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South Tyneside group’s unlucky break

Harton Comprehensive School's pop group Marble Index received trophies and a cheque from Mr Douglas Robinson, general manager of TSB North-East, as their prize for winning the TSB sponsored Rock School competition in conjunction with the BBC.  Left to right, Colin Smith, John Winfield, Graham Winter and Steven Cooper.
Harton Comprehensive School's pop group Marble Index received trophies and a cheque from Mr Douglas Robinson, general manager of TSB North-East, as their prize for winning the TSB sponsored Rock School competition in conjunction with the BBC. Left to right, Colin Smith, John Winfield, Graham Winter and Steven Cooper.

A young talented South Tyneside band were certainly out of luck when they were due to star in a national TV show which could have propelled them to fame and fortune.

For on the day that the half-hour BBC programme was due to be aired, the Argentinians invaded the Falklands Islands – and the show was postponed.

This tale of “unfortunate timing” comes from Kathleen Winter, and follows the publication of a photo of the aforementioned band, Marble Index, in Time Of Our Lives on February 10.

The picture, which was taken in April 1982, showed the Harton Comprehensive School’s pop group receiving trophies and a cheque from Mr Douglas Robinson, general manager of TSB North-East, as their prize for winning the TSB-sponsored Rock School competition, in conjunction with the BBC.

Pictured, left to right, are Colin Smith, John Winfield, Graham Winter and Steven Cooper.

And it is Graham’s mam, Kathleen, who got in touch to reveal more about the group’s success – and their subsequent bad luck.

“They had such a lovely time when they won the national competition,” says Kathleen.

“The four of them went down to London, and they were due to appear in a half-hour programme on the BBC.

“I had everyone geared up to watch it, but unfortunately when it was due to be broadcast, Argentinian President General Galtieri decided to invade the Falklands, and there was nothing else on any of the TV stations that night.”

Although the lads later appeared on BBC’s Look North, they never gained the national coverage they would have got had the original show been broadcast when it was scheduled to be.

Yet despite their ill luck at the time, all four, says Kathleen, have gone on to achieve success in their own chosen career paths.

Two of the group members, Colin and John, are still involved with music, “writing and composing music for the stage and all sorts of things”.

Graham, meanwhile, works in computerised advertising.

All three now live in London, where they keep in touch – and still perform on stage as the Funking Barstewards.

Marble Index’s drummer, Steven Cooper, lives in Devon, where he works with young people.

Kathleen said all four of them used to work in bars, hence the name of the new group, who occasionally play weddings, birthdays and other such similar gigs.

“Although Steven lives in Devon, the other three are like a brotherhood.

“It’s great, in my mind, that they have kept in touch,” adds Kathleen, who is a member of the Harton Harmonisers barbershop group – along with John’s mam Ella.

The dramatic events which led to the lads’ “no show” happened as follows.

In the early hours of April 2, 1982, in the wake of violent anti-government riots in Buenos Aires, the military junta, which ruled Argentina, launched an invasion of the Falkland Islands.

Faced with overwhelming Argentine force, Sir Rex Hunt (who was the British Governor of the islands at the time) surrendered to Admiral Carlos Büsser (the Argentine amphibious force commander) at 9.15am.

It is reported that: “The next day, Argentina sent troops to capture and occupy South Georgia and the uninhabited South Sandwich Islands.

“Historically, Argentina had claimed the islands were part of the then federal territory of Tierra del 
Fuego and South Atlantic islands.”

On April 22, a British task force arrived in Falklands waters, and three days later British troops recaptured South Georgia.

“Following over a month of fierce naval and air battles, the British landed on May 21, and a land campaign followed, until Governor Mario Menéndez surrendered to Major General Jeremy Moore on June 14 in Port Stanley.

“Six days later, on June 20, British forces landed on the South Sandwich Islands and Southern Thule, where 10 unarmed Argentines handed over their station.”

In total 649 Argentines and 255 Britons died during the war.

l Did you serve in the Falklands war? Please get in touch if you did.