Saddleworth Voices: Gillian Clark

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, Martin Plant looks at the life of Gillian Clark.

Gillian Clark was born in Scunthorpe in 1936. Her family was originally from Manchester but her father found work in local government there at a time when the iron and steel industry was still expanding.

When Gill left school aged 17, her father thought she had a choice of a career in the police, the post office, teaching, the civil service or nursing! Gill decided on nursing and trained at Guy’s Hospital, London, “because they had a swimming pool in the basement!”

As students, “we were called “lambs”, the lowest of the low, but as I stood in the sluice room I could see St. Paul’s Cathedral across the river, and I felt I had arrived!”

Gill moved to Manchester to become a midwife. She would cycle to her home visits. She recalls: “It was a bit of a fad to have home deliveries in the 1960s. It was rather precarious to be delivering babies, alone, and without backup.” Then later, as a health visitor, she advised parents and monitored children, “weighing, measuring and injecting!”

In 1967 Gill married Philip Clark, a Delph man, and moved to High Street, Delph. For a while she worked part-time as a health visitor in Saddleworth “where some of the deprivation, especially in the hill farms, was worse than anything I saw in Manchester”.

Delph was “beautiful, with the stone houses and the river running through it. And shopping in those days was a pleasure rather than nowadays when it’s more of a scuttle!

“Everything we needed was here including three butchers’ shops, a bank, a greengrocer’s, haberdasher’s, a hardware shop, and even the Co-op had a furniture department where you could buy linoleum!” It had four pubs, including The Rose and Crown which closed down some years ago.”

She remembers her first experience of Whit Friday. “The dressing up, the church parade, the Sunday School children holding little posies… and the pea shooting! Targets included the vicar, and the band’s side-drum!

“At a later time, I recall buying new dresses for my young daughters, Helen and Caroline, and then seeing them at the window in their vests, waving pea shooters. I was especially ashamed when Andrew, my son, began dropping water bombs on the crowd below!”

Gill has always been an active member of the community. In the 1970s she started the Delph group of Brownies and with Jose Whitehead organised week-long pack holidays.

She is secretary of Delph Community Association which was formed initially to prevent the sale of Chapel Gardens and save Delph library (where she is a volunteer).

She is an active member of St. Thomas’s Church but regrets the lack of funding has resulted in a peripatetic minister who hasn’t the time there used to be for pastoral care in the community.

Now her resident family consists of three hens who live in the garden and are very sociable as well as good egg layers!

Gill has lived in Delph for nearly 50 years, “though proper Delphers would say I’m still a comer-in!”


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