Thursday, July 22, 2021

85 Today

 I was born at Easington Colliery in County Durham 85 years ago today in 1936. Five days after the start of the Spanish Civil War. My father being a miner at the local pit. He lived there all of his life from when he was 2 years old. My mother having moved into the area when she was 20 having been a domestic servant. I first became aware of electoral politics at the time of the 1945 General Election - See

When I left school at 16 I became a railway clerk. At 18 I was called up to undertake my National Service, serving with the RAF in Iraq in a Movements Unit where I worked closely with Iraqi State Railways. The harsh conditions which I saw that many Iraqi people lived in gave me a deeper interest in politics, which was added to when as I was being demobbed due to the impact of the Suez Crisis with Britain (against my stance) involved in the invasion of Egypt.                                                                    

Over the year after my demob I wrote political letters which appeared in local newspapers. I then joined the Labour Party and soon became the Easington Colliery Branch Secretary. A Fabian Society was then established at nearby Peterlee and I became their Secretary also.

At the age of 24 I obtained a place for full-time study at Ruskin College in Oxford. The course lasted for 2 years and led to my obtaining a diploma in Politics and Economics. This gave me the qualification to then study for a Politics and Philosophy degree at Hull University.

Between my first and second years studies at Hull I married Ann. We met 2 years earlier in Sunderland where I had returned to work as a Railway Clerk during the summer vacation and she worked nearby. She lived at Shotton Colliery near Easingyon, her father also being a coal miner. Ann and I moved to Hull following our marriage.

On graduation my first job was lecturing at a college of Further Education in Workshop. Then the following year I obtained a place at Sheffield University Extramural Department and Ann and I moved into a University flat. After 2 years our son Stephen was born. 

In 1969 we bought a house in Dronfield in Derbyshire just over the southern border of Sheffield.  It was an area we knew well from our time in Sheffield. For a collegue of mine at the Extramural Department was Karl Hedderwick. We had studied together at Ruskin and he had been best man at our wedding. He already lived in Dronfield so we got to know his friends in the local Labour Party even before we moved in ourselves. After three years of moving into Dronfield our daughter Joanne was born.

In Dronfield I further developed my links with their Labour Party and its parent body - the North East Derbyshire Constituency Party. Serving as their MP from 1987 to 2005. Ann and I moving into our current home in Dronfield in 1984 from which Ann came to run our constituency office. For constituency meetings I produced 121 written reports of my parliamentary activities, plus a final summary of the whole period. These substantial reports also contained extracts from my contributions in Hansard,  press coverages and other relevant material.

On retiring from parliament I became involved in Political Education activities in the North Derbyshire area. This included organising over 140 discussions meetings for the Dronfield Labour Party. A role now taken over by Rosie Smith.  In the Covid period a couple of the meetings have been held in our garden.

Hopefully my ealier educational commitments to the study of politics meant that my subsequent parliamentary activities were questioning rather than dogmatic.

Our son lives in London being married to Rebecca who originates from Australia. They have two childen.  Joseph aged 16 and Amy aged 14. Whilst our daughter Joanne is in Bournemouth with her partner Andy.  Covid and old age have hit our visits to see them recently, but luckly not for them to see us. Stephen, Joseph and Amy are due to visit us today.


In parliament some 20 years ago.




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