June: My name is June Somekh née Hougie and I was born at 44 Lansdowne Road, West Didsbury, Manchester …. as it was 20 then, M20 something else now, I wouldn’t know what, however …. I was the youngest of six children …. my …. I had 2 brothers and 3 sisters …. so, my mother said I should have been a boy because it was girl, boy, girl, boy, girl and then …. I ruined the …. the design of this …. There you are, but that was all right …. I think she was very forgiving, my mother.
My parents were born in Iraq, in Baghdad, and my father …. It was a Jewish family; my father was, I think originally came to this country around the turn of the century, and I am talking about the 20th century now, and he came as a young, a young man, he worked, I think, for the either Eastern or Chartered Bank, I am not sure, I think it was the Eastern Bank, at that time, and then he went back. And after he married, my sister was born, my eldest sister. He came back here, both my parents. I think their second language was originally, was probably French because I think, I certainly know, I know for a fact that my father went to the Lycée in Baghdad.
[June wrote subsequently: My father went to London as a young bank clerk and then returned to Baghdad, married and came back with my mother and their first child.]
I am not too sure about my mother, but, my …. anyway, they both, Mother’s English, her written English, I think was …. probably not very good, I am not sure …. my father was fluent in …. she had an accent, I didn’t notice it, but, I am told he did have an accent, my mother had a strong accent, and we were not very forgiving, I remember teasing her about it, which was not very nice, but I don’t think young children are terribly nice.
However, anyway, they …. my father was a textile merchant converter, and at that time in Manchester, there were a lot of people who did that, they imported grey cloth which is cloth that hasn’t been, that’s been woven but not processed, and then had it processed and then sold it, I remember that. I remember from my work in the textile place that it was, when it came in as grey cloth, it was, I think it was a 100-yard lump.
100-yard pieces more or less, they called those ‘lumps’, and then when it was processed, they were in 30-yard pieces/things and they were called pieces. They were packed nicely and then exported again.
Anyway, he did that, but it’s funny because I am not sure, I know that at one stage, he was a stockbroker and I think …. this must have been when we went to London, we lived in London in …. I remember sometimes the name of the place where we were …. we were in Chiswick, I know …. no, Hammersmith actually, but it was towards Chiswick, I can’t remember. It won’t come to me now, but it will later on, when this is over, I will remember everything, that I haven’t remembered now!
[It was King’s Court, Chiswick High Road and she used to play in Ravenscourt Park immediately before the war.]
So, we lived there, we didn’t live there, I think it must have been the school holidays, it seemed quite a long time to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it …. that, they had a lift, but I was too light to get, to be able to use it to go to the 5th floor, so I had to wait till other people were using it before I could try and vandalise it in my …. my six-year-old or seven-year old way. So, we lived there, and I think that was when my father worked as a stockbroker because certainly at the beginning of the war, he wasn’t, my parents weren’t in Manchester when we were about to be evacuated, so we were actually …. It was my, I think it must have been my …. one of my sisters …. my older sisters and my aunt who packed our stuff for us to go to be evacuated.
I first heard about the war, I think, sometime earlier, but of course time doesn’t mean very much when you are that age and it seemed a long time before, but I remember, there was a diagram of some …. it was like …. robots in a …. in an …. an open space, they had rivets on them, I just remember this, and metal things and …. Mother said something about the war, and I remember crying and saying, “There isn’t going to be a war, is there?” And I was very bothered about this. Anyway, I was pacified in some way, I don’t know whether my parents were going to be, you know, ambassadors for peace, or what was happening, but they managed to keep me quiet for a while. So, and then it all happened very quickly …. I can remember, now whether I remember it when it came on, or whether it is something that’s been repeated many times on radio, so I have heard it then, about the outbreak of war, you know …. so, …. I was going to say Churchill but it was Chamberlain’s announcement that “So we are at war with Germany ….”
So, off we went. So, there were three of us that we evacuated, my brother who was 3 years older than I, he was 10, my sister who was 9, and I …. and I would be, if you believe when I told you my age, would believe I was non-existent then. Anyway, I was younger than they were.
