On December 20 1973 local electricity board MANWEB described the power supply situation as "critical, and still confused" as they issued a timetable for areas in St Helens at high-risk of being blacked out.

The town had been divided into geographical zones with each day of the week split into eight, three-hour slots. Residents could see at a glance where power cuts would take place if MANWEB deemed them necessary.

The energy and fuel crisis that had been triggered by the Yom Kippur War and greatly worsened by a miners' work to rule in support of a 35% pay claim was badly affecting production at some St Helens' firms.

For example, output at Rockware had been slashed by 25%, in spite of the Pocket Nook glass firm installing its own generator. Pilkingtons was in a more fortunate position as their operations had been classed as "continuous process", which meant they were exempt from cuts as they could not easily start / stop production.

St Helens Star:  Advert from sports store Ben Brooks in the St Helens Star of December 20, 1973 Advert from sports store Ben Brooks in the St Helens Star of December 20, 1973 (Image: St Helens Star)

The 10:30pm television switch-off, which had been imposed in mid-December to save electricity, was suspended over Christmas and viewers could briefly put their worries to one side and enjoy TV specials from Morecambe and Wise, Mike Yarwood and The Two Ronnies.

But that respite soon passed and on January 1 1974 commercial premises were only permitted to use electricity on three specified days in each week. At that time 1,187 workers on reduced hours in St Helens had applied for benefit. But once the impact of the 3-day week kicked in that number soon rose to 4,700.

The power crisis had also led to street lighting being reduced by half and Chief Inspector Eric Fletcher of St Helens Police said he was concerned of a rise in road accidents. That was in connection with what he called the "disturbing" results of a headlight testing campaign on cars that revealed that only 1 in 5 had been satisfactory.

On January 10 the fledgling St Helens Star described how the New Year sales were still continuing in the town, writing: "The gloom may be enshrouding the country and we may all be concerned about the three-day working week and power restrictions, but as far as town centre shopping is concerned it's a case of ‘business as usual’. The public are buying at least at the same rate as January 1973 and the sales staff of local shops and stores are coping and working with added enthusiasm, despite the disadvantages of partial lighting, dim emergency lighting and, in some cases, no lighting at all."

Then on the 11th the St Helens Reporter explained how some of the larger firms were coping with the 3-day week better than others. Crosby Spring Interiors made spring seating for the motor industry at their Fleet Lane plant. They described their first experience of three-day production as "disastrous".

Some firms compensated for lost production through undertaking overtime. But Parr clothing manufacturer Northgate said they had a high number of married women with families among their 850 workers and overtime was not an option for them. The electric blanket maker Lantor was also on the Parr Industrial Estate and they had lost 50% of their usual output.

Meanwhile, MANWEB reported receiving telephone calls from shopkeepers in St Helens "incensed" about other traders breaking the electricity regulations. A MANWEB spokesman said: "It's my opinion that the small shops are getting away with all they can.

There's nothing much we can do about it. We have to ask people to ring the police."

St Helens Star:  Status Discount advert in the St Helens Star of January 10 1974, which promises light in both their Reginald Road and Boundary Road stores Status Discount advert in the St Helens Star of January 10 1974, which promises light in both their Reginald Road and Boundary Road stores (Image: St Helens Star)

On February 5 the miners converted their work to rule into a full-blown strike which led to Prime Minister Ted Heath calling a snap General Election. That resulted in Harold Wilson returning to power and the Labour leader quickly conceded the miners' 35% pay claim and the 3-day week came to an end on March 7 1974, although other restrictions continued for some time.

Stephen Wainwright's latest book The Hidden History Of St Helens Vol 3 is available from the St Helens Book Stop and the World of Glass. Also online with free delivery from eBay and Amazon. Price £12. Vols 1 and 2 are also still available.