Non Party Political

Harold Wilson's Visit

The visit to the Federation’s own (Victorian) House at Preston New Road, Blackburn, of the Prime Minister, Mr Harold Wilson, with Mrs Barbara Castle, MP for Blackburn, on 17th October 1975.  Mr Wilson and Mrs Castle are being shown the front page of the first issue (February 1940) of the Federation’s paper by Mrs Marion Green, General Secretary and Editor.

In the background is Miss Betty Millard MBE, the Federation’s National President.

A similar visit to the Preston New Road office had been made by the Prime Minister on 23rd November 1973, namely Mr Edward Health.  On 31st August 1977, Mrs Margaret Thatcher came to the office as Leader of the Opposition.  

Barbara Castle MP

Mr Melling, a Labour supporter, helped Mrs Castle in the weeks prior to the 1945 General Election, at which she became MP for the Blackburn constituency: among other things he encouraged local pensioners to vote for Mrs Castle.

Mrs Irene Bradley, who had been Mrs Green’s assistant general secretary, recorded some Memories of the Federation in an article for the January 2005 issue of Pensioners’ Voice.  She wrote: “Mrs Barbara Castle was always a good friend of the Federation, and she presented petitions for us in the House of Commons. When she became Secretary of State she was in the Federation’s office and on the telephone all the time, because she regarded the Federation as her eyes and ears for the Pensioners’ Cause.”    

Mrs Bradley (and Mrs Green) approved of the following extract from Barbara Castle’s published diaries:-

9th April 1976  ( the day Mr Callaghan, the newly appointed Prime Minister dismissed Mrs Castle from the Cabinet and – by command of the IMF! – effectively introduced what Prof John Gray later called Paleo (not neo) liberalism (Thatcherism!)). 

“The most unnerving moment of the whole day came when I returned to the Party offices [at Blackburn] after lunch for constituency interviews and found waiting for me in the hall Mrs Green, General Secretary of the National Federation of Old Age Pensions Associations, and her deputy [Mrs Bradley], holding a magnificent bouquet. They thrust it into my hands saying that it was an expression of gratitude for all I had done for the pensioners – and they are a couple of Tories too!  That really undid me: the ice melted and the tears came. To hell with Jim Callaghan’s ingratitude. ‘That was quite the nicest thing that has happened to me,’ I told them through my tears. ‘We hoped you’d feel that,’ they beamed and hurried away.”