So, I remember being on the train but I don’t remember the journey, really, but what I do remember is we arrived in, I think it must have been a Women’s Institute in Rowsley which is not very far from Matlock. It’s nearer Bakewell, I think, than Matlock actually …. and there must have been a whole load of us, but I remember my sister and I, and there were a lot of ladies, I think they must have been Women’s Institute ladies, and of course, now, having been on the fostering panel.
I know the hoops that foster parents have to go through to be accepted. Well, this was pretty random, I would say. I will take you through what I remember happened.
We were given a carrier bag and we had to go round a group of ladies, and each one put a can of something in as a present for our hostess. And then someone said, “Two girls, they will do for Miss Smith ….” They didn’t say anything about the boy who, actually, as the son of an Orthodox family, Orthodox Jewish family was billeted with the local pork butcher.
Vera and I, my sister, went to …. “Two girls, they will do for Miss Smith ….” So, we went to Miss Smith, we were taken there, I don’t know how, it must have been in a car or some…., I am not sure …. and we arrived there and we thought …. Miss Smith was, I suppose marginally older than my Grandmother and Miss Derbyshire, I think, had Tourettes. She used to yell at us, or at anyone actually. She used to yell generally, and it was “Your kipper ‘addock lick a newt ….”
[June wrote subsequently – Miss Derbyshire used to say “You licka (little) newt, yer kipper ‘addock”.]
And we were absolutely terrified. We …. we thought we were with two witches, so, we decided that we were going to stay up all night and see what these people were up to.
So, we were there, and I think we must have unpacked, or been unpacked and then we were allowed to go out. We went walking up, there’s a rock field in Winster, and it was wonderful, I think. Now they’ve probably got all sorts of safety rails round it, I am not sure, but I don’t remember anyone falling or doing any damage to themselves, it was quite an easy climb …. and …. on the way up there, of course, the village children were shouting “Isn’t it a pity to live in the city ….” etcetera, etcetera.
probably …. I don’t know how I managed to translate that but I did know what it meant although I hadn’t probably heard it before, so, I was fairly innocent in those days.
I remember we didn’t go to school for some time, and then we’d went to the Women’s Institute in Winster and it didn’t seem to …. it didn’t last very long. I don’t think it worked very well.
Now the teachers we were with, were not ones who would have been my choice. There were …. there were two …. two that I remember who …. Mrs Monkhouse …. Now Mrs Monkhouse used to say on a Friday afternoon, I remember because I was in her class, “Who loves me? Hands up those who love me ….” and if you loved her, she gave you a few dolly mixtures. And this is absolutely true, I don’t think, some of these people would not have been allowed near a child nowadays, but however …. So, that was what happened, if you didn’t love her, you didn’t get the dolly mixtures. So, that was it, that was usually my misfortune. And then, there was …. and she was …. quite …. quite sadistic. She had …. I don’t know if any of you remember, there were hexagonal pencils which were blue at one end and red at the other, and she used to rap our knuckles with that, and we were daft enough to allow her, but we didn’t have a lot of choice, we weren’t very strong or very big …. I might have …. I might have something to do with it now, but …. to do about it now, but not then.
And then there was Mr Crowther who used to love the cane, and he was somewhat sadistic. I mean, it, it …. it beggars believe that these people were allowed to deal with young children, really, but …. He was quite cruel, I think, and so was she, I think, in some ways …. It was just …. I don’t think she realised how she came over, possibly, I don’t know …. Anyway, those were the teachers we were with.
The village teachers were quite nice, there was one of them who was a bit of a …. you know, you had to be careful of, but most of them were …. fairly …. fairly, you know, fairly quite pleasant.
Food was rationed, of course, and I can remember we kept our 4oz of butter in front of us. We had that 4oz per week, and then eventually, it was all, you know, Miss Smith realised that we weren’t very capable of managing our own rations anyway, so, that was fine, and what I do remember is that the milk came round in a …. in a can, and then Miss Smith used to empty it into one of those big mixing bowls, and you could actually skim it and, because it was raw milk, you could whip the cream. So, that was pretty good because I did like whipped cream …. It was the only way you could get it in those days, I think.
