“I was born at the QMC in Nottingham, and I’m originally from Cotgrave. I have two sons, and when I had my oldest son, some 15 years ago, I moved to Mapperley, Gedling and then in the city area, where I have been for a few years now.
“I ﬁrst discovered Beeston when I was training to be a nursery nurse, and went to Orchard Day Nursery for my college placement. Orchard Day Nursery is a lovely family run nursery which my school friend and I enjoyed going to. We also enjoyed exploring Beeston itself.
“I’ve been working as a postie for nearly nine years now, and certain aspects of my job have helped me with gaining more conﬁdence. I have made lots of friends within Royal Mail, and this has helped me to get to know the people of Beeston, through the different parts of my job and being on Beeston Updated. When I started the job I knew hardly anyone from Beeston, now I feel part of the community. Now nine years later, I have friends all around Beeston and big thanks to my best friend Lisa Jones-Bragan, for her amazing support these past nine years.
“Being a postie can be an important part of the community, especially getting to know people and delivering to the elderly and those with disabilities. Checking on our regular residents can be a bit of reassurance for them. I have in the past done a welfare check on someone. As an ex carer, sometimes your gut instinct kicks in and some things can play on your mind until you get home, so I’d rather know and have peace of mind that people are ok.
“When Owen Jenkins tragically passed away in 2017, I got to see the beautiful, positive side of Beeston’s community. I delivered to the Jenkins family and got to know that they are the warmest loving family you will ever meet. I have got to know a lot of people from around Beeston now, as I have worked all around the area and further aﬁeld. Since the lockdown, I’ve felt a lovely sense of community care. One lady a few weeks ago on one of my regular walks gave me some hand sanitiser, which I really appreciated. I’ve also received a lovely Easter card and some mini eggs. I have seen several notes on doors and windows saying ‘thank you’ to the posties.
“Five years ago I fell over during a delivery, on the same week I fractured my hip, and so I was off work for three months. I had to have a titanium plate and some screws put in place. Since then I’ve done two 5k races, to raise money for Women’s Aid and Race for Life. I’ve also done a 10k run for Race for Life. Next year when the lockdown should be over, I’m hoping to do another run, this time for the OWEN (Open Water Education Network) charity, as it’s one that’s close to my heart. I try and visit every charity event that they attend, to help raise money for Owen, in his name.
“Although I don’t live in Beeston, I appreciate the opportunity of talking about myself, as I enjoy my job, working in Beeston and knowing so many lovely people”.
“I was born in Beeston and went to both Round Hill and Alderman White schools. After leaving school, I did a YTS course at Chilwell Van Hire, and have been involved in repairing motors ever since”.
“In 2009 my former wife and I left for Florida in the US. I went to work for a garage that repaired police cars and fire engines. We lived in Brandon Tampa, which was a ninety-minute drive to the repair shop. I didn’t mind the distance, as it was just basically three roads. I’d just put the car in cruise control and pop on an 80s music station. But my wife was homesick, so we came home after a couple of years. I then took on a garage at Ruddington, ‘Village Motors’, and now I have ‘Smiths’, here in Chilwell, which I’ve had for four years now”.
“I’ve always liked Beeston. If I have any problems, then I just have to pick up the phone and I’ll know someone who can help me out. The tram had no real detrimental effect on my business. It’s only really the virus that’s stopped me working. I prefer working on my own anyway, so I don’t have a problem with being alone. I prefer it. Technology has taken over so much in cars now. But I’m planning to wind down and retire sometime soon anyway, so I can spend some time in Spain”.
“I’ve been disappointed at the loss of shops over the last few years, but it’s so easy to walk everywhere. Although I recently had a hip replacement, so that’s stopped me walking around the Attenborough Nature Reserve. I’m a member of the Porsche owners club, and we’ve done a few shows at Wollaton Park. I do like having weekends away with my partner Jo and visiting places like Robin Hoods Bay and Whitby”.
I was born in the Rylands and my parents still live there. My dad was a painter and decorator while my mum worked at Plessey. I went to Beeston Rylands infant and Junior Schools, then Chilwell Comprehensive.
