FOR childhood friends Yvonne Ridgley and Sandra Bolton, a holiday to Spain had been in their sights all year.

The 17-year-olds, who grew up on the same avenue in Ainsworth, had been inseparable all through attending Ainsworth CE School and Radcliffe Secondary Modern.

And this continued when they left their formal education, with Yvonne starting work at J Wild’s in Radcliffe, and Sandra at Constellation Luggage.

But in 1969, when their annual holidays came around, instead of relaxing the girls worked at a guest house in Blackpool.

This was all to pay for a package holiday to the continent, which would be caught cruelly short by the ill-fated Dan Air Flight 1903 to Barcelona.

Fifty years on, Yvonne’s younger sister Jean Stobart says that the memories of her elder sibling, and her close pal, around that time, still vividly remain.

She told the Bury Times how Yvonne and Sandra, both members of the YMCA in Bury, were also keen roller skaters at the Nevada in Bolton.

In the week before they jetted out, money was still tight - when the girls went for a fish and chip supper they ended up having to peel spuds for their meals.

The anticipation had built up by the time they were set to depart to the former Ringway airport in Manchester.

Jean added: “There was a lot of excitement as these two 17-year-old young ladies set off to the airport, for their 4pm flight. Laughing and giggling away.

“Early the next morning, our next door neighbour came to tell us that she had heard on the radio that a plane flying to Spain had crashed.

“Dad somehow obtained the phone number to ring for information. But as we had no phone, he had to go to a neighbour to use theirs.

“Unfortunately, they confirmed Yvonne and Sandra were on the passenger list but at that time they did not know the extent of the crash and if there were any survivors, being told they thought the plane went down in the sea.”

Like a number of families have since relayed, obtaining information about what had happened in north-east Spain was frustratingly slow, until official confirmation was given for the fatalities.

One local minister, says Jean, the Rev K Bullock, was a “tower of strength” during this time and later arranged a memorial service at Ainsworth’s village church.

Her parents, Joe and Eileen Ridgley, flew out to Spain with a number of other families, in November that year, a journey they would subsequently make many times.

In the intervening years, a memorial was erected at Arbucies to the 112 victims of the Dan Air disaster, which has been regularly visited by the Ridgleys and other victims’ relatives.

The family, which also include siblings Joe, Janet, Bill, and the late Tony, had always been impressed by the friendliness of locals, living near the crash site, and their dedication to tending the site.

Even when nature threatened to impinge on the memorial garden, villagers would put things right.

Jean added: “On our previous visits this grave was always well tended.

“But on our visit for Yvonne’s 60th birthday in 2012 it was unfortunately covered with ivy. I e-mailed the Spanish Embassy a few times for permission to clear it up but heard nothing.

“However, when we visited in 2017 it had all been cleared, the headstone cleaned, the names re-painted and a beautiful white dove made with stones had been installed.”

Social media has kept the families in touch and plans had been made for a 50th anniversary commemoration.

But Jean added: “We were really looking forward to meeting up with other families in Arbucies, but unfortunately this has been cancelled due to current restrictions.”