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Win Clavering

Win Clavering Win Clavering

I am Win Clavering, short for Winifred Joan Clavering, and I was born in August 1924 in Australia, in Mildura about 500 miles north of Melbourne on the River Murray. I lived in Redcliffs, now a wine-making area. My father lost his job in England when his firm went bankrupt after the First World War. He was an electrical engineer but he always wanted to be a farmer. There was an offer at that time from Australia that you could pay £10 and go out there and be given 35 acres of land. But you had to start from scratch; it was like semi-desert.

He grew a very successful block. They were called blocks, never farms or vineyards and they were numbered. He grew currants, sultanas, lemons, oranges, grapefruit and almonds. We had a lot of almond trees. My parents had to live in a tent at first and they lost it once in a typhoon. They had a very hard time and my mother absolutely hated it. What she hated most were the swarms of flies, ants and mosquitoes which got everywhere. Bringing up children in that sort of situation was very difficult. They had Government help in building a bungalow and there was a mile in between the bungalow on each of the farms.

My father had never dealt with horses but he had to plough using horses. My brother John, was born three years after me. My mother had a very traumatic time giving birth to him and he suffered from a shortage of oxygen. He was not a very active child; he couldn't do much, he just sat, so he was not much of a playmate for me. Since that time my mother became desperate to come back to England. She was worried about him and she couldn't get any advice. She wanted to return to get some advice to help this sick child who obviously would be bullied when he went to school. (Actually when she did come back she was told that he was perfectly all right!) My father used to say, 'You just want to get back to Leeds, not England!'

I went to school for a year in Australia. I don't think I learnt much in this little hut of a school. The next block had a Scottish family with a crowd of rough lads and they used to collect me to take me to school (about 5 miles away) in this horse and cart and knock me about somewhat so I learnt to be tough from an early age. In 1930 when my grandmother became very ill and was bedridden - she was expected to die - my mother brought John and me to England. It took six weeks by boat.

My father stayed behind for six months to find someone who would run the block for him. He loved farming and he wanted to keep the block as he always hoped he would be able to return. He did not sell up until the war. But he got a job as a manager with Wall's ice cream and worked for them until he retired. When we came from Australia I was a bridesmaid at my uncle's wedding and I declared that I didn't like weddings. I had a very broad Australian accent at the time. I can't remember being upset at leaving Australia. I was not traumatised over anything. I am not that sort really, I am fairly independent.

We lived with my grandparents for a while and then when my grandmother died we moved. Perhaps I am more like my grandmother than anyone else in the family because she had German ancestors and I always think that I am a bit German. I like Wagner. Anyway she was always interested in music and art and things like that. She owned an antique shop. Later we moved to another part of Leeds to a council house and then we moved up to Newcastle as my father was offered a job of area supervisor up there. He didn't like Leeds; he didn't like the people. He said that they were a nosey lot. In those days they were quite different, the people in Leeds and the people in Newcastle.

I was very surprised by the difference. Newcastle people tended to be aggressive, perhaps because they had been invaded a lot, whereas Leeds was dominated by the Jewish people who were quite different. You got knocked about when you were a stranger up in Newcastle. If you were new to the school, they would probably thump you. In Leeds they would welcome you and talk to you and say 'Where did you buy that dress? Where do you live? What does your father do?' My father said they were 'bloody nosey.' But we came back to Leeds after another promotion and bought a house near Temple Newsom. I went to Crossgates School. My father came from the north-east and he had firm ideas about women in that they should learn to cook and not be educated. He declared Women's Lib to be trouble brewing, it was the beginning of the end! He was very much against me going to High School but I won a scholarship to Roundhay High School in Leeds so he couldn't stop me really.

