Death of Margaret Thatcher sparks local memories

Mrs Thatcher speaks with five-year-old Tina Collick during her visit to Nansloe Junior and Infants School in Helston

Margaret Thatcher visits the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre at Castle Drive in Falmouth

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The death of Britain’s only female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has sparked memories for people across the Falmouth and Helston area.

While she was education secretary, Baroness Thatcher visited the west of Cornwall on March 30, 1973 to open six new schools, seven major extensions and 11 units built to cater for the raising of the school leaving age, costing more than £2 million in total.

These included Falmouth School’s science block and an extension at Penryn School, costing a combined £315,600, as well as Beacon County Primary Junior School, which cost £94,000.

One of her main visits that day was to Helston School, where she opened a “major extension” at the school’s north site – effectively creating ‘upper school’ – costing £461,840 and received a tour from then headmaster Mr AS Worrall. A plaque commemorating that day now sits outside the office of current headteacher Pat McGovern.

During her visit to Helston Mrs Thatcher also toured Nansloe Junior and Infants School with headmaster Mr MC Wood.

Falmouth’s MP Sarah Newton has fond memories of meeting Mrs Thatcher on a number of occasions.

The first was while she was a student at Falmouth School and doing work experience during the Easter holidays with the Falmouth Packet.

Mrs Thatcher was in Cornwall campaigning during the 1970s and Mrs Newton was paired with a national newspaper journalist for the day to try and track her down.

After a day driving around the country the pair succeeded and the young Sarah was able to carry out a brief interview with Mrs Thatcher that was published on the front of the Falmouth Packet.

Years later, Mrs Newton attended a reception hosted by Mrs Thatcher to encourage more women to stand as Conservative MPs.

Mrs Newton said: “She did show to my generation that women could go into politics and they could reach the top in what was and still is a very male dominated world at Westminster.”

She added that Mrs Thatcher was a “great force for democracy”, adding: “She was really courageous in standing up to communism.”

Many people still remember Baroness Thatcher's visit to Falmouth in November 1982, when she was given a tour of the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre at Castle Drive by the then Chief Coastguard, Lieutenant Commander Tim Featherstone-Dilke.

Accompanied by her husband Denis, Mrs Thatcher was presented to the regional controller Captain Peter Harris, acting regional controller Mike Collins, district controller Robbie Roberts, station officer (operations) Mike Osborne, acting station officer (admin) Dave Lewis and auxiliary coastguard-in-charge Jim Horsborough.

During her hour-long tour Britain's only female prime minister to date was presented with a blue coastguard beret.

She later joined the West Cornwall Tories at the Princess Pavilion for a lunch of cold chicken salad.

Other guests included then Falmouth Docks managing director Dennis Pascoe and Falmouth's MP at the time David Mudd.

Falmouth’s mayor Geoffrey Evans, a member of the Conservative Party, said this week: “She seemed to be a quite determined person. I think that people always had respect for her and for the job she had done.

“She always put Britain first, I know that, and she was determined to get things done.”

Cornwall Councillor Mike Varney, a former member of the Conservative Party, said: “You couldn’t take it away from the lady, she was certainly very strong and knew which way she wanted to take the country. In my humble opinion she’s the best Prime Minister that we ever had.

“I can remember the Falklands and she certainly rallied everyone around and did what was right.

“I was disappointed in the way that they got rid of her, but unfortunately the Conservatives always seem to have this when things are going well – they tend to fight amongst themselves – and it was a very disappointing way in which her career finished. It left a bitter taste in the mouth, but certainly a very lovely lady and I think we should be proud.

“There are not many Prime Ministers we can say that about – and that’s coming from an Independent and somebody who was kicked out of the Conservative Party.”

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