For the first time, New Year's Day was a public holiday in England. So, with?
For the first time, New Year's Day was a public holiday in England. So, with the guarantee that they could sleep-in, the British celebrated as if there was no tomorrow. With shortages of energy, strikes, threats of bombings and shootings carrying into the New Year, there will be a tomorrow but it will be bleak for many people.
As the hands of Big Ben, the famous clock at the Parliament Buildings at Westminster neared midnight, thousands of revellers jammed into Trafalgar Square. At midnight they sang, danced and yelled in the New Year. Some even went wading in the fountains in the Square.
Throughout London restaurants were jammed and there were hundreds of parties.
On New Year's Day it was impossible to guess thousands had been celebrating only hours before. Shops were closed for the holiday and streets and railway yards were practically deserted.
Some people did go to work. The three day work week started when Big Ben stopped chiming and number of companies, not wanting to lose power supplies on one of the three allotted days, asked employees to report to their jobs. This was the first indication of the reality of 1974. The year is expected to bring Britain the worst austerity since the Second World War.
SYNOPSIS: Big Ben chimed out the last seconds of 1973 for thousands of celebrants gathered in Trafalgar Square in the centre of London.
The Square was so jammed that hundreds spilled out onto surrounding streets blocking traffic and totally frustrating the efforts of police to keep the roads open. For the first time in years, the spotlights on the statue of Lord Nelson and the Christmas decorations in Trafalgar Square were turned off because of the energy crisis. But that did not deter the festivities. Police said the crowd was bigger than last year.
Restaurants throughout London were full as people counted down to the New Year.
Everywhere in the city, people seamed determined to have a good time. Perhaps it was because they had been told by newspaper headlines that 1974 is expected to bring the worst austerity to Britain since the Second World War. A three-day work week, caused by the power crisis, came into effect when the New Year started. It will cut the pay of hundreds-of-thousands of Britons, put thousands more out of work, increase prices and worsen Britain's already poor trade position. But the future did not spoil the celebrating.
As the bag piper prepared to play at the Cafe Royale in the heart of London's West End, the patrons refilled their glasses and toasted to the health, wealth and happiness of each other. Then the piper emitted his contribution to the party.
Back at Trafalgar Square the celebration continued with some people wading in the fountains despite the freezing temperature Those less adventurous sounded car horns, sang, shouted and shoved each other. Despite the size of the crowd, police say there was no violence and only a few people were slightly injured.
By dawn the New Year's celebration had ended. London was practically deserted. Most businesses and many industries were closed. Public transportation systems throughout the country either closed or operated on reduced schedules. This was the first time that New Year's Day has been an official holiday in England. So many people stayed home. However, others worked. Some industries asked employees to come in so that the first production day of the three day work week would not be lost. In some cases, particularly in the Midlands of England, workers refused to report for work and plants that did plan to operate did not have enough personnel to man production lines.