After leaving school, I did a secretarial course at Broxtowe College. I then joined the Civil Service, and worked in various sections including the British Embassy in Washington and the Press Office in Downing Street. I joined the House of Lords in 2011, and am currently Chair of the Charity Commission.
Although I live in London, I try to return to Beeston every six weeks, as Beeston is still my home. When I became a peer, it was my decision to be titled Baroness Stowell of Beeston, as I am always flying the flag for Beeston. Beeston is the reason for what I have become.
I think you can learn a lot from the people of Beeston. Their warmth, humour, honesty and authenticity. It’s those things that make me proud to come from Beeston. I was privileged to recently officially open Julie Wesson and Richard Haywood’s newest location on Villa Street. They are a local business providing a service to the people of Beeston, who I know they care a lot about.
On the 25th of June 2017, the Canalside Heritage Centre opened its doors for the first time, after being transformed into a wonderful visitors centre and cafe from a derelict row of cottages. Of course, I went along with my Beestonian hat on and the famous ‘I Am Beeston’ sign, just in case I should meet some more brilliant Beestonians.
Well actually I did, and one person, in particular, stood out.
A sweet little old lady by the name of Alice Grundy. Besides her great age, unbeknown to me was that she had opened the centre, as she had a strong connection with the area, in that she had lived on the canal and where her young sister Annie, who was eight at the time sadly drowned.
Fast forward to September this year when Beestonian Towers received a message from her son in law Malcolm and her daughter Lesley. They wanted to chat about Alice and the life that she had led. So one evening, I popped down with my jotter and pen. Fortunately, they had provided me with a transcript of the tribute that had been paid to Alice at her funeral. She sadly died a shade before her 100th birthday. So the following is a slightly condensed version of that tribute.
“Alice was born in Liverpool during 1920. She lived with her parents, grandparents and siblings George and Annie. Unfortunately, her parents’ marriage came to an end, so the three youngsters went to live with their grandparents on a houseboat on the canal in the Rylands. And as mentioned previously, in 1930, Annie tragically fell into the water. Something that Alice never got over. She went to Church Street School, before moving to Nether Street. Alice remembered when the area was farms and fields, and buying beer for her grandma from the original Jolly Anglers pub. She also danced on the stage at the Boat and Horses, and played with the Bagshaw brothers who lived in the cottages before they became the heritage centre.
When Alice was 14, she returned to Liverpool to complete her education and began working in a linen shop. But she learned that her friends back in Beeston were earning more as apprentices at Ericssons. So that’s what Alice did. She moved back to Beeston and worked as an electronics tester.
During World War II, she went back to Liverpool to live with her mum and brother George. But their house was destroyed during two air raids, and so they moved to Yorkshire.
“She was very kind and generous and was a volunteer with the Partially Sighted Group…”
After the war, Alice moved back to Beeston, where she met and married a man called Wilf Grundy in 1946. They firstly lived on Waverley Avenue, before moving to Canalside, then to a house in Chilwell, with their children Kevin and Lesley. Wilf was a lawn bowler, and so Alice joined too and became a brilliant player. They won many competitions, both in mixed pairs and separately. They were also involved in Plessey’s Social Club, where they danced the night away on many, many occasions. The slow foxtrot being their favourite, until Wilf passed away in 2002.
But Alice was always thinking of others. She was very kind and generous and was a volunteer with the Partially Sighted Group, where she helped for some 30 years. She was also involved with the Old Mission and the church on Victory Road. She also used to go shopping for people, and used to ride a bike through Beeston, often laden with groceries, and continued to cycle well into her 70s.
Alice moved to Venn Court in the late 1990s where she was the life and soul of the centre. She kept busy playing darts, keeping fit, and being involved in all the social activities that the independent living scheme had to offer.
She clearly enjoyed living life to the full, being positive about life and always having a laugh. Obviously this positive outlook helped her live to almost a century, despite her early setbacks. An inspiration for us all perhaps.”
