|The Rushden Echo, 11th July 1969, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Memories of Rushden’s first ambulance driver
One of the visitors to the St. John Ambulance station in Rushden on Saturday had more than a passing interest in the brigade in Rushden.
He is Mr. Cyril Leeding, who drove the first ambulance in Rushden 50 years ago, and was an ambulance driver for a total of 21 years.
Mr. Leeding, now 66, drove the first ambulance that was given to the town in 1919. He worked for the Lightstrung garage, which at that time supplied the drivers for the ambulances.
“I was never officially a member of the St. John Ambulance Brigade but I drove ambulances from 1919 to 1935 and then again from 1938 to 1943,” he said.
“The arrangement for calls in those days was that people would call Mr. T. Swindall in Station Road, and he would then call the Lightstrung. I would then go and pick up the ambulance man who was on stand-by that week,” said Mr. Leeding. It was in the mid-twenties that the town got their first proper ambulance the first two were given to the town by the War Department.
This ambulance, a Morris was bought by the motor ambulance association of the town. Its design inside is basically the same as that inside ambulances today.
Then in 1928 the town got their first full-time ambulance man, Mr. A. Prigmore, who had previously served as an ambulance man part-time.
This was part of the St. John ambulance service as we know it today, but it was not until some years later that Rushden was to have its own ambulance station.
Mr. Leeding still recalls those days when he drove the ambulance and he can remember driving to most of the hospitals in London.
“I can remember driving to Margate and Oxford as well as Guy’s and other hospitals in London,” said Mr. Leeding.
As a driver Mr. Leeding was also kept very busy. “There was hardly a week when we had less than three calls and some weeks we had perhaps enough calls to keep us busy full time.”
One of the people Mr. Leeding taught to drive was Mr. C. Wood who was later to become the first head of the ambulance station in Rushden.
Now Mr. Leeding lives in Carnegie Street, Rushden, which is only a short distance from the Rushden ambulance station.