We …. we weren’t …. it was interesting because we were there but we were not, certainly not abandoned by our parents. My father used to send pocket money every week, and he also sent money for Miss Smith because he didn’t feel that the allowance that they made was enough, so, he gave her money, and mother used to send us food parcels, you know, sweets and all the things that …. actually, a lot of things that she liked. She was probably one of the most unselfish people, I have ever known. She was very, very generous. If she had anything, she would either share it with you or on occasions, give it to you, and I never really appreciated that, in fact, I didn’t appreciate my parents until after my mother was killed which was in a car crash with my grandmother. She …. she sort of was completely selfless, really. She was wrapped up in the family. She did an awful lot for us, and indeed, for her sisters. She, you know, she was the eldest in her family and was very, very supportive of them all.
So that …. anyway, to cut a long story short, I was there for 4 years. My brother was there for 1. I was a bit jealous of him because his …. his foster carers’ daughter was married to a publican and they had a pub in Via Gellia which was …. you used to get Lilies of the Valley there. It was a quarry place but there was also a hill …. and on the hill, there used to be a profusion of Lilies of the Valley. We used to go the odd time, but it was quite a way to walk, but we still did it because I used to do quite a lot of walking then …. and so …. we …. he …. So, he used to go there and he used to sing, and get money, and it’s only recently that I asked him what happened to the money because I was very jealous of him, and he said, “It was used to buy ointment for my impetigo ….”
So …. no …. had I known that, I might not have been so jealous, but there you are. So, that was Ted ….
Vera and I had a sort of …. we shared a bed and it was a flock mattress and it was only when she was due to leave …. because she …. we each, after we had got the 11+, we were …. we were brought, sent home again …. Mother didn’t want us to go to a secondary school there …. and she …. it was a flock mattress and we used to have this, measure line, you see. So, we’d put our hands along where the …. it was a brass bedstead, and so, you could go along it, and pinch any bit of anyone who was over the line. She rarely was. I quite often was, as you might expect with a younger sister, and it was only afterwards that I realised that in fact the flock mattress wasn’t really even across the bed. So, I had a bit less space than she had …. but …. but there you are, that’s sisters, isn’t it?
Then …. I’m just trying to think what else there was …. we …. we sort of mixed into village life well, and I did have …. I still have a friend who lives there, but she was the farmer’s daughter …. and …. Amy Johnson …. we got on very well. We were both friendly with her. She was Vera’s age rather than mine and she was friendly with the three of us …. [Note: It should be “with the two of us”]
We …. I don’t remember any …. oh, there was one other. A lot of the children went back after about 6 weeks …. Or, I think it must have been 6 weeks, it might have been more, it might have been 3 months but …. but a lot of them did go back …. and …. the …. they had …. I think one girl actually stayed and I think was possibly adopted by the family she was with. I remember her name, Muriel Ashcroft, and I also remember school quite well, we sort of mixed afterwards with the village children, and you know …. all their …. What I do remember is …. is that I was very good at mental arithmetic. I remember one test they did and, no one else got them all right and they wondered if they ought to lower the standard. And I thought I was terribly clever, and it was only when I got to grammar school that I realised …. I wasn’t, and I felt I was very dim when I was there, and I probably was, but you know, comparatively speaking, it was quite a come down for me. The other bad …. The other thing that was bad was going back home, and I was very resentful, very unhappy, and I remember saying things which …. It must have been …. it was only after my broth…. mother died that I appreciated her …. and I realised what they had done for us, really …. both my parents.
I feel very guilty now but there is not a thing I can do about it, but …. she …. I just did not want to be back in Manchester, and …. that was …. anyway, that was my war time experience in Winster.
Michael: Whilst being evacuated or even in Manchester, did you see any sort of direct influence of the war?
strong>June: Yes, I remember there was a …. I had …. someone gave me …. I was thinking about this the other day …. I don’t know where I got if from, but it was a button hole, it was made of felt and wool. I remember rattling it for ‘Aid to Russia’. There was a lot of ‘Aid to Russia’ at the beginning of the war, and there were …. were some officers …. were Polish officers based in the village, but we didn’t see much of them actually.
Another thing I remember which was to do with rationing was that Thorntons had a warehouse there, and the poor men who used to deliver the stuff into this warehouse …. they would have a whole crowd of village children around, begging and …. and they couldn’t do a thing about it, it must have been really hard for them.
The other thing, I remember with the war, was rationing. And also, I remember a dream that I had, a very vivid dream that I was in a prisoner of war camp, and the thing I remember most was my head was lousy. Now, whether that was to do with nits, because I did have nits at one stage, and mother had me home to get rid of them and I remember that I didn’t like the feel of the fine toothcomb that she used, but there you were.
There was …. there was a crater outside the village. We knew a bomb had been dropped there and that was in a field, so there was that …. there were all sorts of indications …. we were very well aware that there was a war on.
We knew about prisoners of war and of course. A lot of the men from the village who had worked in the quarry and the local lead mines had been conscripted or had volunteered.
So …. there was a family who lived opposite me …. There was one girl, Eileen Stone, and she …. her parents …. well, I remember her mother well …. they …. he was in the army and he would be back occasionally on leave.
My brother was, must have been at university at that time and he was fire watching and then was conscripted into the Air Force, and that was quite funny because later on when I was Mayor and I went to the RAF Association dinner, I took a picture of him in his RAF uniform, and I thought they would think he was a flying ace or something, he was a …. And they said “Oh, yes, he was a medic, wasn’t he?” which is what he was …. and then later on he, you know ….
Michael: What about things like rationing, did you have any direct experience of that at all?
June: Yes, we did …. yes, I could …. yes, we …. it was …. the thing I was most interested in with rationing …. there were 2 things actually, tinned fruit was one of them. You got 24 points a month …. and tinned fruit. 1 tin of 1lb 12oz, I think, was 24 points. So, if you wanted that, you only got one a month. Then there was sweet rationing, and I was very interested in that and there was lady, Miss Knight, who lived in Manchester, who used to send us her coupons, her sweet coupons …. so, I did quite well out of that ….
At the beginning of the war, before there was rationing, they had this stuff called ‘ration chocolate’ which was dark chocolate, which I didn’t like, but it was sweet, and so, anything that was sugary, apart from tea was ok.
Tea, I didn’t like sugar in because having been at an aunt’s wedding where they thought they were being nice to me and gave me a cup of tea, well, tea was a big treat because I wasn’t allowed it …. but then they put so much sugar in, it was like syrup and so, didn’t have it.
There was no problem about sugar rationing with us in the war. The other things I didn’t notice really because Miss Smith used to do it. They used to get …. she kept poultry …. oh, I do remember, that was a real culture shock.
Coming from, not about rationing, but she had chickens, so we had plenty of eggs, and …. but what I do remember was, I left a perfectly normal house in Manchester and we went to this house, where there was no running water, there was no electricity. There was gas, and there was a gas cooker and there was also a boiler. We had …. there was no bathroom.
We had a tin bath in front of the fire and sharing with Vera, which neither of us cared for, and I didn’t, I didn’t care for that. I didn’t like bathing there. I hadn’t liked bathing at home at that age but I certainly didn’t like it when I was in Winster.
And, the thing is, there was a back yard, it wasn’t a garden but …. I’ll come back to a later thing about that …. and you had to wade through the chicken manure and then go up some steps, round a corner and along to the privy with a bucket and ‘whats it’ which I can still smell it to this day. It was quite loathsome to me. But …. but what happened when I went and saw these people who live in the house now and the lady said, “Oh yes, that was our last bathroom ….” I said “Oh, what was one of those ….” I said, “There certainly wasn’t one in existence when I was here.” I said, “The nearest thing to a bathroom was right up at the top there, where …. where there was a privy.”
So, that was …. that was a bit of culture shock for us. Rationing, you asked me about rationing …. I …. I don’t really.
I don’t recollect that it was too bad there. We used to pick mushrooms and we used to pick blackberries. I have done that recently. I decided I’d go for a walk in the woods near here, and I used to love blackberrying, so I took something, and was picking blackberries, and I was going along a cycle path, and I got lost, and I have no sense of direction which is very unhelpful.
Anyway, I finally found some fly tip, a couple of fly tip mattresses and I walked over them …. it was quite useful, I don’t …. I …. disapprove strongly of fly tipping but they, in their place, in its place, I suppose, it might be all right because I managed to climb over it and get near where I saw there was a fence, so, I realised there was some human habitation fairly near.
So, I walked round this fence and I really was getting quite scared because I didn’t have a mobile with me, or anything, and I …. So, I yelled, and no one heard me. So, I walked around fences and I finally got to a fairly low one which I could have climbed over, and I …. and I thought, well, you know, someone is going to catch me half way through climbing over this fence …. I’m not going to look very elegant. So, I decided that I would walk on a bit, and I walked on and the next fence, there was actually a gap in, so, I walked through that and walked round the back garden and round the house …. and I rang the bell, and I turned round …. I, actually, had fetched up in my …. my neighbour …. he lives right opposite my house. I saw my car in my drive and I was standing opposite to it, so …. It was …. anyway, when I …. I told one of our officers because of the fly tipping and something else, I wanted to ask him about and he said “Look, stick to the path, Cheadle does need you!” So …. [laughing].
So, that was the end of that little adventure …. I will stick to paths in future, because I have no sense of direction ….
Michael: No, no …. So, war comes to and end …. what …. was there any …. did …. how were you aware of that? Was there anything you can remember about that?
June: Yes, everyone was celebrating, I remember …. There was a …. there were a couple …. there were parties we went to, particularly VE Day, I remember. Ezra Shamash’s family had one at their house, I went there and it was all very exciting really. I was quite a bit older then and, you know, much more aware of what was happening, and then we saw pictures of the King and Queen on the balcony and …. you know …. So, yes, there was a lot of celebration …. more …. much more for VE Day than VJ Day. I think possibly …. I don’t know, it might have had to do with the atom bomb, I don’t know, but there wasn’t, there certainly wasn’t as much with VJ Day, but certainly VE Day was …. you know, celebrated …. very well, there were lots of street parties and things, not where we lived, but there were street parties …. so.
Michael: So, what happened after that? I mean, war is at an end.
June: War is at an end.
Michael: Did you see any see any remarkable change in the way the world was going on around you?
June: Not, not a lot, particularly. One thing I remember about that, and it wasn’t …. it wasn’t the end of the war …. one time when I was home, because we did go home from time to time, my parents obviously came to see us as well, with …
There were 6 bombs which didn’t go off, which were dropped nearly opposite where we lived. We lived in Moorfield Road and they were in Darley Avenue, near the river [River Mersey], I think …. and so, I remember that, but afterwards, there wasn’t a great deal of change. We were expecting rationing to finish and it didn’t …. and it didn’t ….
I think meat rationing finally finished when I was about 20, so, you know, it had been going on a long time …. Yes, it must have …. it must have …. so, I stayed …. I stayed on at school and then I did …. I did …. I wanted …. I was stage struck, I wanted to do speech and drama and I knew my parents would never agree to my going off on the stage and I finally gave up, I had an excuse that was my sight got very much worse, so, I didn’t do that.
I worked in an office with my uncle for a few years, and then I decided I wanted to do social work, but I’d got GCSEs or O Level …. what would they …. School Certificate but I hadn’t got any other qualifications with it. So, I finally …. worked …. I did a demonstrating certificate at Domsky [Manchester College of Housecraft] in Manchester and then I worked as a travelling demonstrator.
I worked for the Coal Utilisation Council, I don’t think it exists now, and it was using solid fuel, and that was quite good. I didn’t …. by that time, my mother had died …. so, I didn’t like to be …. I wasn’t away for very much. I did a …. a year with Bibbys which was selling …. and it …. funny now, it was hydrogenated vegetable oil which now we know is wrong, and at that time, was much more healthy than butter, I mean, who wanted butter when you could have these wonderful things which were carcinogenic?
And so, I did that and then I did Teacher Training, and I did that in London and my father really …. All my mother’s family who he was close to had moved to London, so, he wanted to move to London, so, where I …. I did my Teacher Training and he …. he …. he came to live in London, so we lived there for a while. After that, while I was …. I did my Teacher Training, and I taught …. I taught first of all in the East End, and that was quite …. that was really interesting because the children were …. once they were …. once …. once they knew you, and they trusted you, they would do anything for you. One of the things that I loved was …. one of the incidents was this ring …. I …. it was actually my mother’s and my father gave it to me, and the A Stream …. there were streams …. these children …. it was Shoreditch High School, and the A Stream said “Oh, is that real gold, Miss?” and I said “Yes ….” So …. and they thought it was a lovely ring. The H Stream, the so-called dim ones said, “Is that a diamond?” I said “Yes ….”Is it insured?” Well, it was then …. So, I said “Yes ….” “Tell you what we will do, Miss, we’ll nick it, only we won’t really, we’ll keep the ring, you get the insurance money, give us ‘alf, and we will give you the ring back ….” And that was quite, quite genuine.
And then there were things like …. “Would you like a leather, Miss, only £3, fell off the back of a lorry ….” And they were lovely, not only would they not harm you, but they wouldn’t allow anyone else to harm you either, and, if anyone had, they would be in trouble with them. It was …. they were lovely, the children.
And then, I used to do …. there was a school for the …. I think it was …. I am not sure if it was for children with disabilities …. I …. it was, anyway, the …. we decided to raise money for it, so I used to, so, some of the children used to come in early with me, and we used to make bread rolls and sell them at break. You know, we wouldn’t make the rolls, we’d fill with cheese and what have you, and sell them at break, and raise …. the money went to the Jeffrey School as it was then, and so ….
There was that, and then I went to Mayfield, and then I decided to …. to …. actually, while I was there, I decided I wanted to do something, so, I worked …. I did the …. I worked for the …. run the canteen at a boys’ club in Chelsea and I did that for several years. And then I did my …. my dip …. Diploma in Educational Guidance at Reading …. Counselling, and then I finally …. my last teaching job was in …. it was at Mayfields …. not Mayfield School, it was at Sarah Siddons which was in Paddington and there you got the …. the full sort of gamut, we had Embassy children. We had children who lived, you know, locally in huge flats or houses and then we had children who were, you know, on benefits and used to have very little. So, it was interesting, it was …. and I had, I was a year ahead there, and then I became in charge of the 6th Form. And then …. it was …. you know, it was amalgamated and became North Westminster Schools, so, there were 3, there was Paddington, Rutherford which was a boys’ school, Paddington was mixed, Rutherford and ours which was a girls’ school. So, they were all amalgamated …. and then, I took early retirement.
[She went from Mayfield to Reading and from there Sarah Siddons.]
And after that, I came back here and my husband and I married, and we …. I did …. and he started to do it later, I did Citizens Advice Bureau. I worked with Citizens Advice Bureau, and I started Friends of Manchester CAB, and we used to raise money, and give small …. you know, for small pieces of equipment for the different bureaus in Manchester.
And then, I …. was …. after I left that, I did …. I was a Samaritan for some time, and then, I have always been interested in doing some sort of community work …. and then, it was Patsy Carlton who suggested I might join the [Stockport] Council, and I wasn’t sure, I thought by that time, I thought I had reached an age where I …. I’d taken early retirement, mind you …. I was not much more than 50 when I retired, but I thought, maybe, I was too old. And someone said, “We’re are not ageist!” So, actually, I did …. I did become a councillor.
The local Liberal Democrats were looking for deliverers, as we always are, actually, so, if any of you who live locally would like to deliver, or live anywhere, would like to deliver leaflets, we would be delighted to hear from you …. Thought I’d get a little commercial in there! Anyway ….
Michael: You should be speaking to camera when you say that!
June: Oh, sorry, well, I’m not …. all right …. we won’t …. we’ll have you as well, we don’t mind, you’ll be allowed to deliver too.
So, anyway, I said that I’d deliver and I became involved. I helped a bit at the Election time. It was actually the two thousand and …. one, I think …. Election when Patsy was elected. So, anyway, Patsy …. Patsy was duly elected …. it must have been 2001 …. and then, she asked me if I would like to go to the House of Commons and, you know, take some friends. So, 6 of us went down to London and we had a tour of the House, and then we had lunch with Patsy. And during lunch, she said “My instructions were to get you sloshed and ask you to stand for Cheadle Hulme North ….” So, I said “Actually, Patsy ….” I said “I am a cheap drunk, but I am not dirt cheap! So, you had better get some more wine ….” which she duly did. And then, I was selected and then elected for Cheadle Hulme North, and actually, that has been very rewarding, I don’t mean financially, but in other ways …. it …. it really has.