The name of William ‘Bill’ Wheatley may not be known to that many Beestonians, but to those that do, he means a great deal to them. My only time of meeting Bill was when I went to his house to chat with him as a subject for the ongoing ‘I Am Beeston’ project. Although I managed to take his photograph, for some long-forgotten reason the interview never took place. Now, of course, it is too late, as Bill sadly passed away in June. So as a way of recompense to him and his family, here is a potted history of his life and his many achievements.
William was born on 31st October 1929 on Moorbridge Road in Stapleford. He was the oldest of four children. Archie his father worked at Stanton Ironworks, while his mum Elsie was what is known as being in service, before becoming a wife, parent and homemaker. When Bill was eight, the family moved to Stanton-by-Dale. At 15, Bill got a job at the Ironworks as an apprentice electrician. National Service arrived when Bill reached 21.
Having knowledge of electrical matters, Bill served in the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) where he instructed recruits on radar systems, at their base in Arborfield, Berkshire.
When he was demobbed in 1952, Bill specialised as an electrical engineer in mining and petrochemical sites. He became a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers and a Chartered Engineer (C Eng MIE). He retired in 1992, after being an engineer for 50 years.
Life changed for Bill when he married his wife Cynthia Chapman in 1957. Bill met Beeston born Cynthia through his involvement in the local Methodist Church on Victory Road. They enjoyed 53 years of marriage, living in the same newly built bungalow on Trent Road in the Rylands before she died in July 2010. The couple had two daughters; Kathryn and Helena. Bill became involved in the church at a very young age, through firstly becoming a choirboy, then as a bell ringer. He loved the Methodist Church nearly as much as Cynthia. as he was involved in the church’s many activities such as teaching, leading the Sunday School, organising a boy’s club and the Christian Endeavour, which aimed at helping young people to find God. In 1963, Bill helped to create the Midland Camping Venture (MVC). This group provided week-long summer holidays for young people and gave them an opportunity to get involved in various outdoor activities. It proved to be very popular, as thousands of young people signed up for these camps. Bill also became a local preacher and looked after the Victory Road church.
But religion wasn’t the only thing that kept Bill busy. After seeing shire horses as a child, Bill found his love of all things nature. He learnt to recognise the calls of different birds and know lots about plants. He even sold rose bushes to Wheatcroft’s. In 1996, he and the late Keith Corbett started the Beeston Wildlife Group, which is very popular with wildlife enthusiasts, and became Chair, after Keith’s passing eleven years later. He was also heavily involved in Attenborough Nature Reserve and other local conservation projects.
His community work was formally recognised in 2008, when he took a trip to Buckingham Palace and received his MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for Voluntary Service to the Community in Beeston, Nottinghamshire’. Bill described this as one of his proudest moments. Then in 2012, Bill was given the Freedom of the Borough of Broxtowe. A fitting tribute to such a remarkable man.
Away from the church, nature conservation and helping others, Bill enjoyed reading, with his favourite novel being Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider With Rosie’, possibly whilst listening to some jazz music. He supported Derby County and was a fan of motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi. He also liked steam trains and a bit of plane spotting at RAF Waddington. Bill also spent the best part of 25 years learning Spanish, and at the age of 79, drove for several hours, so he could do some birdwatching.
An inspirational man by any standards. I went to his service of thanksgiving at Beeston Methodist Church on June 22nd. It was a sad, but joyous affair, with many people relating stories and fond memories about their connection with Bill. A lot were from the days of the MVC. This was followed up with a later meeting that day at the Attenborough Nature Centre.
With many thanks to Kathryn Randall and Heidi Tarlton-Weatherall for the information and photographs.
Few people can handle a sausage as well as Johnny Pusztai: the larger than life butcher extraordinaire talks to The Beestonian
I have been trying to get Nottingham’s famous butcher to do ‘I Am Beeston’ for
practically two years now, but with running several businesses, it’s been almost
impossible to pin him down for a chat. But finally we managed to get together, at
L’Olvia’s, which is turning out to be one of the best and most popular restaurants
“I was born in Worksop, North Notts. My father Dezso came from Hungary and
immigrated to Nottingham in 1956, where he worked as an engineering welder.
