Fond memories of Saddleworth: Phillida Shipp

Saddleworth Voices have recorded almost 70 interviews to preserve fond memories and anecdotes of all things local.

With the support of Saddleworth Parish Council, Delph Community Association, Delph library, Saddleworth Museum, and the North West Sound Archive in Clitheroe, the team of volunteers has created an oral record of our times, with the added advantage of capturing accent and dialect.

Here,  Janet Reid looks at the life of Phillida Shipp.

Phillida was born in Devizes, Wiltshire, in 1942. She describes herself as a being a naughty child as even in her cot she managed to cover herself in shoe polish and on VE Day pulled the plug out of the baby bath and soaked the bathroom floor!

During the war, they had a smallholding and her mother signed up to a scheme where families would receive an allocation of eggs and food scraps for the hens.

At the age of seven, Phillida was sent as a boarder to Badminton School, Bristol. Phillida enjoyed her school days but feels being a boarder does affect a child’s relationship with his or her parents.

In 1961, Phillida won a place at St Anne’s College, Oxford University. Whilst singing with the Kodaly Choir she met David, her future husband. They moved to London where Phillida studied medicine at Westminster Medical School. She remembers: “You had to call everyone “Sir”!” and “Matron was someone to be feared!”

They moved to Zambia in 1969 when David took a job as solicitor with Kitwe City Council on a three-year contract. Phillida worked as a doctor in Kitwe Central Hospital.

Infant mortality was high as a result of malnutrition, measles, and gastroenteritis. Phillida said: “Being in Zambia changed the way we viewed the world. We realised there was a bigger order of things beyond the UK.”

David accepted a post with Oldham Council as a solicitor and in 1972 they bought a cottage in Delph, part of a row of what used to be agricultural labourers’ cottages dating back to the late 1700s. Their two boys, Jonathan and Oliver, attended Delph School and Saddleworth School.

For 25 years Phillida worked for Tameside and Glossop Health Authority finally ending with overall responsibility for Community Family Planning and Sexual Health in Tameside. She initiated the opening of clinics for young people, including those under the age of 16 which was a controversial measure.

Phillida was a Labour parish councillor for four years, and has been a member of the Peace Movement since the 1980s. She plays cello in the Northern Baroque Orchestra.

Along with Janet Baker (an ex-librarian) she was central to saving Delph Library, with the support of Delph Community Association and volunteers, when the council tried to shut it in 2005.


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