1989 did not begin well for the District Council. It was voted “ Most Philistine” Council in the satirical magazine “Private Eye” for the second year running. The 1980s locally were dominated by proposals to redevelop Leek and although there was much local opposition the Council were determined to press ahead. Matters had come to a head with a referendum taken the previous autumn in which the plans were rejected
Another charge levelled at the authority was its obsessive secrecy and its willingness to accept the mediocre in terms of building designs for the town centre and for the new Council chamber. It seems to me as a long term resident of the town that the lack of openness identified by the magazine still exists today.
The Post and Times carried headlines of the mental health strategy of local health services. It was reported that 120 patients from St Edwards Hospital were being moved out in the community. These plans were in line with the tenor of the times. Some years earlier the Griffiths Report on Community Care had been published which called for the closure of “asylums” and the treatment of patients in the community. It was a move generally supported by health professionals and the users. Long stay hospitals had been built often in countryside some way from urban areas and the patients tended to be institutionalised in such facilities. In the late 80s I worked as a Community Health Council officer in the North west and can recall some of the terrible stories of patient who had been effectively incarcerated in huge hospitals like Calderstones in Lancashire. In one case a woman had been a patient since the 1930s for having a child out of wedlock.
Bill Sheldon of Wetley Rocks turned 90 in 1989. He was a First World War veteran joining the Leicestershire Regiment at the age of 18. He had a memento of his war experiences in the trenches. A German prisoner at the end of the war had made him a shaving mirror complete with the crest of Bill's regiment- the Fox. Bill had a narrow escape in Flanders in 1917 when he and 5 other comrades including a mate from Longnor were detailed to go on a night raid to gather information. There plans were discovered by an alert German machine gunner who opened fire on them in No Man's land. Only Bill and the Longnor man made it safely back to British lines
It was a happy opening of the year for the Riondino family when Tracey nee Lowndes of Leek gave birth to triplets. Tracey was married to an evangelist preacher Carmine from Italy and they had given the children biblical names Melchisedel, Zipporah and Zion. The family were visiting family members in Leek over the festive period. Carmine had an interesting past and as a young man was involved with the Mafia. He bought this experience to good use in working with gang members and drug user and the family planned to build a church in Central Italy,
Residents in Rudyard were outraged at the activities of a local hunt which had disrupted life in the area over several months in 1988/9. Fox hounds had crashed into a garden in Devil's Lane causing several cats and a puppy to narrowly escape with their lives, the dogs had wrecked havoc in gardens as they pursued a fox some distance. Worse occurred some months earlier when a toddler witnessed a cub ripped apart in front of him.
Leek Ladies had formed a football club and were serious in intent. They took training seriously going on longcross country runs. The star of the team was Maxine Brookes who had acquired the nickname “ Mad Max” given her tenacious tackling ability. It had not gone too smoothly as in an early fixture they were beaten by the Doncaster Belles 36-0