VIC REEVES discovered a rare piece of Darlington’s railway history but was denied the acclaim on The Northern Echo’s front page, he revealed this week.

Surreal comedian Vic, who grew up in Darlington in the 1960s, was a guest on the Radio5Live Drive show on Wednesday which was broadcast live from outside the Hole in the Wall pub in the Market Place.

Ostensibly the programme, which also broadcast from Middlesbrough and Hartlepool during the week, was in the area to talk about local politics ahead of the May 6 elections – and Memories was invited along for a little historical perspective.

Far more interesting, though, was the interview that host Anna Foster had recorded with Vic, and he set the scene for listeners by describing Darlington: “My mate, Bob, is from Middlesbrough and I used to say I was from the posh county town. It is an old market town with a really good feel about it.”

Vic moved to Darlington in 1964 when he was five and was known by his real name, Jim Moir. His father, who had worked as a linotype operator for the Yorkshire Post in Leeds, had a new job with The Northern Echo in Priestgate.

The family – there was his sister, Lois, as well – lived in the Yarm Road area, attending Heathfield primary school and then Eastbourne secondary.

“I was a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix,” he said. “When I was about nine or 10, I was going along High Row and saw this white Daimler and in the back was Jimi Hendrix. I ran along beside it and he turned round and smiled at me!”

This must have been the legendary night of February 2, 1967, when Hendrix’s first single, Hey Joe, had just reached the Top 10, and he played at the Imperial Hotel in Grange Road – his favourite Fender Stratocaster guitar was stolen and is rumoured to still be in town (the last we heard was that it was in an attic in Middleton Tyas, but we are not allowed to tell anyone).

Vic, who spoke of buying joss sticks at the Guru boutique, revealed his pride in the town’s railway history.

“A lot of people know Darlington from flying through the station, but it is a brilliantly historic place with the birth of the railways,” he told Anna.

“When I was a kid, I used to knock about on the disused railway, messing about and I had a stick and was whipping at some nettles and I found a stone which said ‘Darlington that way, Stockton this way’ from the original first railway in the world - that is incredible!

“And I told me dad and he old one of his mates at The Northern Echo who went and dug it up and got himself on the front of The Northern Echo giving it to the museum, and I was like ‘I found that – that was me’.

“The stone’s in Darlington museum, but I lost out on that front page.”

Presumably the stone went to the Tubwell Row museum (of which more in future weeks) and so we imagine it ended up in the collection at the Head of Steam. However, there are lots of stones at the museum – boundary markers, milestones – but none tie in with Vic’s description.

After school, Vic worked castrating pigs at a farm at Neasham before becoming an apprentice engineer in Newton Aycliffe. However, the bright lights of London were calling, and he left Darlington when he was 19.