Meeting the President of Norwich Lions Club

This afternoon I spent three and a half hours at the Norwich home of Dr John Jones, current President of Norwich Lions Club who has known Joe for over forty years. I did not know until I walked into his living room that he has possession of a fifty year old scrap book about the Norwich Club which includes many items and photos relevant to Joe.  I will spend the next couple of days transcribing our conversation from my tape recorder.  John had some excellent stories to share.  Many thanks to him for his time and memories.  This photo shows Joe during Spring 1971 when he had just been appointed as a District Governor, a high ranking position in the Lions.  Currently there are only thirteen in the UK.  Loving this research!!IMG_3966

Stories from Nickenich

This is a huge thank you to my friend Jutta Hansen from Nickenich, Joe’s birthplace in the Rhineland, who has been to speak with ninety-year old Maria Becker.  Maria was a child in the village when Joe was living there and went to the same school. She has told Jutta some lovely anecdotal stories about life in the village.  Apparently Günter (Joe’s birth name) was considered a very clever lad at school, so much so that the other pupils all tried to copy his notes in class tests!  More stories will feature in the early chapters of his biography….. meantime some lovely old postcards of Nickenich for you to enjoy.

Old postcards from Nickenich
Old postcards from Nickenich


Lions International and Joe

Happy New Year to all my followers.  2015 and it’s back to work on the book with just 3 months to submission deadline!  This coming week I will be carrying out more research both at the Eastern Daily Press archives and also visiting the current President of Norwich Lions Club.  He has known Joe for over forty years so I am looking forward to some as yet unheard anecdotal stories about Joe being a District Governor with the Lions and his fifty years of service.  This photo shows Joe two years ago showing me his Lions vest with the many pin badges he has collected from Lions Clubs all over the world.  He is very proud of it!Joe in Lions Vest 2012

Festival of Britain in Norwich 1951

Taking a break from the writing for a few days to enjoy Christmas with the grandchildren in Surrey. But just this morning the postman brought me something exciting – a programme from the Norwich events held to celebrate the Festival of Britain in June 1951. Wonderful original source material to add authenticity to my account of Joe and his family moving to Norwich and him living in the city around this period.  Some of the advertisements are fabulous – look at the beautiful old buses and the two Norwich hotels, one now gone but the Maids Head is still going strong.  Happy Christmas and a splendid New Year to all my followers….

Programme cover
Programme cover


Briton Brush Company Wymondham, Norfolk 1930s

My grateful thanks to Richard Fowle of the Wymondham Town Archive for permission to use these two wonderful photos of the factory workers at Briton Brush Company during the 1930s.  Joe’s wife Jean Skitmore worked there for a short while as a young woman before WW2 and once he had been demobbed, Joe took a job there in the Accounts Department.  The biography is coming along – up to 1955 and counting….img002 img013

Suitcase1938 One Year On

Joe Stirling and Cast of Suitcase PressThis time last year it was the 75th Anniversary of the first Kindertransport train arriving in England from Nazi Germany.  Seven months later fourteen year old Gunter Stern escaped Hitler using the same route.  Victor and I took Joe to see a performance of Suitcase1938, an interactive promenade play about the Kinder, in Harwich during late November 1939.  The cast were delighted to meet a real refugee and he really enjoyed his day.  Victor and I then took two of our best friends (Judith’s father was also on the Kindertransport) to see the final performance at Liverpool Street.  This can be now be viewed on their website at or via the youtube link below.  Look out for Victor, me, Judith and her husband David, all singing along at the opening of the piece (1 minute 12 seconds!). It was a wonderful experience on both occasions and the video is well worth a view.

Tea in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour

On Monday 10th November I was privileged to join Joe and members of his family at a Tea Party in honour of his 90th birthday, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Councillor Judith Lubbock.  The Parlour is a beautiful Art Nouveau room with Canadian Maple panelling, her own facilities, a little kitchen and a wonderful view over the Market Place and up to the Castle.

Joe and the Lord Mayor in conversation November 2014
Joe and the Lord Mayor in conversation November 2014

The walls are covered in old paintings of Norwich landmarks.  The Mayor had baked a delicious lemon drizzle cake and some flapjacks, and as ever the tea tasted so much better out of fine porcelain cups.  Joe had a lovely time as patriarch and the conversation was wide reaching.  I am only sorry that my book will not be published while Councillor Lubbock is still Mayor, but with Joe’s long time connections with the City Council, I am trusting that the next Mayor will be as supportive of the project.  It was a lovely afternoon.  Thanks to the Lord Mayor for her hospitality.