You know, people say some very nice things. There are people who say other things but I ignore those, but there are some very nice things which are said …. and, I do my best, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s been …. to be fair, I think it’s probably even more rewarding than teaching. Teaching had its moments, but this is …. I have really …. thoroughly enjoyed this, I was always grateful to Patsy, and she was a wonderful person, actually, and I don’t know anyone who knew her who would argue with that.
Anyway, that’s me so far, I don’t think I’ve done any more.
Oh, I, yes.
Michael: You were Deputy Mayor? [Stockport Council]
June: Yes, I have been, yes.
Michael: In fact, you still are Deputy Mayor.
June: No, no, I am not, not now, no.
Michael: You were up until recently.
June: I was Deputy Mayor and then I …. and then, unusually, I doesn’t always happen, I was …. I became Mayor the year after that. It doesn’t always happen, it doesn’t always happen that way, so Deputy Mayor and then Mayor, and that was …. that was a wonderful experience, I had my …. I had my friend from college with me, Celia. Sadly, she died, just after the end of it, but …. we had a wonderful time, we always, as she said to the then Chief Exec. …. “You could really call us the ‘Chuckle Sisters’ ….” and we …. we did …. Celia and I met at college and we actually disliked each other at first …. very much so, you know. I was a bit older than the others because I hadn’t decided until later on and she turned round and said “Be your age!” And it was only when …. when she had been out with my brother and I think, we realised that we were probably more alike than we realised, and so we did become friendly and we were friendly, right to the end of her life. But she …. it was sad she …. she was …. she had …. she’d had ovarian cancer at the beginning of our …. thing and had an operation and then obviously, it …. it hadn’t worked, and so, it was just after we finished, really, that she died.
Very sad but the time that I was Mayor, we had great fun …. I mean, we really did and she …. it was funny because when I asked if she’d like to do it …. I said, “I realised that you probably need to think about it, you know, you need time …. ” So, she said …. she said “Yes, I need all of 30 seconds” …. and so, that is how it happened …. so ….
And being Deputy Mayor was good as well, it was, yes, I have been blessed actually, I suppose, I have been very lucky.
Michael: I mean, you have been involved in a lot of …. a lot of work with charities and that sort of thing, and, before we started, you were telling me about something you are proposing to do in the not too distant future?
June: Yes, I’m …. Well, I’m working on it, because I did have a word with my GP and he was a little bit worried when I told him. I really want …. when I finished with the Council, to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats for charity …. I …. I’ve got an idea in my mind, which charities I want to support.
I’m training actually. That was part of my getting lost in the forest! I’m sort of trying to do more walking than I have done, and also, of course, Stockport has ‘WalkaDay’, so, I’ll start with the short walks and see how far I can get. I am not over ambitious. I realise it’s going to take me a long time, I was sort of thinking of trying to get up to 10 miles a day.
I am not sure …. I did …. did walk to Cheadle and back which is probably about four, and I was totally knackered, but I have got …. I have got time to train, so, should be all right, then …. but …. just a thought …. Friends and relatives have offered to come with me, you know, for short spells, so, I am hoping it will work.
But, it depends a lot on sponsorship as well, if I don’t get a lot of money, I am not doing it, because I am like that, I’ll just stick my bottom lip out and take my walking shoes home.
Michael: Well, let’s hope you do, anyway.
June: Thank you.
Michael: It sounds like a great thing to try and achieve.
June: I think, you know, it’s something I have often thought about and I think, you know, it would be good and if I can raise money for the charities I support, that would be really good.
Michael: Just coming back a little bit because I …. I sense that we are probably coming to the end of the interview, but are there any sort of highlights, do you think, particularly over the war …. anything you might …. might have that you might have not mentioned or …. I mean, whether you have covered pretty well, but …. June: Yes, trying to think …. don’t know really.
Michael: You may well have already covered …. what about sort of ….
June: I did go to …. I did go to Sunday School regularly, I remember that, and that was partly because we got prizes. We got …. we got a book and I love books anyway, I have always been an avid reader. So, we got prizes and also, there was the Sunday School treat and we’d go to places like …. We didn’t go to the seaside …. I don’t think the seaside was terribly safe in the War years …. So, we went to places like Buxton and, I don’t know, maybe we went to Macclesfield, but I can’t remember. I …. I don’t actually remember very well where we went, but we did go out on Sunday School treats, I do remember that.