This was a means-tested scholarship which meant he had to pay part fees and he never never stopped going on about these 'bloody women teachers.' He wouldn't read my reports and wouldn't go near the school. If he saw me doing homework, he would stop me. He would moan about the teachers being a burden to the taxpayers. Then the war broke out. My father had loved being in the Army during the First World War. He went through the ranks to become a captain and he volunteered for this one. They said to him, 'Are you so frightfully keen in joining the Army?' They didn't want him really at forty-seven years old. He was very annoyed. But he encouraged me to be interested in that sort of thing and when I won a scholarship to an Art College he was so rude about it I got fed up. I wanted to escape so I tried to join the Army at seventeen. They told me to come back when I was seventeen and a half. I left school and had six months in the Civil Service and went and joined up as soon as I was seventeen and a half.

I had four years in the Army and learned to dodge the column because one of the things that annoyed me was that my father - always giving the wrong advice - said, 'The first thing you do is to go and apply for a commission', so I did. They told me to come back when I was twenty-one!! Here's me wanting to escape from Yorkshire and I was posted to Pontefract Barracks of all places. They put me in an office and I was told to stay there and I would become a sergeant in no time. I thought, 'I could be in an office and not be in the Army!' I was put in charge of Postings. I couldn't learn to drive or train for radar until I was eighteen. So when I reached eighteen I looked round to see where they were being sent to for training and one place was Oswestry. I didn't know anything about Wales so I posted myself to Oswestry. When I was qualified I was posted back to Leeds again on a gun site. I just couldn't escape from Leeds. I went all round Leeds to various gunsites and then eventually I was posted to Sheffield.

This is where I met Colin because he was the Radar officer. I wanted some adventure and I was always volunteering for overseas. I was eventually offered a place to go with, if you please, Mary Churchill who was leading a group of women over to Europe on very important work - so they said - on which radar operators were necessary. We went to Newcastle and trained for ages on the latest equipment. I met Colin once or twice up there and he took me home to meet his parents so he must have been serious. He also came from the north-east, I couldn't get away from Geordies. Then we set off. We were taken out one night, we didn't know where we were going it was so hush-hush. We sailed from a port near London into the English Channel and then the North Sea and stopped. We were stuck there for days and ran out of food. All we were given were tins of corned beef and spam and bread. We couldn't understand why we did not move until we were told that there were mines that hadn't been cleared. So we had to wait until it was safe to continue.

Mary Churchill wasn't with us in these dangerous waters of course. We landed at Ostend which had been absolutely flattened by our bombs and shells. The people there hated us, they absolutely loathed us. We were put on a truck and we set off through Belgium and landed in Antwerp. It was Hell-fire Corner was Antwerp. It was being bombed all the time by flying bombs. I thought, 'What have I let myself in for? How can I escape from this place?' This was in January 1945. We were told that we would be bombed all the time and that we would have to build a blast wall. Plenty of sand and sacks had been brought in and we had to fill these sacks. I thought, 'Over my dead body! I haven't come out here to fill sandbags!' We looked around for all this latest equipment that we had trained on and there was just a very primitive tracking device, obviously of no use, and we thought 'What have we come out here for?' It wasn't until we went into the NAAFI and places like that in Antwerp that we were told that Churchill had promised the troops that if they stayed out of the brothels he would send them women from England! I was livid! I thought 'What a nerve! What a swindle!' I never went to the NAAFI again but went to the American Red Cross for coffee or a drink because the Americans were always very polite to us. All the Brits did was to whistle after us. I thought, 'Where is this Mary Churchill?' Well, she just flew over and lived in a caravan near Brussels for a few days and went back home. The idea was to get people like my mother to think that if someone like Mary Churchill was going it would be all right. But she didn't stay long; she used to hop home on her own plane.

This is what annoyed me more than anything in the world. This finished me with the Army and Churchill. No wonder few voted for him after the war. I never went on parade. I used to hop out over the barbed wire fence each morning and go into Antwerp and I was only missed once. I got to know Antwerp very well. I went round all the art galleries and I went to the cinema. It was all free, free transport, free everything. I met a lot of very nice Americans. All they wanted you to do was to look at their photographs of 'the folks back home.' I went to the theatre and to the ice-rink. There was a big ice-rink there. Also there was a very nice zoo in Antwerp. Poor Antwerp was still being bombed. On one day there were 128 flying bombs went over. They didn't all land there, most went across to England. When they first came they sounded like they had motor-bike engines. Then they would cut out and dive. But the Germans got quite crafty. The bombs would later come in and dive without cutting out. At other times they would cut out and circle so nobody could tell where they were going to land. It was all psychological warfare. But I was never frightened.