My Mum Pamela was a local girl, and sold tickets at the ABC Cinema. From
Worksop, we moved to Mansfield, then to Sherwood, when I was seven”.
“We lived across the road from the JT Beedham butchers, and my dad used to
take me to see what was for sale. I was fascinated with all the different sorts of
meats, the cuts and the terminology. I got on really well with the owners, George
Beedham and Bill Robinson, so they set me on as a delivery boy when I was 12.
Then when I turned 16, I got an apprenticeship with them. I really got stuck into
the thick of it and learned all I could. I took over the business in 1991, but I
worked in a slaughterhouse to earn enough to buy it. I worked on the boning
line. It was the most boring job, but the best paid. I kept the Beedham name out
of respect for George. He was probably the best butcher that ever lived”.
Johnny first became well known to the general public when he appeared on the
Great British Menu TV series with local Michelin starred chef Sat Bains in the
second series, which aired in April 2007. Sat won the Midlands & East of England
heat with his starter, which featured ham from Beedham’s. It received three ‘10s’
from the judges. Since then Johnny has become Sat Bain’s preferred butcher.
Johnny also supplies a few restaurants in the city centre and the very place
where we are sitting chatting. “I’ve known Marco since he opened. We’ve
become very good friends. There used to five or six butchers in Beeston. Now
there’s only two. The problem with supermarket meat is that they are not
bothered about quality. It’s more to do with profit. I like Beeston. It’s a nice town
with friendly people. I just love Nottinghamshire. It’s a wonderful county to live
in” The secret to Johnny’s success is of course the meat itself. “I have a farm up at
Wellow near Rufford, where we rear pigs and lambs. I also get meat from
Brackenhurst College near Southwell. They breed red heifers, which is the best
Further appearances followed, including BBC2’s Market Kitchen with Gary
Rhodes in November 2008. Then invitations to present cooking demonstrations
at food festivals around the country stated to come in. A number of awards have
also come Johnny’s way, such as the Guild of Fine Food for his sausages and
bacon, and the Observer Food Awards in 2011. Johnny is very modest about his
achievements. “I still work 16 hours a day. My job is never boring. I don’t drink, but love a good coffee and some nice food. I’ve seen Zulu 38 times. It’s my
favourite film. My daughter Lara and I have just done the catering in the VIP Tent
for Splendour at Wollaton Park. It was a very long day for both of us. But she is
off to university to study Business Management and Marketing. So when she gets
her degree, she’ll be able to promote me properly, as it’s something that I’m not
that good at”.
One part of Johnny’s businesses that hasn’t done as well as expected is ‘The
Snobby Butcher Bistro’, which opened in May this year, after a year and a half of
construction work on the adjoining Sherwood shop. “The restaurant has a
future, I just have to reconfigure the idea. It just wasn’t working for me”.
“I still work 16 hours a day. My job is never boring. I don’t drink, but love a good coffee and some nice food. I’ve seen Zulu 38 times.
But there are two areas that have proved to be very popular; the food and drink
shows and the experience days. “I have appeared at food festivals all over the
country. There’s even one now in Worksop, where I grew up”. Beeston actually
held one a few years ago, which Johnny attended. But it wasn’t a great success.
Possibly poor planning and publicity were to blame. Certainly the very wet
weather on that particular Saturday didn’t help. The festival was split between
the Square and Broadgate Park, and there were problems at the park, due to very
muddy conditions. So it has sadly never been repeated.
“The Experience Days have really taken off. People will spend the day with me at
the shop and get involved in all aspects of butchery. We teach them how to bone
a chicken or a piece of meat, make sausages, create flavours and cooking skills, so
they can make the same dish at home”.
One aspect of Johnny’s life that due to modesty didn’t want to mention was that
he used to be a professional ice hockey player for the Nottingham Panthers. But
some research showed that he played centre during their 1980-81 year. Despite
his busy schedule, Johnny still finds time to coach the University of Nottingham
team. “My father had a saying: we are born to be workers, so lets be the best that
we can.” Well Johnny, I don’t think anyone could argue with that. Christopher Frost, Community Editor.