I remember the …. it was interesting that, I wouldn’t miss Sunday School …. and …. and it was …. it was interesting because in the village, they had two …. they ….
I wasn’t aware of any …. I think we were the most ethnically diverse people that I knew there, really …. There were …. I was thinking about it, we had Church of England, there was Primitive Methodist and Methodist Reform and then …. I don’t remember …. I don’t think there were any Catholics there, and so, it was …. it was interesting really, and I don’t remember seeing anyone who was black in the village.
They had …. yea, it was …. it …. the village treats, we used to like to go Bakewell because they had a log field there, I suppose it was a …. and we could play on the logs …. I think …. if we had been spotted, we might have been removed, but …. but at the time, it was near the River Derwent and we used to play on these logs when we went.
Cinema was a big treat, we were all given for our Christmas presents one year tickets for “Smilin’ Through”. So, that was a very sentimental film which we loved …. and yes, cinema didn’t feature.
Michael: And of course, there was no television in those days …. did you ever listen to the radio?
June: Yes, a lot, and …. we stood for …. oh yes, that’s right …. we had …. Miss Smith had a sister, Ethel …. and three daughters. There was Winifred, Winnie, Betty and Connie, and actually, we were a bit of a disappointment for them because when we went there, we didn’t believe in Father Christmas, and they had really been looking forward to being Father Christmases. And I’d very much regretted that I knew about Father Christmas and had revealed that I knew about Father Christmas.
But they were very nice to us, they were very kind. They had boyfriends who, one of them worked on a farm, so that would be a reserved occupation. And Winnie and Connie, their …. their …. their boyfriends were, I think, Connie’s was as well, but …. I know Winnie’s was, I remember, they were in the Army or Air Force, certainly, in the armed forces, so ….
They would come back from time to time but we …. we didn’t really see them. I think I remember Frank who was Winnie’s boyfriend, Frank Bunting …. and they went to live in Derby after they married. Oh yes, and that reminded me …. that was why, when you were talking about radios …. they had wet batteries …. and he [Miss Smith’s brother in law] used to charge them, you know, he used to take people’s batteries and charge them. He had …. he had this charger at his house and we used to go there quite often, I …. remember also, you know.
I am very absent minded now but …. I realise there were indications of this when I was about 10. I went round to their house with …. I had some money in my hand to buy something from the local shop, and I got in …. and I got into their house and I must have picked something up, and they were all looking round for half a crown that someone had dropped, and it was only when I had been …. done the shopping and came back, and went back to their house, that I realised I was holding it! I think they knew me well enough to know I wouldn’t have stolen it, anyway, but I feel in a way it was lucky that I did find it before they found it on me.
And I suddenly realised, you know, I just absent mindedly got …. seen this on the floor and picked it up …. and then forgotten I had it because they had a dog, Peter, and I loved Peter, and I was playing with Peter. So, I forgot I was holding onto that coin. But he did charge things for people’s radios. So, it was, you know, prehistoric radios, I suppose.
Michael: Yes, it would have been.
June: My brother used to make crystal sets. He was interested in that.
Michael: And with headphones and things.
June: Yes, yes …. he used to …. He was good at that …. that was a bit later on, he was only 11 when we left …. he left Winster but later on, he started doing …. he was really interested in radio, and then he became a dentist later on, which isn’t quite like radio, but ….
Michael: I mean, you’ve obviously had quite a long and very interesting life.
June: I hope so.
Michael: If you were to have a philosophy which you would impart to others, younger people, what would that be about life, do you think? This is the killer question.
June: I hate to pontificate. I don’t know, I mean, really …. If you think …. you know …. if you are interested in doing it, just keep trying, you know, I suppose that’s it …. I …. I don’t …. I mean, I’ll give up at the first fence. I’ll try this walk thing because it’s been in …. in the back of my head for a long time, but …. But, I think, you know, I …. I just “follow your instincts” really, basically and listen to people, but don’t take any notice of what they say if you don’t like what they are saying, you know, because we can all tell you how to live your life, but you’re living it, so …. you know ….
Michael: Yes, yes. there’s a lot of truth in that …. Well, June, thank you very much indeed for sharing your life with us.
End of Transcription
Interview recorded by Michael Thompson, Hardy Productions UK, Manchester, for WarGen.