and this included Joan Walley MP, Town mayor Gill Burnett and Deputy Town Mayor Kyle Robinson (Me), Jon Honeysett, Cllr Janet Parson and her husband John Parsons in his town crier regalia, Councillor Mrs Bates, Allport, Burgess and town clerk Jill Waring.
A proclamation from John Parsons was read out for the Professor to welcome him to our great town and county. Gifts were then presented by the Town Mayor to the well received visitor. One of the gifts was a framed picture of a Spitfire signed by Reginald Mitchell’s nephew. Professor Andre then also had gifts to present including books, Canada poppy badges and flags.
The event was enjoyed by all and many of us left the town hall knowing a lot more about Reginald Mitchell and what Canada did to contribute to saving the world from the Nazis.