“I was born in Beeston and went to Beeston Manor and Alderman White Schools. When I left school I went to work in an estate agency; then in 2006 I moved to a local optician. I’m now back working in an estate agency. This time its Robert Ellis.”
“There are lots of things that I love about Beeston. The Victoria for its food, ales and whiskies, the farmer’s market, especially Sue’s Cakes stall and walking between the Marina and Attenborough Nature Reserve. Although I am a fairweather walker. I also like taking photographs on my mobile phone, especially of the swans and my pets. I have three cats and have rescued a hedgehog.”
“Beeston is an up and coming area, with a buoyant housing market and great transport links. We are finding that developers are moving in from other areas. It’s a shame that we have lost a lot of the small, independent shops, which have been replaced by the larger chain stores and supermarkets. But I think we will always have Hallams.”
“A lot of people know me and even an old teacher of mine called Mrs Jones still recognised me. Some people have called me ‘The Face of Beeston’.”
Being a journalist on the Beestonian brings you into contact with all sorts of people with different stories to tell. And someone with quite a few stories to tell is Dawn Reeves, facilitator, trainer and author of a coffee table book all about various town halls across England; their history, uses and future. That universal symbol of local democracy seems to be under threat from the very councils that they belong to. Beeston’s is a prime example. But more on that later.
We arranged to meet at Greenhoods, and so over a hot drink I chatted to Dawn about herself, her interest in town halls and the purpose of the book. “I was born in London, but moved to Nottingham with my family. I got a job with Nottingham County Council, and then as a manager with Ashfield District Council. Working in those buildings, made me realise how important they are to communities, and not just for paying bills. I’m now back in Beeston and love it. I love the creativity of the town.”
Turning to her generously illustrated volume ‘Town Hall: Buildings, People and Power’. “Working in local government, I realised that there are three main architectural styles of buildings that are used as town halls; the grand Victorian palaces like Bradford, Birmingham and Todmorden; the art deco styles of Torquay, Hornsey and Nottinghamshire and the postmodernist structures at Newcastle, Mansfield and Worcestershire. Although this book is broken down into themes, rather than styles. I touch on four general themes: ‘Purpose’, ‘People’, ‘Power’ and ‘Future’.”
Nearly 30 councils and their town halls are described and evaluated in the book, that includes some eye-catching photography, I asked Dawn how she got the book completed. “I have some friends in Yorkshire, and around the country and I just basically roped them in to either write about their town hall or take photos of it. I am planning another volume. One, which should feature Beeston’s original building. The book is self published through Shared Press and with financial assistance from CCLA.”
The story of Beeston’s town hall would make a worthy inclusion in volume two. How Broxtowe Council sold the building off for £425,000 to the Cornerstone Church, whilst ignoring other interested parties, including Beeston’s Civic Society; who wanted to turn it into a community resource for weddings, arts and theatre events and similar community celebrations. Very much like Brent’s does with theirs. But it was sold, even though the residents of Broxtowe will be out of pocket by some £155,000, as the council will be spending £533k on moving computer servers to it’s newer building, legal fees and doing up the building before the church moves in. But the council claim that it will be saving £85,000 a year on maintenance and repair costs. It is understood that the building will only be available to its church members, therefore excluding the citizens of NG9, whose past relations would have paid for the town hall to be built through their rates bill.
Last year the Civic Society collected over £5000 from residents through crowd funding to raise a legal challenge. But the findings from a barrister suggested that this challenge would not be successful. The group are currently working on some Freedom of Information requests about how the council had reached its unpopular decision on whom it selected to have the building.
With local elections coming up in May, it remains to be seen as to whether the sale will actually go through by then, or maybe a change of administration may have other ideas.
Besides writing about town halls and training businesses, Dawn has also written a couple of novels, ‘Hard Change’ and ‘We Know What We Are’. Also printed by Shared Press. These are urban thrillers that also include the shady dealings of fictional local councils.