When you are young, you don't think about being frightened. One seemed to follow me once, I kept looking round to see where it was. Another landed quite near. I was standing in the doorway and it lifted the hut up off its foundations. But it was full of leaflets with white feathers telling the Americans that they were cowards because they had been targeting refugee columns. It was propaganda, the Germans were desperate by then. I liked Antwerp and I liked the people though they were starving. They said that they were much better fed under the Germans than they were under us. They had no soap; they would do our washing for a bar of soap. The town was being bombed still. The hospital was bombed one night and nobody seemed to go to rescue people. Where we were on our camp site, they were building a dance hall for the troops! And they were building roads into this place, and the poor old Belgians kept coming round asking when are you going to shoot down these flying bombs?

They fetched rubble from the bomb sites for these roads and they found two people still alive under the rubble. This was after a week. No-one had bothered to go to look for survivors because after all the bombing, the Belgians were really demoralised, they had lost all spirit. We were also encouraged to go to Brussels every weekend and stay in the best hotels and meet all the soldiers. Brussels was quite different, only fifty miles away and it was never bombed. I went to the opera. On VE Day two Americans came along and asked my friend and me if we would like two tickets for the opera. I saw Gounod's Faust in French, with the ballet included in Brussels and I saw Puccini's La Boheme in Flemish in Antwerp. I quite enjoyed the adventure I have to say, but I was old enough to drive now so when I came back to England and was stationed in Charlbury in Oxfordshire, I learned to drive a truck.

Colin was stationed in Abingdon, near enough for us to meet regularly. By now they were exporting these big Army trucks and we were told to get a truck that worked and drive towing one whose engine didn't work. We were sent to Plymouth, Chester, all over the country delivering them. We would be allowed three days to go to, say, Plymouth. We had no lights so we had to stop when it got dark and we had to go to the nearest Police Station for help with accommodation. My friend and I used to find two trucks that worked and go and fill up with thirty gallons of petrol in each truck. As soon as we got away from the camp we would unhitch one and set off and get there in a day and spend a day in Plymouth which I got to know quite well. We'd ask, 'Are there any redcoats (Army Police) around? No? OK.' We'd park at the back of the cinema and go in. I quite enjoyed that.

When I came out of the Army, I got a job in welfare in a factory in Leeds. This was in 1946. By now I was engaged to Colin, and my parents moved back to Newcastle, my father having got another job up there. After the war, Walls divided their areas up to create more jobs for the men coming out of the Forces. My father opted to go back to Newcastle and we lived near Whitley Bay. I got a temporary job with British Rail and got married in 1948. Colin was not very keen on being a teacher. He said that if he got a First at Durham University (which he had been at before he went into the Army) he would go in for industry but my parents said, 'Colin? In industry?' Anyway he applied for lots of teaching jobs and the best one was at Bradford Grammar School so it was back to Yorkshire once again. Actually I liked Bradford a lot better than Leeds, I grew quite fond of it. In those days the textile trade was quite flourishing; the mills were making beautiful cloth. But, for some reason, people didn't want to work in the mills any more. Perhaps it was because they could get more money elsewhere. So they invited people from Pakistan to come over and work in the mills. The jobs must have been advertised. The Government poured millions and millions of pounds into Bradford.

All the centre was rebuilt and all the little terrace houses were rebuilt for them and new schools as well. While the children were little I was a housewife for quite a long time. Bob was born in 1950 and Christine in 1953. In 1960 I was asked by a friend to join the Tory party. It was a strong Tory area where we lived, Menston. Eventually I became secretary of the committee. It was not paid work, oh dear me no. This was the Tory party! You pay money to be in the Tory party. Colin was very Tory, always had been, but I was not really Tory. When I first met his mother, I said that I was socialist. She said, 'We'll soon change that !' What really changed me was the place where we lived. I later became secretary of the Ripon constituency which was very county-county. There were a lot of people from stately homes, and owners of Ripon race-course and that sort of thing. There was a big row because they said that they were going to take Ilkley Urban District Council into the Bradford Metropolitan Council when there was a local government reorganisation in the 1970s.

Ilkley nearly went beserk. All the villages fought against it but they lost. Somebody came to me and said that one of the councillors for Ilkley was leaving the district and they wanted someone to take over for about three years before they went into Bradford. When the amalgamation took place, it would be potential MPs going from Ilkley into Bradford. Bradford was like a mini-parliament; it had its own cabinet and whips. It was a big deal really. So one of the women hierarchy in the village Tories came and asked me if I would stand and I said I would think about it. Colin didn't want me to do anything like this; he was like my father - Keep the Women Down! Then I heard that she had also invited two other people to go into council for these three years. So I went bounding up to her house. 'You asked me to stand for council and now you're asking other people!' 'Ah but you didn't say yes,' she said. 'Well, I am saying yes now.' (Bob it was who encouraged me to stand). There were three of us, two men and me I for the seat. I have never felt deprived by being a woman so I stood before the committee and they chose me as the candidate.

So I was now on Ilkley Council and mostly I had to do with planning, lighting and such things. I didn't have anything to do with education. The County Council dealt with education. One of the reasons that I wanted to go into local government was to save our village, which was a nice stone-built village, from the building of a block of flats. I pleaded with all the Tories that I could, and an MP said to me, 'Planning is a left-wing nonsense. Tories believe in freedom.' And I said, 'Yes until something nasty is happening next door to you!' We got the plans for the flats modified at least. We did stop a lot of nasty things happening. But the rest of the Tories weren't interested in planning. Ilkley made such a fuss about this amalgamation that they were allowed to have a 'Successor Council' which was a cut above Parish Councils. Then one of the Bradford councillors was moving so they had to have a by-election and I was asked to stand. So I got elected to Bradford. When I went down there, the head of the council said, 'We don't want housewives in this council. We want business men.' and after that they did everything possible to get rid of me.

One year later they changed the ward boundaries and they thought that they could deal with me then. There were three councillors for Burley and Menston, which was one ward, myself and one of the men in Menston and the other man in Burley. What they did was to extend this ward right over to Crossflats which was part of Bingley in the Aire valley. They came to me and said that they would have to have a councillor over there and that I had not been a councillor for long whereas the other councillor in Menson had been a councillor for over ten years and was a parliamentary candidate, deputy leader and head of education. So the Chairman of the Committee came to me and said that I should really stand down. I said, 'I have only just been elected! Why should I stand down?' I was told that I didn't stand a chance but I refused to stand down. So we both had to go before a selection committee and out of eleven votes I got seven! Actually they voted for me because I attended to the needs of people. For instance if someone came and said that a lamp was out on their street, he would not bother himself with a small thing like that but he would tell them to go and see Win Clavering, she sorted that sort of thing out. Anyway, the hierarchy went beserk that I had won and they rang Central Office and declared that they couldn't let this man go, he was a parliamentary Candidate, head of education a deputy leader of Bradford! The Central Office said 'Oh but Mrs Clavering was chosen by your committee!' 'Ah but she shouldn't have been selected.'

They were told that the only thing they could do was to write to everybody who subscribed to the local branch and invite them to an Extra-Ordinary General Meeting, tell them what the situation is and let them decide. So all his friends and his wife and his cousins and everybody went out canvassing against me. Fancy! a Tory canvassing against a Tory! When they held this Extra-Ordinary General Meeting twenty-two people turned up and I got seventeen votes! His wife had hysterics. He has since said that losing his seat saved his business. He got his seat back when I left. I never looked back after that except for being thrown off chairs of committees. Local headlines used to be 'Tory thrown off committee for disobeying instructions!' I got on very well with the Asian population, too well in the end . That's why I had to escape and come down here. I was on the Planning Committee and the Housing Committee. What I liked best of all was the Social Services. Nobody else wanted to do these things, and I was also on Environmental Health. I was chairman of the sub-committee on Environmental Health eventually. Colin called it 'the rat-catchers.'

