Tag: Lions Clubs International

Joe Stirling Obituary in The Guardian

Written by Norwich writer Tom Carver, this moving tribute to our very own Joe appeared yesterday, 27th March 2020,  on the Guardian Online ‘Other Lives’ feature. I am grateful to Tom and to the Guardian team who put this piece together, allowing even more people to appreciate the remarkable life of this amazing man.

Joe is much missed by family, friends and former colleagues but his story remains relevant, inspiring and poignant in these difficult times.

Keep safe and well everyone.  We will beat this.


The piece continues so it is well worth clicking on the link.

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I don’t think I can ignore CHRISTMAS any longer!!!  If you are considering gifts for the relative or friend who has everything, or someone who loves to read, especially if they are or have been Norwich residents, then Joe Stirling’s biography should be well received….  you can order a hardback copy, signed by both author and subject direct from me by contacting me at phyllida.scrivens@icloud.com.  I can take credit and debit payments on the telephone and I will package the book up safely, mailing it out by first class post.  The price is £19.50 plus £4 postage and packing.  I look forward to hearing from you! PLEASE SHARE!!joe-stirling-2

Homage to America part 2: Lions Clubs International Annual Convention 1971

Here is the second blog dedicated to celebrating the launch of Escaping Hitler by Skyhorse Publishing in USA on 10th January 2017.  This quotation from the book refers specifically to the first Lions Clubs International Convention attended by Joe Stirling, when he was both a District Governor and the official tour guide for the British contingent.  He went on to lead 20 further consecutive trips.  Enjoy!




Joe spent the next few weeks planning every aspect, leaving nothing to chance. The Convention opened on 22 June with Joe and his colleagues obliged to arrive four days earlier in time for District Governors’ School. His planning was meticulous. This trip would involve far more than just a Lions Convention.


Flights into New York led to a couple of days riding yellow cabs, taking the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building and a ferry to the Statue of Liberty. It was just like being in a movie. An internal flight to San Francisco, almost as far again as London to New York, took them the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and views over the Pacific Ocean. Finally it was time to discover the playground city of Las Vegas.

As the party descended the aircraft steps, they hit a wall of air measuring 107o Fahrenheit. The transfer bus, thankfully fitted with air-conditioning, drove down The Strip and Fremont Street, the British delegates and the ‘lady from Nor-wich’, gawping through the windows. Had they landed on a different planet? Cocktail lounges, topless clubs, ‘Coin Castle’ amusement arcade with its 20-foot cowboy figure in neon-yellow shirt and ten-gallon hat, stood alongside the outrageous hotel-casinos; ‘Silver Spur’, ‘Flamingo Hilton’, ‘Lady Luck’, ‘The Sands’ and ‘Bonanza’. There was great excitement amongst the ladies when passing the enormous billboards announcing Tom Jones playing Caesars Palace and Elvis himself appearing at the International Hotel. Lovingly polished Chryslers, Plymouths and Cadillacs cruised past the bus, ferrying long-legged showgirls to work. Strolling the streets were 15,000 Lions and their wives, recently arrived from all over the world.

While husbands attended District Governor classes, Jean, the other wives and the ‘the lady from Nor-wich’ experienced a breathtaking flight over the Grand Canyon in a light aircraft. What tales they brought back to the hotel! Every building with a roof was air-conditioned, kept at a manageable level of around 70o. Outdoor social activities were reserved for after sunset, when the temperature dropped to a ‘cool’ 82o. In keeping with tradition, the incoming DGs from every country led their contingent in the Grand Opening Parade through the city streets, national flags proudly held high. Setting off at 8 p.m., the parade was loud, brash, colourful and vibrant with decorated floats and flotillas of extravagant cars, accompanied by baton-twirling cheerleaders. By the time the final contingent crossed the ‘saluting base’, duly acknowledging the outgoing International President, the sky was black, city lights obscuring the cosmos above. Wives, officials, tourists and locals packed the streets, cheering, applauding and straining to catch as much as possible of this spectacular event, laughing aloud at ‘Lord’ Dawkins of Andover from the British contingent who strolled along the Strip in City of London attire of bowler hat, rolled umbrella and copy of The Times. Joe had never heard the Lions’ inspirational song, ‘Don’t You Hear Those Lions Roar!’ performed by quite so many people.