If you would like to hear Dawn talk about her love of town halls, then she is appearing at the amazing Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham on the 10th of April at 7pm. Admission will be £3, including refreshments.
It’s not everyday that you get to meet someone that is (at the time of interviewing) just about to turn 100 years old. By Christopher Frost.
The golden number that everyone strives for, but sadly, not many attain. I cycled up to the house, situated in a quiet part of Beeston, and was met at the door by Kay, a close friend who suggested her, and behind was Muriel, who prefers to be called by her maiden name. Not having met anyone of that age before, I didn’t quite know what to expect. But I was gratified to see that Penney is a spritely, warm and friendly person that could easily pass for someone in their late 70s. Being slightly deaf and needing the use of a wheeled walker were the only drawbacks that she appeared to have on reaching her century.
We sat in her living room and started chatting. She had actually written down a lot of information for me that she had remembered. “I was born at ‘The Lodge’, which was part of the City Isolation Hospital on Hucknall Road on 12 October 1918. My father George, worked as the Lodgekeeper there, plus undertaking any other duties that were given to him. While my mum, Eliza, looked after us all. I went to Southwark Street Primary School in Old Basford. I then went to Guilford Central Girls School, where at the age of 14, I passed the E.M.E.U examination in six subjects, and was awarded the Jardine Honours Prize.”
“On leaving school, I got a job with J.B. Lewis and Sons, who were one of the largest hosiery and underwear manufacturers in the Midlands. The company then became Meridian, before being taken over by Courtaulds. Whilst working as an errand girl there, I decided that I wanted to better myself by learning shorthand and typing. So I enrolled on evening classes at Binns Business College. Attaining the qualifications, I landed a job as secretary to the Advertising and Promotions manager at Griffin & Spalding, which is now Debenhams. This was in 1936. Besides the typing, I got to book London theatre tickets, arranged after dinner speakers and entertainers for children’s parties. All for the store’s customers.”
“But this all came to an end in 1939, with the start of World War II. In 1941, I used my secretarial skills for a wartime charity, which was based at the Council House. Then in 1943, I was appointed secretary to the Lord Mayor’s secretary. This was a very enjoyable post, and I got to meet some really exciting people, like the Queen in 1947, who used my very own fountain pen to sign the visitor’s book. I also got Eisenhower to sign a menu from the Black Boy Hotel, when he visited in 1945.”
When I was younger, my friend and I used to go into Beeston about three times a week with our shopping trollies.
“In 1953, I married Leonard, who was director of a family business that made prams. I then had a baby called Philip, and so left my Job at the Council House. Philip did very well at school, and went to Cambridge University to read History and the History of Art and Architecture. I typed out his dissertation about the Nottingham architect T.C. Hine. After graduating, Philip got a job with IPC Magazines in London. He eventually became the editor of ‘The Antique Dealer and Collectors Guide’. He was made redundant in 1990, but continued to publish the magazine under his own name. I helped to type up some of the articles, but computerisation came in, and so I had to learn how to use a computer. This was when I was in my 70s. I didn’t like the idea, but had some encouragement from friends and got used to it. I did it until I was 91. Sadly Philip died in 2009. Leonard had died in 1978, and so I decided to move to Beeston in 1979. My best friend lived in the area, so I thought I would join her. I’ve never regretted moving here. It’s such a friendly place.”
“Beeston has some good shops. When I was younger, my friend and I used to go into Beeston about three times a week with our shopping trollies. We used to like going to Fine Fare and the Co-Op. I miss Woolworths and a ladies’ clothes shop nearby, that I forget the name of. These days I go by taxi. All the assistants in Sainsbury’s know me and look after me when I visit. I also like to go to Hallams. It seems a bigger, better shop now, than when they had assistants picking the produce for you.”
“I’ve always been a fan of Beeston Players, and often go to see their shows. I have some lovely friends and neighbours; 50 of them are coming to my birthday party. Talking of parties, we had a lovely street party around here, for the Queen’s diamond jubilee. Yes, I made the right decision moving here. I never wanted to live in the country. Beeston suits me fine.”
