Tag: Stirling Holidays

Homage to America Part 3: The Texan Oilmen invade Great Yarmouth 1970s.


Joe Stirling had hardly opened his second branch of Stirling Holidays, in the coastal East Anglian town of Great Yarmouth, when oil was discovered offshore.  The invasion of the Texan Oilmen began!  This extract from Escaping Hitler, recently published by Skyhorse Publications of New York for North American readers, gives you a flavour of the times and the significance of this in the business life of Joe.


In 1965 the first offshore oil and gas wells were drilled off the coast of East Anglia. American giant Conoco built their first fixed platform just 50 miles off Great Yarmouth and by 1967 gas was being piped ashore from the Leman field. The Duke of Edinburgh opened the Bacton Gas terminal in 1968. Senior company directors from Texas and the Gulf of Mexico virtually took over Great Yarmouth, bringing the mighty dollar and prosperity in their wake.

[…] Over the following year over 10,000 American families settled in the Great Yarmouth area. Although everyone struggled to understand each other’s accents, the incomers brought with them many benefits but especially business. The region was booming. With money to spend and time on their hands, they were keen to discover the tourist hotspots of London, Cornwall, the Lakes and especially Shakespeare Country. There were only two travel agents in Great Yarmouth, Seaforth’s and Stirling’s. But with more than enough work for both companies, days were busy. Evenings too, with Doreen and Judith often staying late to keep up with administration. Quick to learn, Judith was soon made manager of the air travel section, reserving First Class flights to Houston or enquiring directly with airlines on the most cost-effective method of flying a group of oilmen to India or Nigeria. The discovery of ‘black gold’ was becoming a priority around the globe and Stirling Holidays was more than happy to play its part. Judith was always willing to open lucrative accounts for both major and smaller drilling companies, her personal service and attention to detail and rewarding the company with 7 per cent commission on each airline ticket.

One favoured client was the Senior Director of McDermott Marine Construction Limited, an Offshore Field Development Company, established in 1923 in Texas, USA. One morning Judith received a telephone enquiry. Could Stirling’s arrange for some of the guys to fly from Norwich to Aberdeen for a golf tournament?

During the early 1970s Norwich Airport was still establishing itself as a commercial airport, dealing mainly in freight. Through a friend of a friend, Joe was able to contact the owner of East Anglian Airways, a tiny operation boasting just one Douglas DC-3 propeller-driven airliner, the plane that had played a significant part in popularising air travel in the United States. It sat twenty-six passengers, who were obliged to enter at the back of the plane and walk uphill, pulling themselves up the aisle using the backs of seats. Flights were invariably noisy and shaky but thankfully reliable. Stirling Holidays chartered a private flight for the American oilmen, the first company to do so out of Norwich Airport. Joe waved them off personally. At Aberdeen, the plane waited on the apron while the oilmen enjoyed their eighteen holes. Two days later on flying back into Norwich, they found Mr Stirling there to greet them. McDermott Marine would not forget Mr Stirling’s professionalism, ingenuity and good humour.

Everyone in Great Yarmouth hoped the oilmen and their deep pockets were there to stay.


© Phyllida Scrivens 2016

Escaping Hitler is now available from Amazon.com,  Barnes and Nobles bookstores or by following this link to the Skyhorse site. http://www.skyhorsepublishing.com/search?q=escaping+hitler+%22escaping%20hitler%22&f=1


Escaping Hitler Presentation at Mulbarton Words Festival June 2016

I am indebted to Terence Burchell from Mulbarton near Norwich for this video of me speaking to a lovely audience at Hanover Gardens, Mulbarton in June this year, as part of the Mulbarton Words Festival.  I hope some of you will take 30 minutes of your lives to watch as I describe the early life of Joe Stirling, Kindertransport boy and former Sheriff of Norwich, as well as a little about how my debut biography came to be published by Pen and Sword Books in January.  In January 2017 this remarkable man’s story will be available even more widely when Skyhorse Publishing of New York publish and distribute my book to the book lovers of the U.S.A.  To purchase a signed copy directly from me take a look at the menu on this WordPress blog to find my contact details.  Many thanks….

First ‘reader review’ received for Escaping Hitler

This morning I was delighted to receive my first ‘reader review’ on Facebook from a lovely lady who bought a book direct from me earlier this week. The review was actually from her husband and it reads:

“My husband managed to nab our copy before me. He keeps relaying little snippets so I know he is enjoying the book.
When I asked him about the style of writing he said he was finding it an easy read and a real page turner.”

As a debut biographer I could not have been more delighted. That is exactly what I set out to achieve when I knew I had to share Joe’s story.  Thank you Mary.

To receive your copy of Escaping Hitler, the biography of Norwich man Joe Stirling, kinder transport boy, former Sheriff of Norwich, senior member of Lions International and pioneering Travel Agent, refer to the previous blog posting with your options.  Looking forward to signing and mailing it out to you (U.K. only)

It is also available from Jarrold’s Book Department in Norwich,  Pen and Sword Books and Amazon.co.uk.


Joe Stirling reading his copy of Escaping Hitler!


Every day I am finding myself learning about something completely different to that of the previous day.  This week is it all about Joe Stirling’s organised trips to America for the Lions International Conventions in America during the 1970s.  In 1973 following the Miami Convention he took a group to Walt Disney World in Orlando, established for only two years.  The Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square to name just a few of the attractions.  For those not fortunate enough to have visited Disneyland in California following the Las Vegas Convention in 1971, Joe’s first, would have found it mind-blowing, very different to back home in Norwich.  The words keep coming, just 15,000 and five decades to go, six weeks to complete….. Escaping Hitler is coming together.

Walt Disney World brochure 1973


Joe and I shared a platform again this morning (no, not at Norwich station).  We spoke together for the Norfolk Out and About Club (for over 55s) in the beautiful Methodist Church on Chaplefield in Norwich.  There were no less than 85 members there – the biggest crowd I have yet spoken to –  and each one hung on his every word as he described how he developed Stirling Holidays from 1955 onwards.  I added in some stuff about meeting Joe, researching the book, finding a publisher in Pen and Sword Books and now completing the draft of the book.  We had a lot of fun with the lovely people there, many of whom came up to Joe and me afterwards with stories from their past that connected with aspects of Joe’s life.

Oh, and when I got home there is an email from my publisher asking me to commit to a delivery date.  I am prepared to go public on this – I have opted for 24th April.  Wish me luck…..

Venue for our talk to the Out and About Club
Venue for our talk to the Out and About Club


I spent a delightful afternoon with Ann Godfrey yesterday talking about Joe Stirling’s escorted trips to Lions International Conventions.  Ann was Joe’s PA in Stirling Holidays from 1981 for eight years. I sat open mouthed as she told me how she had to take last minute responsibility for travelling with the record number of 247 delegates from the UK, to San Francisco in the summer of 1984.  The attraction that year was because the incoming International President was from Northern Ireland, Bert Mason, and everyone here wanted to support him.  Having never travelled overseas before, Ann found herself taking a splinter group of seventy Lions (including wives) to Las Vegas for a few days excursion trip.  It was not plain sailing by any means – the full details will be in the book!!!