Inside the vast convention hall the opening speeches included news of the extended Lions Headquarters in Oakbrook Chicago, now complete and doubling its space. Earlier in the year Lions had seen the formation of Club number 25,000. The honour went to the small wine-growing town of Fredericksburg in Texas. It was a hectic few days with Joe keen to hear every key speaker, attend fringe meetings, join in debates, vote on decisions and meet with like-minded Lions, never losing sight of his responsibilities as a tour leader. The final day of the convention arrived. Jean took her seat for the Installation Ceremony, the highlight of the entire event. She was weary of the non-stop fashion shows, coach tours into the desert, wives’ tea parties and boozy sessions long into the night, having to keep that smile going all the while. But it was Joe’s special moment. She was ready. With International Officers for the coming year introduced and welcomed, it was the turn of the incoming District Governors. Hundreds of men, tall, short, balding, bespectacled, thin, not so thin, hailing from all continents, marched into the hall under the flag of their nation. The welcome from the audience was deafening, close to pandemonium in the hall as loyal Lions cheered their friends and colleagues. The International President, industrial engineer Robert J. Uplinger from Syracuse, New York, gave the instruction to pull the ribbons, previously pinned to the lapels of the shiny new DGs, revealing the special metal badge confirming their new rank. Not since her wedding day had Jean Stirling felt so proud of her husband.

(Escaping Hitler by Phyllida Scrivens 2016)

U.S.A. ‘Escaping Hitler’ Booksales now Launched!



Phyllida and Joe in Norwich England talking to Skyhorse Publishing in New York

On Tuesday 10th January Skyhorse Publications of New York published and launched my book Escaping Hitler on to the U.S. market.  Here in the U.K. I held a party at my home with 18 friends and colleagues, offering them an American themed buffet of mini burgers, spicy chicken legs, coleslaw, prawns (shrimp in the U.S) and home baked cup cakes!  Joe Stirling, the 92 year old former Kindertransport refugee and subject of my book along with his grandson Charlie were our guests of honour.  At exactly 8pm UK time, 3pm Eastern Standard Time, my computer rang and we began our FaceTime interview with the lovely Leslie Davis,  Digital Marketing Coordinator and Assistant Publicist at Skyhorse.

She began by asking Joe Stirling how he felt when I suggested I might write his biography, way back in 2011.  He modestly replied that he was very surprised as he had never considered anyone might be interested in his life story.  He added that his family and friends had been intrigued by the prospect of having the family story written up for posterity.  Leslie asked Joe about his message when giving talks to the public and to schoolchildren.  He answered that it was about taking care not to take our political leaders for granted and to beware the possibility of dictatorships taking over slowly, without warning.

Leslie then turned to me and asked when I had first met Joe.  I told her that he was speaking about his early life at a University event and having heard the early part of his life story, I was captivated, knowing that this man’s life could become my debut biography. I told her about my research trip to Germany, the wonderful people I had met and the places I visited.  I told her about the many references to the USA in the book, a country that Joe has explored extensively over his lifetime, including buying an apartment on Florida Keys and his Lions International trips with the UK delegates from 1971 for 21 years.

Although the link was difficult and we had to repeat many questions and answers, it was an exciting experience.  The edited video clips will soon be available on YouTube and I will post up the link once they are ready.  So to celebrate this momentous occasion I am going to dedicate the next few blogs to America by reproducing some extracts from Escaping Hitler that feature a particular time there.  Starting with Joe taking a trip of British Lions to the recently opened Disneyland in Florida in 1972.

‘I read that Walt Disney had recently opened a new attraction called Walt Disney World in a small town in the middle of Southern Florida called Orlando. I had never heard of it. I thought that might be interesting for some.’ (Joe Stirling in interview 2013)

Joe read in the Travel Gazette that in 1965 Walt Disney had announced his visionary ‘Florida Project’. Tragically the entertainment tycoon did not live to see his project develop, dying from lung cancer in 1966. However, his company had already bought up thousands of acres of cheap swampland in Orange County. The outcome was a theme park five times the size of that in California, complete with linked resort hotels, opening to the public in October 1971. Joe knew that this could make an appealing addition to his ‘side trips’ and set about investigating the travel logistics. Within a month of Joe’s advert appearing, every available place was taken, his party once again larger than the previous year. As he checked his British contingent into their convention hotel, Joe felt the pressure of being the tour leader, rather more than before. As his numbers increased so did the responsibilities. It was becoming difficult to remain ‘one of the boys’[…]

The Convention over, the British contingent divided into two groups, some looking forward to simply relaxing on Miami beach for a few days, others heading for Walt Disney World and New Orleans, accompanied by Joe and Jean. A short hop on a noisy DC-4 propeller plane took the party to Orlando. They felt a little strange to be a group of just adults as they explored the Magic Kingdom, Adventureland, Bear Country and Fantasyland. Everyone agreed it had been a bewitching experience. (Escaping Hitler 2016)




Joe Stirling, the subject of Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future, is 92 years old today, 18th October 2016.  I dropped in to see him this morning, taking him a published copy of this blog, going back four years.