As those who regularly read the Beestonian will know, Beeston resides at the heart of the universe, and despite some failings, everyone enjoys living and working here.
But for some, they have found that the grass is actually greener on the other side, and so, as a twist to the ever popular ‘I Am Beeston’ interviews, we give you two examples of former Beestonians, who packed their suitcases and bought a one way ticket to a far off land.
Firstly let me introduce you to Keith Walker, who emigrated to New Zealand in the early 1960s’. “I was born in September 1932 in Chilwell, near School Lane, and remained in the area until I married in November 1959 and moved to Littleover, as I was working at Rolls Royce and my Cheshire born wife Marian was a radiographer at Derby Royal Infirmary. We decided that we wanted a better life and explored as many possibilities as possible. Canada? Too cold in winter. Rhodesia? It was the time of Ian Smith, just before it became Zimbabwe. So that was out. South Africa? They had recently left the Commonwealth and apartheid was starting, so no! Australia? Maybe. We also looked at New Zealand. It was difficult to get much information other than touristy stuff, which is all very well if you are going for a holiday, but we wanted information like the cost of shopping. It took us two years of filling forms, interviews, medicals etc, before we were accepted and given a sailing date for the six-week voyage to New Zealand on the Shaw Saville liner ‘Southern Cross’”.
“We arrived in Wellington on 19 Oct 1962. The government had paid for our passage and guaranteed employment. We went to Blenheim, a small town in the NE corner of the South Island. It is now a major wine producing area, but then it was all fruit growing. I worked for the Inland Revenue, and as a public servant, if you wanted to get on, you had to be prepared to move, and we did. After leaving Blenheim, we moved from place to place in the North Island eventually settling in Napier on the east coast. A lovely art deco city, which had been devastated in the earthquake of Feb 1931. Marian and I split up in 1976. I eventually remarried and moved to Taupo in 1981, on the NE corner of the North Island, and have been here since. Sadly that marriage ended too. Cameron, the eldest son of that marriage lives with me now”.
I enjoyed exploring the area, looking at where I was born and where I used to live.
“Moving to NZ was a bit of a culture shock. Weatherboarded houses with corrugated iron roofs. When we arrived the population was 2.5 million, now there are about 4.7 million. Was it a good move? Definitely. The best thing I did. NZ is a beautiful place. Our land mass is about one sixth larger than the UK. Very mountainous. We have a relaxed, laid back lifestyle. Apart from our major centres such as Auckland, towns are relatively small and miles apart. The nearest provincial city to Taupo is Rotorua, and is 50 miles away, with virtually nothing in between. Certainly these are the Shaky Isles. We have had several strong earthquakes in the last few years. Taupo is in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, a highly active geothermal area with very hot ground, and relatively frequent eruptions from the three central North Island volcanoes just south of the lake. Taupo is a holiday and tourist destination. But it’s nothing like Skegness! It is an adventure playground, with lots of energetic activities like skydiving on offer”.
“I volunteer at a local geothermal park called ‘Craters of the Moon’. About 9 or 10 years ago, a group of ‘Poms’ arrived. I asked them where they were from. One of them said ‘Nottingham’. After a few minutes I found out he was Dave Tacey from Chilwell, and had been involved in 1st C&A Scouts, just like me. That blew him away. We became very close friends. He had tried to get residency in NZ, but our immigration people decided we have enough accountants and so he moved to Llanbedr in Wales. He visited a few times and we kept in close contact until his death last April”.
“On Dave’s last trip, he spent a day with me recording my memories of my former life in Beeston. I lived with my mum and dad for 27 years, apart from my 3 years in the RAF. I have been in New Zealand now for over 56 years, and in Taupo for nearly 38. I came back to the UK once, for six weeks in 2001. I visited Beeston for a couple of days. I found the crowds especially in Nottingham very claustrophobic and I was homesick after a month. I enjoyed exploring the area, looking at where I was born and where I used to live. Dave spent several weeks in and around Beeston a few years ago looking for anyone from my time, but was unable to. Although I have contacted the parish church to see if they had anyone in their congregation with memories of those times, I’ve had no response”.
If you knew Keith, or fancy reminiscing about Beeston with him, then please contact us, and we will let him know.
Next is Amy Roberts, who currently resides in Reno, Nevada, but would love to return to Beeston. Unfortunately due to present UK immigration laws, she can’t. But more of that later. “I was born in the QMC in February 1985 and lived in Beeston until 2003, when I attended Manchester University. I fell in love with the city and its incredible music scene. However, Beeston’s siren song was strong and after I graduated, I headed home and started my first ‘real’ job. I lived happily in my wonderful hometown until August 2011, when I headed to Satsumasendai, a small city in semi-rural Japan. I lived there for two years, teaching English to high school students and having the most incredible experience of my life, which will stay with me forever”.
“I returned to Beeston in 2013, and there I remained until January 2016. You could call me the ‘Beeston Boomerang’. This time I headed west to be with my husband Andrus, whom I had met in 2013, whilst travelling in the States. I was working and lived with my parents. So, we made the very difficult decision that I would apply for a Green Card and move to the US so we could finally be together. This was incredibly hard for me, as all my family are in the UK, and I had a wonderful network of friends. But I accepted it, as naturally I wanted to be with Andrus. Unfortunately, it took 19 months to actually hold it in my hand, and was an extremely stressful process. By that point I had a good job at East Midlands Airport. I had been married for over two years, but had spent all that time apart, and we didn’t want to wait any longer to be together. So with an extremely heavy heart, I left Beeston, my family, friends and my job for the last time and travelled to the medium-sized town of Reno, Nevada”.
I do sometimes find myself wondering what would have happened if I had remained in Beeston.
“Reno is as different from Beeston as it is possible to get. Neon-lit casinos dominate the downtown skyline. Guns and marijuana are legal. Beautiful mountains rear up into the clear blue sky. We get 300+ days of sunshine a year. Thousands of wild horses run free in the mountains. The stunning sapphire blue Lake Tahoe is just 45 minutes drive away. It gets up to a sweltering 36 degrees in the summer, no rain for six months but then proper, up to your knees snow in winter. It’s high, dry, harsh, but beautiful”.
“I found out I was pregnant less than three weeks after I arrived in the USA, and had Audrey was born in October 2016. While she was obviously a wonderful gift and lights up our lives, it was and still is indescribably hard to have a child so far away from home and the NHS, in a country where maternity leave is non-existent and once you leave the hospital, you’re presented with a huge bill, but with no support. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But it’s not all bad. People that I meet love my accent and are fascinated with my life story. But I do sometimes find myself wondering what would have happened if I had remained in Beeston”.
I miss being able to walk everywhere and feeling safe. I miss Beeston with every fibre of my being, and I long to return.
“It was a massive wrench to leave, but I had to in order to finally be with my husband. You see in 2012, the year before I got married, the then Home Secretary Theresa May introduced extremely harsh immigration laws. There are strict financial requirements on British citizens who dare to fall in love with someone from outside the EU, and the result is that there are thousands of ‘Skype’ families like mine, forced to live half a world away from their loved ones. Because I married an American, I either have to find £62,500 in savings or I have to earn at least £18,600 per year in the UK before I can apply for my husband’s visa. This can cost thousands of pounds and has a high rejection rate. It’s my heart’s desire to reunite my family, and I won’t stop until I achieve it. There are so many things I miss about Beeston, the vibrant town centre, the Beeman and the distant sound of the bells ringing at the Parish Church where I was christened. I miss being able to walk everywhere and feeling safe. I miss Beeston with every fibre of my being, and I long to return”.
“As I have no other way of raising the money needed for my husband’s visa application, I created a ‘GoFundMe’ page. This has been featured in the Nottingham Post and Daily Mirror. I hate asking strangers for money, but if my story has struck a chord, please, please help me get home. You can find my page at https://www.gofundme.com/4ptaah-please-help-reunite-my-family