THE EUROPEAN REFERENDUM

[THURSDAY, 5th June 1975]

The PM was Harold Wilson; he was not the forceful character he had been when he first came to office in 1964. We learnt (much later) that by his second administration he was drinking brandies throughout the day to cope with the stress of office. By 1975 he was already suffering the early effects of Alzheimer’s disease, which led to his resignation less than a year later. The holding of a referendum was a new way of deciding major political issues in Britain; the very idea was by no means universally popular. ‘We have Governments to that sort of thing for us’, went the countervailing opinion.

The account that follows is taken from my diary of the day.

It was cool to start the day, but it got much warmer later; it remained dull all day.

There was our dog Fido to be exercised, but I just took him for a short walk up the road after breakfast. (I had bacon and Dad had an egg.) Fido later came to work with us – he was a business dog in the morning! The previous day had been my parents’ Ruby Wedding, and the celebrations (although muted) had left us all rather tired. Consequently Dad and I were rather late up, but we went down to Poringland Village Hall before going to work. There was not much morning left by the time we had cast our vote. Mum and I voted to stay in, Dad voted to come out. Incidentally my father later changed his mind – too late, because he had already voted, but the result must have pleased him. The opinion pollsters predicted a 2:1 vote to remain.

The milling machine.

The milling machine and parts for magnifiers.

As usual the first job on arriving at Surrey Street was to open the post. We were normally kept very busy with orders for magnifiers, which we had to manufacture all ourselves, but today it was quiet. There were things to do though, like going to the bank. Then I set to work on the milling machine, cutting out the plastic parts of the Versator binocular magnifiers we were making. Dad was polishing the plastic parts and assembling the metal hinges and inserting the lenses. Before going home for lunch we called at the Crown Point Tavern for a drink of beer. After cold meat and tomatoes, apricots and custard, I took Fido for a run on Dunston Common, a couple of miles away in the car.

Whitlingham

Swans at Whitlingham

In the afternoon there was more work to do, making up optical instruments. At home I helped get the tea ready, laying the table and helping to garnish the trout that Mum had cooked. We had the fish with new potatoes and green peas, and followed it with hot lemon sponge. Then I helped with the washing up. Lucky Fido was taken for another run, this time by the river Yare at Whitlingham. The evening was spent watching television (black and white of course); Jacques Cousteau on Beavers, Percy Thrower’s Gardening programme, one on Braemar Castle, and the ever-green Dad’s Army (which is still regularly broadcast on BBC 2).

The vote, when it was announced, was almost exactly 2:1 in favour of remaining, proving the pollsters spot-on. They do not appear to be as good at predicting results nowadays, if the 2015 General Election is anything to go by.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

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