In honour of his birthday, I have now posted a video onto Youtube taken in December 2012 by Roger Hewins, Lecturer in Film and Video Production at the University of East Anglia.  It shows Joe in his living room in Norwich, telling me the story of his early life. It runs to over an hour, so grab a coffee, settle down and listen to Joe’s story from his own lips.  These tales and so many more are told in great detail in my biography, as published by Pen and Sword Books in January 2016 and to be published in America by Skyhorse Publishing next January 3rd.  Enjoy and Happy Birthday Joe!  (If you would like your own signed copy see the menu of this blog for instructions of how to buy).



Royal British Legion Wymondham meets Joe Stirling!



Joe and I had a wonderful evening yesterday (18th July 2016) visiting members of the Royal British Legion, in the picturesque Norfolk town of Wymondham.  There was an excellent audience for our presentation on Joe’s biography, Escaping Hitler, and you could have heard a pin drop during Joe’s 30 minute long talk about his early life in Nazi Germany.  I picked up the story when he joins the British Army, showing some photographs from Joe’s years as a soldier, rarely seen at our talks. They especially enjoyed the photo of Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow (whispers of ‘I trained there’) and the one of Joe’s wife Jean inside a shell casing at Bramley Barracks near Basingstoke.

There were people there who had known Joe in past years and he was delighted to share personal memories with them. A retired member of Lions Club International endorsed Joe’s wonderful work with them for over fifty years. We felt very welcome and were impressed by the large number of books we signed at the end of the evening!  Our thanks go to  Chairman John Morter and Entertainments Officer Roy McGee for inviting us to share Joe’s remarkable story with your members.

Escaping Hitler Lecture Tour rumbles on

Busy times for both author and subject of Joe Stirling’s biography Escaping Hitler.  Last week found us talking to Norwich Community History Club, The Out and About Club in Norwich, Walsingham History Society (really out in the sticks!) and the Mercedes Benz Owners’ Club at the swanky Dunston Hall Hotel.  This morning (it’s Tuesday so it must be The Maid’s Head Hotel) I flew solo at the East Anglia Women Networking Group (See photos below) Thursday evening both of us will be addressing Brooke Women’s Institute, culminating on Saturday with an exhibition stand at the Lions Clubs International District 105EA Convention at Stoke by Nayland Hotel and Country Club near Colchester.  We hope to meet many of Joe’s old Lion colleagues and younger ones too, who may have an interest in the history of this worldwide fundraising organisation.  It is a real experience taking Joe’s story to so many people, long may it continue.  Updates later….



HOW TO BUY YOUR COPY OF ESCAPING HITLER, a Biography signed by both author and subject…..


No harm in a  reminder to my UK readers of how to order your signed copy of Escaping Hitler direct from me.  

1. The Recommended Retail Price on the cover is £25 but I am selling signed copies at £19.50 plus £4 postage and packing (within the UK) making a total of £23.50

2. EITHER mail  a cheque payable to Mrs P Scrivens at 7 St Lucia Court, 38 Yarmouth Road, Norwich NR7 0EQ along with your home address and telephone number and I will mail a book out to you along with a receipt.

3. OR call me on 01603 300212 and quote me your credit or debit card details (just like you do when ordering tickets for the cinema!) I have a Paypal machine so I can take cards over the phone.  I will then mail your book.

4. OR email me at phyllida.scrivens@icloud.com and I will email you my bank account details by return so that you can pay electronically. Once it is cleared I will mail your book.

All books will be mailed in a cardboard mailer which can fit two books.

Do share this information with your friends.  My debut book is now just over one year old and has recently been published in the U.S. by Skyhorse Books.  The interest in Joe’s remarkable story continues to grow – be a part of it.  jacket jpeg

Thanks in anticipation.  Joe and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Phyllida Scrivens, Norwich