Monday, May 05, 2008

1979 - A "Watershed Year"?

We're going back to 1979. Not the BBC's I Love 1979, bolstered with early 1980s pop culture, but the real thing. And we start with Margaret Hilda Thatcher. The 3rd of May 1979 saw her becoming Britain's first female Prime Minister. All right she was a Tory, and my family were vehemently anti-Tory, but would a woman be different? More sensitive? I remember seeing footage of her washing up and saying how she understood the concerns of the everyday housewife. Hmm. And then there was the fact that Labour Isn't Working. Double hmm.

Did the big booming 1980s start prematurely as soon as Maggie was in place? I can honestly say NO. The big booming bit of the 1980s did not get started until c. 1983 - and Maggie was not the only cause.

Much is written about 1979 being a "watershed year" - with the election of Mrs Thatcher being a decisive vote by the electorate for a long-term free market economy. Actually, at the time, it seemed more like a "The Tories can't possibly be worse than this current lot," vote. And our fate was not sealed. It was events of the 1980s which had Thatcher re-elected twice. The election of Ronald Reagan in America in 1980 had great impact (more about that here) - as did the "Falklands Factor".

Thatcher's long reign was far too turbulent and far too influenced by outside events to be called "cut and dried" in 1979!

Reports about the Yorkshire Ripper make horrific reading...

There is no doubt the quietly spoken Yorkshireman hated streetwalkers, probably stemming from an incident when he was ripped off by one in Bradford's notorious Manningham Lane red light district. He began attacking women in the summer of 1975: two in Keighley and one in Halifax. All three survived and police did not notice the similarities between the attacks.

The first fatality ...

In the early hours of 30 October 1975 Sutcliffe's attacks turned fatal. Wilma McCann, a 28-year-old prostitute from the run-down Chapeltown district of Leeds, kissed her four young children goodnight and went out for a night on the town. She spent the night drinking in various Leeds pubs and clubs and by 1 am was touting for business not far from her Chapeltown home.

Sutcliffe picked her up in his lime green Ford Capri and took her to the nearby Prince Phillip playing fields. He suggested they have sex on the grass. Sutcliffe stated in his confession that she got out, unfastened her trousers and snapped: "Come on, get it over with." "Don't worry, I will," Sutcliffe mumbled as he reached for his hidden hammer...

The poster above refers to leads that the police were following in 1979 - involving somebody they had dubbed "Wearside Jack". This man had sent anonymous letters and an audio tape to the police.

But "Wearside Jack" was not the Yorkshire Ripper. The hoaxer's identity was finally discovered in 2005. He was one John Humble, a former builder.

Humble's hoaxes had great impact on the police back in 1979. Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield believed that the letters and tape were from the Ripper. Dial-the-Ripper phonelines were set up so that the public could ring in and listen to the tape. It was drilled into detectives that they could discount suspects if they did not have a Wearside accent.

The real Ripper had been interviewed by the police several times. From October 1975 to September 1979 he killed eleven women. As we headed into the 1980s, he remained at large...

Portslade, Dorset, in February 1979: storms caused great damage in many places.

A few headlines from early 1979:













And from August...

More from 1979 soon...

No comments: