Year in Review 2018: Jim Rodford, Isla Austin and Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks Landlord Christo Tofalli outside the pub which is in line for a £1 million r

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks Landlord Christo Tofalli outside the pub which is in line for a £1 million revamp. Picture: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

Where else to start a year in review but with the Herts Advertiser’s first front page of 2018.

Isla Austin with a nurse at GOSH. Picture: Rick Austin.

Isla Austin with a nurse at GOSH. Picture: Rick Austin. - Credit: Archant

Isla Austin, from Leverstock Green, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer, in 2016 and in January this year we ran a story about her family’s efforts to raise £155,000 to take her for treatment in New York.

Thankfully, due to some very generous people across the world, Isla made it to New York.

Hers was one of a number of stories we have reported multiple times on and one of the more frequent regulars in this year’s editions made its first big appearance on January 11.

If the Herts Advertiser was Cheers, this company would be Norm: an appearance sparks an outcry and a hubbub.

Jim Rodford (of The Zombies) joins The Runaway Boys on stage. Picture: Aidan Bell.

Jim Rodford (of The Zombies) joins The Runaway Boys on stage. Picture: Aidan Bell. - Credit: Archant

But whereas Norm brings joy to the patrons of that Bostonian bar, the company we are referring to here rarely brings anything but tribulation to our customers.

We are, of course, referring to Govia Thameslink Railway, which was criticised in a National Audit report we wrote about in January.

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The report found a lack of drivers was to blame for poor performance on Govia services, as was the company’s and Network Rail’s poor understanding the frailty of the rail infrastructure.

Also at the start of 2018, an old evil came back under the public spotlight when police announced they were looking at new leads in the unsolved murder case of Anne Noblett.

Anne Noblett. Picture: Herts police

Anne Noblett. Picture: Herts police - Credit: Archant

Seventeen-year-old Anne was strangled to death in 1958, but nobody was ever charged.

Following an appeal to mark the anniversary of her untimely demise, several people came forward.

Another, more recent death was reported on in January as well: St Albans’ beloved Jim Rodford, most widely-known as the bassist with The Zombies and The Kinks, died on January 20.

It was only recently that he had received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hertfordshire and the outpouring of emotion from the city was as widespread as it was heartfelt.

Also this month, the consultation opened for the new Local Plan, including proposals to build 15,000 new homes and 14 new schools.

Under the plans published in January, eight Green Belt sites would be used for housing, including north west Harpenden, north east Harpenden, north of St Albans, east St Albans, land at London Colney, land at Chiswell Green, east Hemel Hempstead (south) and east Hemel Hempstead (north).

Then in February, the first exhibitions for the Museum + Gallery, which opened later this year, were revealed.

These included a timeline detailing the history of St Albans called The City That Went Up The Hill and a display of important objects suggested by local people called St Albans on Demand.

Another new development we covered was the proposals for Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which landlord Christo Tofalli wants to renovate while maintaining its historic facade and not jeopardising the amenities of surrounding residents.

New dining pavilions, proper disabled facilities and a home brewery are all a far cry from the inn Oliver Cromwell stayed at all those centuries ago.

On February 22, the now-retired Ch Insp Shane O’Neill vowed to tackle the wave of burglaries sweeping the district.

He also reassured residents St Albans remained one of the safest places to live in the county.

Both his successors in the role, the short-lived Stuart Cheek and incumbent Lynda Coates, have continued to try and bring down the number of burglaries.

Meanwhile, excavations around St Albans cathedral were underway, unearthing tombs of the church’s benefactors and more recent burials from when the site was a parish graveyard.

2018 marked a hundred years since women received the right to vote through the sacrifices of suffragettes and suffragists.

The Herts Ad marked this momentous occasion by interviewing several prominent women in the district.

Our own Franki Berry wrote a shocking column on what it’s like to be a female reporter, including men of the Neanderthal variety who call in and assume she must be a receptionist and not a senior reporter at this paper.

Though the anger we feel towards them is nothing compared to the anger expressed by Harpenden commuters at a meeting between them and Govia Thameslink Railway in March.

They were well-represented by Emily Ketchin, who pointed out the shortcomings in the May timetable change, then upcoming.

She eked out an admission from Govia that the consultations that had been run had not wholly included the timetable changes, as the company only knew about the changes after the consultations had started.

The concerns would be justified in May, when trains became less frequent than changes in Brexit secretaries.