Search

Havering Council’s past: Pipe smoke-filled chambers and people-smuggling

12:00 17 May 2014

Pat Ridley in the early 80s. Picture: Havering Councils Library Service  Local Studies

Pat Ridley in the early 80s. Picture: Havering Councils Library Service  Local Studies

Archant

Pipe smoke-filled chambers, drink brought into meetings and even a bit of people-smuggling – this was not the Wild West of America, but the early years of Havering as a London borough.

Wilf MillsWilf Mills

The Recorder spoke to Cllr Denis O’Flynn, who has served more years in the chamber than any current member, and Wilf Mills, a former Labour council leader who was a representative in the borough for 42 years.

Labour’s Cllr O’Flynn spoke fondly of past members, both of his own party and others.

Johnny Johnson, a Conservative who was first elected in the Sixties, was the “self-proclaimed clown prince of the council chamber”, said Cllr O’Flynn.

“He was a hell of a nice bloke and when he got up and made a speech, he waved his arms about.When you are 6ft 4in, you can do a lot of waving with your arms.”

Mr Johnson, who died not many years ago, once came up with a scheme to entice tourists to shop in Romford after hearing that councillors in Southend had decided to fly in people from France to shop in their borough.

“He had the idea of hijacking their plan,” said Cllr O’Flynn. “He turned up with coaches at Southend Airport and when they got off the airport, he took them to Romford. It was audacious – the cheek. It was hilarious.”

But this was not the only cheeky behaviour by councillors.

Mr Mills, 85, of Hazel Crescent, Collier Row, recalled the days before smoking in the chamber was banned in the early Seventies.

“People used to come down with pipes and cigars. The place was covered in smoke,” he said.

Cllr O’Flynn said one former Labour councillor who first took a seat in the Sixties, Pat Ridley, had a particular fondness for his pipe.

“He had a terrible pipe he was always smoking in the council chamber. People used to hate the stench,” said Cllr O’Flynn.

“He would argue it was his freedom of choice, but I would argue it was my freedom of choice not to breathe his stinking pipe.”

Cllr Ridley also tried to bring in alcoholic refreshments to enjoy with his pipe.

“One time he took a couple of bottles of Guinness in and started drinking. The mayor told him off. That was quite right,” said Mr Mills.

“He argued that you could have tea and coffee in there. He couldn’t see the difference. Really, it was quite funny.”

Reflecting on councillors past, Cllr O’Flynn said: “Me and Wilf are the sole survivors of that generation.”

Historian Ged Martin, 68, took the Recorder further back to 1853 when the “new-fangled” idea of drainage was discussed.

The Local Board of Health had been in office for two years and was Romford’s first elected body.

Its duty was to clean up the rapidly expanding town.

“More people meant more sewage,” said the Harold Wood-born scholar.

Romford was short of sewers and narrow alleys off Market Place were packed with people living among overflowing drains.

“Did the town cheer on board members as they spearheaded the clean-up?” asked Mr Martin. “Well, no.”

A campaign was fought by North Street miller Edward Collier promising “to save public money and not squander it away on new-fangled, extravagant notions”, as he called the proposed sewers.

Collier was victorious and an angry observer said people would have to enjoy the “privilege” of having “overflowing cesspools at their doors”, said Mr Martin.

Considering this tale, the town has certainly cleaned up its act since the earlier days of democracy here.

Read more:

Local Elections: The rise of Ukip - party to contest every ward in Havering

Romford Conservatives falsely quote residents in newsletters

Local Elections: Parties roll out manifestos - could Havering become Romford and Hornchurch?

Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 15:00
Sue Triggs, Russell Triggs and Amber Triggs, nine who has cerebal palsy and Kelly McCleoud, Rob McCleoud, Molly-May McCleoud, eight and Max McCleoud, five who are organising fundraisers in Barking and Dagenham to raise money for an operation for Amber

Friends and family of a nine-year-old with cerebral palsy are on a mission to raise £30,000 for an operation that could enable her to walk.

Yesterday, 12:00
Picture: ThinkstockPhotos-164922920.jpg / Carlos Gomez Bové

A “proactive” stance in encouraging male domestic abuse victims to come forward is not being taken by Havering Council, according to the chairman of a charity.

Yesterday, 10:00
Britannia Parking anti-social issues

Shocking images showing children hanging from the third storey of a town centre car park have provoked a safety investigation.

Saturday, April 30, 2016
Bernard Thomas, holding the plant judged as the best succulent, with treasurer Janice Coombes, Adrian Finney and Bill Izatt

Interested in growing succulent plants? The Havering British Cactus and Succulent Society is on the lookout for new members.

Saturday, April 30, 2016
Level 42 fan Julian Hall with some of his memorabilia collection

When Julian Hall spotted an advertisement for at-the-time unknown band Level 42 in the Ilford Recorder in 1981, he decided to go to the gig on a whim.

Saturday, April 30, 2016
A TfL Rail train. Picture: Hammersfan/Wikimedia Commons

TfL Rail trains from Shenfield to Ilford over the Bank Holiday weekend will be replaced by buses due to engineering works.

Friday, April 29, 2016
Drapers' Academy hosted a debate on the EU so its students can be informed ahead of the referendum

Harold Hill students got the chance to grill the borough’s politicians in a fiery and passionate debate today about the EU referendum.

Friday, April 29, 2016
Members of the Havering Quilters made dresses for girls in third world countries out of pillowcases. Photo: Susan Persaud

Members of a sewing club have turned pillowcases into pretty decorated dresses for young girls living in third world countries.

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

News from your area

WW100

Click on the banner above for full coverage of the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War.

Competitions

Kindle 7 inch tablet

Are you looking for a brand new gadget to help you stay connected on the go and make that long journey home a bit more entertaining? Look no further. MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Kindle Fire 7” Display Tablets! That’s 50 times more chances to win, so hurry up and enter our competition today and you could be one of our lucky winners!

Yummy traditional afternoon teas for two

MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Traditional Afternoon Teas for two at a location of your choice! That’s 50 times more chances to win, so hurry up and enter our competition today and you could be one of our lucky winners!

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe