The 1963 Diary

I have little documentation about Dad’s life: odd comments in my late wife’s diaries, and his boat logs, whose content he largely dictated, seem to be the main sources. However, when his former home was finally cleared in 2015, a single diary, for 1963, turned up. I do recall seeing an appointment diary (one of those “page-per-week” types) for 1966, but have not seen this for a long time [it turned up in April 2017]. After nearly 50 years occupation, much had accreted, but Mum had, for her own good reasons, disposed of many items that had been Dad’s.

Exciting though this discovery might appear (!), it seemed on first glance that this small Halifax Building Society diary proved to contain little. It listed odd calendared events, but no comments on any of these. Yet, read carefully, it does provide impressions of a middle-class life of a man approaching middle age (40-41), in a small provincial town.

For those who know me from other contexts, my father’s leisure involvements only stress the differences between us – ones that he began to realise once I reached adulthood. I could not follow him into the kind of Establishment organisations that he served so faithfully, no matter how worthy their aims or how useful their work might be. I am now the fourth (and final) generation of a firmly middle-class family in Wallasey, but, as political events in 2016 may have made clear, there are many varieties of experience and commitment within the British middle class. I record Dad’s interests here with some regret, as, had I been able to follow him into these organisations, I could have been closer to him. But then, I would not have been me, and he certainly could not have affiliated to bodies to which I have been committed.

Dad was a member of Wallasey Round Table, which had been founded in 1927. In 1961-2 he had been Chairman of Area 36, which was founded in 1956. As this included clubs in Wirral and North Wales, in 1962-3 Dad would be Past Chairman, with a role in the promotion of new clubs. At the time, the upper age limit for Round Table was 40 years (it is now 45, in a much-diminished organization), and Dad was given some sort of dispensation to continue unto his 41st birthday in July 1963.

Several entries seem to relate to Round Table, such as January 26 “Llangollen Charter”, and 29 January, Area Meeting, Wynnstay Wrexham; the latter was the hotel in which he had spent his honeymoon night in 1947. Tuesday June 11th saw him at “Blaenau Festiniog Inaugural”, and then Wednesday 3 July at “Llandudno Area meeting”. “Mold Area meeting” on Friday 6 September may well also relate to RT. As may Saturday 12 October – “Area Conference” and what may well be Llandudno. A note of telephone numbers suggest that meetings at Llandudno were held at the Imperial Hotel – the number recorded in his diary still applies.

Heavily blocked in, but unclear, is the “Area Executive Dinner” on Saturday 20 April. The Round Table AGM was recorded on April 25th – presumably his last Table AGM. The following day, April 26th, was the “Area AGM” at the Blossoms Hotel, Chester.

“Round Table Riverside” was recorded on Thursday May 16 and Thursday 30. The venue was “Riverside”, the Riverside Restaurant, part of the New Brighton Baths complex, destroyed by storms in 1990. Round Table also featured on Sunday 26 May: Hawkstone Park (in Shropshire), with “RT Area 36 Competition”. Then, on Thursday 27 June, the entry shows RT again – “Outdoor Meeting” “Pitch-up 6.30 for 7.00 p.m., Portland Street. This probably relates to the “green dip” at the foot of Portland Street in New Brighton. I have the faintest childhood memory of some sort of event there.

Dad once told me that the Round Table, formally a service organization for prominent young men (women had their own organization, Ladies Circle, in which Mum was also prominent), was the source of much enjoyment. He recalled a carefree atmosphere, with, for instance, members in Wallasey deciding to gatecrash a meeting of the Wrexham meeting. I am not sure (yet) when he was president of Round Table, or when he joined (1949, I think). He certainly made friends through Round Table, both in Wallasey and elsewhere – for instance, in Llandudno a prominent local family, the Lazars, whom we visited when I was of primary school age.

Some members followed him into the more senior organization, Rotary, in which his father Horace had been President of the Wallasey club in 1960-1; I think Dad joined in 1959, when he was 37. He was a more junior member of this in 1963, but he would become President in 1971-2. Dad attended a Rotary meeting in Llangollen on Wednesday 30 January. As this Club seems to have been formed in 1961, this may have followed his father’s work. Other Rotary meetings included a committee on April 29, one on Thursday 6 May at Heswall Rotary, at the Glegg Arms, Gayton. Finally on Friday 26 July there was a “Cycle Rally” for Rotary.

While Rotary continues, Round Table in Wallasey ceased to operate in 2009, while there are few clubs left in Area 36 – none in Blaenau, for instance.

Dad was also involved in freemasonry, in Liscard Lodge, in which his grandfather had been an early member in 1897; meetings were held in the Masonic Hall in Manor Road. “Lodge dance” is recorded for Ash Wednesday 27 February, and on Saturday 6 July “Masons Blackpool”. Dad would become Worshipful Master in 1964.

Scattered entries are less clear. “Halifax AGM” is recorded in May, the only event related to work. The family firm had been a longstanding (and significant) agent for the Building Society since 1935. Friday 10 May shows “Snooker final”; Friday 19 July “Midsummer Ball” and a further indistinct entry for Wednesday 31 July is “Raby Mere”, then a popular outdoor venue. The very final entry, on Thursday 31 October is “Halloween Ball”. These indicate a pleasurable social life, one similar to many middle-class men of the time.

Two further insights from the diary remain. One major event organised by Round Table in 1963 was the military tattoo held in Central Park, Wallasey. This seems to have followed the lines of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, held first in 1950. Dad attended various meetings over this, beginning with February 6th. The next meeting was at “Marshall’s House”, “Tattoo committee 8 pm”. “Marshall” was the late Marshall Thew (1925- 2012), who would give the eulogy at Dad’s funeral, and who long outlived him. Meetings followed on Tuesday 21 May, Wednesday 19 June, 10 July and (probably the last) 7 August. Against 20 May is “Capt Stead”, Western Command, Didsbury 4121; presumably associated with the Tattoo. Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th September are clearly blocked out in the diary for this. I have dim memories of this taking place, but whether I attended is uncertain.

So much for the sketchy entries. Hidden in the “calendar” at the front is perhaps the most significant entry. Sunday August 18 – Saturday 31 August are simply blocked out. These are, clearly, the dates when he took his first boat trip. I suspect that this began on Saturday 17 August and ended a fortnight later. This was Dad’s and my first major encounter with waterways, on a hire boat trip from Gailey, west of Cannock, to Ellesmere and return – something that will be related elsewhere. I have never been sure of the dates of this formative involvement, and it is helpful to finally find evidence.

25 December 2016, amended slightly 29 April 2017