But Environmental Health interested me so much. I think that drainage and sewage works and things like that are the most important things. If there is something wrong with your drains there is nothing worse. And we were in charge of abattoirs, factories, pollution and dustbins. We were looked down on by the Education people who had one hundred and seventy-five million pounds to spend at the time. We only got about forty million. I was invited to go to an Environmental Health Conference at Scarborough once and we had the whale of a time. Everything was paid for by the Environmental Health Department. I also went on to Adoption and Fostering which I liked very much, setting up children in happy homes - hopefully. We had to deal with people whose children had been taken away from them because they had been sexually abused. They used to come and plead for them back. They were so violent sometimes we had to sit in a room with an escape route. In addition to our other duties all councillors had to be governors of five schools and chair at least one. Then of course there were race relations problems. At one time Bradford was a Labour-run council before the reorganisation started. The Asian vote became very important to the political parties but the Asians voted the way their Imams told them to vote. The Imams stood outside the polling stations and told their flock that if they voted the wrong way they would know. The Asians were intimidated by their Imans. Asians would not have their meat slaughtered in our abattoirs. They had to have halal meat and it had to be kept separate.

Morrison's Supermarkets were very big in our area and they sympathised with the Asians and helped pay for a separate special abattoir for them. They had the first choice of the animals that came in and they had to be ritually slaughtered by having a prayer said over them and then turned on their back and having their throats cut. It didn't seem to me to be any worse than being stunned and hauled up by one leg and slaughtered but I didn't agree with us having to pay for it. I will quote from what I wrote at the time: 'I have never been able to understand why we should treat people in a different way because they have a dark skin. I never had any trouble with the Asians. I argued with them the same way I argued with white people. However, I am now thoroughly fed up with the whole race issue. It is making us all look impotent. Take the Supplementary Schools. They are still continuing years after permission was refused. White people wouldn't get away with defying our planning and safety laws so why should Asians?'

Supplementary Schools were the schools where they taught the Koran. Corner shops were taken over and empty houses and people who lived next door to them had all this disturbance every night because hundreds of children used to come and sit on carpets on the floor. They were fed fruit (orange peel was everywhere) and taught the Koran and beaten if they didn't learn it. I said that I was sick of hearing accusations about inner-city deprivation. Crime is not now about stealing food and clothing such as deprived people would do, it is about stealing jewellery and videos. The blacks tried to blame the English for slavery; CRE means Campaign for Revenge on the English. Slavery was going on before the English existed as a race and is it not a fact that black African rulers and business men provided the slaves and made money out of the slave trade? To try to be fair to Blacks by being unfair to Whites is not a recipe for harmony. There should be no restrictions on our employees writing criticisms of the system. The employees of the council had to go to classes to be trained in race relations and they were all run by Asians and Blacks.

I went to one and they started off by saying that only White people are racist. Which is, of course, a lie. Ray Honeyford was a headmaster of one of the Council Middle schools and he said that 90% of the children in his school were Asian and the indigenous White children were losing their identity because of the insistence of nurturing the immigrant culture. There was compulsory teaching of Urdu and Islam in the schools. When he asked the children in his school how many of them were British, only 10% put their hands up. Imams were allowed by the education authority to come into his school and lead prayers. English was a second language and Urdu was compulsory. Parents were allowed to take their children away from school and send them back to Pakistan to preserve their culture for the minimum of three months. The girls, at puberty, stayed there until marriage and when they return they were unable to speak English. Top Conservatives in Bradford seemed enthusiastic about all this and I was called racist for objecting to it. This would be in 1984. Ray Honeyford was sacked! Bradford had the first Asian Lord Mayor in the country.

