PHILLIP RICHARDS

Lillian Richards talked to us about her husband, Phillip

I think it was because he was a tall man, with military bearing and always smartly dressed, that when people first met him they assumed he must be a Conservative.  But he was far from it.  He used to say that he was "socialist by conviction and commitment" and that "socialism is my religion".

When asked to explain why he was a socialist he used to talk about incidents in his childhood, such things as running down the yard to the outside toilet, in the middle of the night and trying to prevent the candle blowing out.  But more significantly he would remember how his parents lived in a tied cottage on a large estate outside Wolverhampton, where his father worked as a gardener. 

One day, with no notice, they were evicted for the heinous offence of not taking down their washing when the lady of the house was having a bridge party. 

One day, when he was sixteen, and his mother was away from the house, he ran out and joined the army.  He was in the Guards (he is wearing their tie in the photo above) and reached a high rank - Sergeant Major I think (it was before I met him).  But when he was in Tripoli he contracted a nasty internal disease which caused him to be invalided out.  When he was better he found there was no work for him.  So he became a driving instructor at the Lewis School of Motoring, which he eventually took over.

He became a Labour councillor on Wolverhampton Borough Council and was there many years.  He was appointed Chairman of the Police Board and that was one of his proudest achievements.  In due course he became Mayor.  I was a councillor too and acted as his Mayoress.

After his year of office he was given a commemorative jewel, in silver gilt and enamel, made by the famous firm of Fattorini.  I also got a jewel: that is mine on the left and Phillip's on the right, with its ribbon.  I still keep them both in their original boxes.

During his year of office he visited the Albert Street works of Joseph Sankey when they were closing them down.  I think it may have been in connection with a planning matter.  Whilst there he saw a very large tray hanging on the wall.  He recognised it as one of Sankey's biggest and best japanned trays and asked them what they were going to do with it.  They said they didn't know.  So Phillip said that it ought to stay locally.  So it was agreed that it would be handed over to him as Mayor of the then Borough Council.

So a ceremony was arranged in the Mayor's Parlour at which the tray was handed over.  David Sankey, David Houghton, Neville Gough and others were there from GKN Sankey; and Councillors Norman Davies and Fred Ledsam, as well as several senior council officers. 

For many years the tray was kept in a glass case in the Mayor's Parlour but at some time it was taken out and I am told that it is now in the store rooms of the Art Gallery.  Another similar tray is on display in Bantock House.  I would like this tray to be got out again and displayed, preferably in Bilston.

Another souvenir of our days as Mayor and Mayoress was a framed picture of the Express and Star's building at Old Hill, Tettenhall.  In July 2004 I decided that it ought to go somewhere it would be appreciated and more people would be able to see it, so I gave it to the Black Country Memories Club.  The photo shows me handing it over to their committee member, Reg Aston.

 

click here to return to the memories page