Basically he was all right but he did say in council that they were Muslim and they followed Muslim Law and 'there is nothing you can do about it. As soon as you close one of the Supplementary Schools down we will open it up again.' But none of this was reported in the Press because they weren't allowed to print anything that might cause unrest. I was not surprised when they had riots in Bradford; anything starts a riot. One of the interesting things was that I was invited to a lot of Asian occasions. I was on the Planning Committee and there was an application from an Asian shopkeeper who wanted to have a licence to put some 'one-armed bandits' (as the fruit machines used to be called) in his shop. When you got an application from an Asian it said RR on the sheet which meant Race Relations and that meant that somebody off the committee had to go and check it out. So I went to his shop in the middle of Bradford and he said that he was having a struggle and 'one-armed bandits' would bring in the local youth and increase his trade. I couldn't see any reason why not so I agreed. That was a big mistake. After that, the phone never stopped ringing. My name appeared in Asian newspapers and even on the Urdu programme on radio. Go to Mrs Clavering if you want to apply for something! A few weeks later he rang me up and said that his daughter was getting married. Would I go to the wedding? I said I would if my husband could come with me. He agreed and said, 'I send you invitation,' and the invitation came. I didn't reply for about three days and he rang again. 'You have not replied to my invitation!' 'I have actually,' I said, 'but I put a second class stamp on it'. 'Why you put second class stamp on, I put first class stamp on!'

The bridegroom was having difficulty in getting over from Pakistan - it was all in the papers about it. Now this Asian shopkeeper, who was so short of money he needed one-armed bandits, hired the university for the ceremony! It started about 10 o'clock in the morning and went on all day. The Lady Lord Mayor at the time announced that she was going. She was a bit annoyed when she saw me there! The Bishop was there, Brandon Jackson was there, just about everybody was there including Look North Television and Pakistani Television but only one telegram was read out. 'Prince Charles and Princess Diana regret that they have another engagement on that day so unfortunately they will not be able to attend.' Eventually at the end of the ceremony, the bride appeared. She was not really important. It was the contract between the families that was important. Now, I knew that this man had a white wife, a Bradford girl, and when I saw this little bride I thought, she doesn't look half-English. No said someone, she is Pakistani, she is from his Pakistani family! They all lived in Bradford and all his Pakistani children went to private schools. It appeared that many Pakistanis had two families in England. I was once invited to a Christmas celebration - some of them celebrated Christmas as well - and I remember saying that I liked mangoes and I asked him if he had any in his shop but he said that they didn't come in until April.

One day the doorbell rang and there was his wife with a big box of mangoes. She wouldn't take any money for them and I said that had to pay for them or I couldn't accept them. But she left them on the doorstep and went! We came to Colsterworth because my son was appointed a financial director at Boston and he moved to Stainby with his family. My daughter was doing social work in London so we thought that we would see more of our grandchildren if we moved down here. In any case our four-bedroomed house was too big for us so we had to move. We looked for a house for a year and then our daughter-in-law rang to say that there was a bungalow for sale opposite the school in Colsterworth and so we came here. Colin got a temporary job at Heathlands School in Grantham. We felt that we had to move because I was always being given presents, I couldn't escape them. Somebody gave me a gigantic picture of Constable's Haywain once. As we were leaving his restaurant, he opened the car door and put the picture on the back seat! Another offering was the biggest bottle of gin I had ever seen. 'I give you present not because you are Councillor. I give you present because you are friend.'

Every time the phone went it was for me. Colin got tired of it. I actually addressed an assembly at a Sikh temple at one time. It was then I realised how much they hated the Muslims; they were at war with each other. I also went to a Bangladeshi wedding. They would even change the date of something if I couldn't attend. It got to be desperate. So we moved in 1989 and I didn't tell anybody where we were going. The English people of Bradford had a lot to put up with. I firmly believe what Kipling said, - East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet. I can't see the answer to the race problems. Really we have been fooled. People in the rest of the country don't understand what folk have to put up with in areas like Bradford. Their whole way of life has changed; the whole area has changed. If thousands of immigrants decided to move up towards Ilkley, say, they'd just get the white people out. They would make their life not worth living. I love it here in Colsterworth. It is so peaceful, it is another world. I go down into Rutland sometimes and that is truly rural England. People here don't realise what other parts of the country have to endure. It is really hard for them and it is not fair.


This page was last edited on Tuesday 06-Dec-11 19:36:23 GMT


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