Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1984 Oct 16 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Woman’s Own (Brighton bomb)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Douglas Keay tape: OUP transcript
Journalist: Douglas Keay, Woman’s Own
Editorial comments: 0900-1000. For reason of copyright Douglas Keay’s questions are paraphrased. The interview as published (17 November 1984) includes material missing from the tape. MT was dressed in black because she was due to attend a memorial service for her friend John Vaizey, who had died of a heart attack. She said she sometimes wondered if she would prefer to die suddenly. Cheering up, she offered coffee, then spoke for 55 minutes. At times her voice was strong, at other times barely audible. She was troubled by a cough, which she blamed on the dust inhaled at the hotel. She seemed in the aftermath of shock, repeating herself and sometimes speaking as there was no one else in the room.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 10076
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Religion & morality, Terrorism, Transport, Strikes & other union action

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Have you lost some weight?

MT

Possibly. I don't know. Sometimes it does depend quite a bit on the cameras, you know.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Yes.

MT

If the lighting is very bright, it won't take any undulations there! It just becomes rather flat.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] You do not look sixty.

MT

Oh, how very kind laughing.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Honest.

MT

Well, some of our people leaving here, you know, some of the girls who've been with us for years come in and see me, maybe the telephonist, maybe the girls in the correspondence, and I say, “What, going?”—“Oh, yes, I'm sixty!” And it's such a shock!

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Should women retire at sixty or same as men at sixty five?

MT

I personally think it's too young to retire.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] For anyone?

MT

Well, I think … don't you think that people are younger for a given age now than they were twenty, thirty, forty years ago. [end p1]

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] You think people can be young at sixty?

MT

Yes, I do. I do. I mean grandmas used to have grey hair and, em, you know, quite wrinkled skins but they're young women now.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] They had tougher lives.

MT

They had much harder lives. My mother obviously had a much harder life. Mind you, they didn't have all the mod cons. I mean, em, look what the inventions and the technology have brought to the life of the kitchen. We used to wash our clothes in a tub and do the dolly.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Yes.

MT

What was called a dolly. Hang them all up across the line to blow. Well, of course, if you're in the country you still do, because—hang them across the line to blow—because it's much better for them.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Still easy to…

MT

Then they've probably been through a washing machine.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Horrified tumble dryers cost 15 pence (three shillings) each load.

MT

Yes, it probably did, probably did. You turn it to three shillings. So do I. Fifty pence—I say “Good heavens, that's ten shillings!” and a little brown note floats before your eyes.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Cannot tell young people that …

MT

No, you can't. Oh, a completely different idea about prices. I say of something, “It's five pounds!” and Carol Thatchermy daughter says, “ It's only five pounds, Mummy.” [end p2]

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Massive price increases since 1950s.

MT

Well, I would think … I would think that a five-pound note now is about the same as a pound note used to be.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] So a pound … break in the tape Every profession meeting new challenges. Journalism hasn't met it.

MT

No, because you haven't got the overseas competition.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] True.

MT

And that's the difference you see. If you have overseas competition and everything can be imported—and one or two things are printed overseas aren't they?

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] A lot of books printed overseas.

MT

And jobs just move to where they can be certain that the people will deliver.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Such community spirit in coal industry? So they feel threatened and … Your view? Do you admire them? They are not as badly off with benefits as we thought. But they don't intend to give up. Not all mines are being intimidated …

MT

I think it's a mixture. I think it's a mixture, em, of total loyalty to the union, em, and some who would go back but for the intimidation. The violence is only being kept up for one reason, because if it were not people would go back to work. But it seems to me extraordinary. They have this total loyalty, but others think they also have other loyalties, like loyalties and responsibility to keep their families, and loyalty to the customer, loyalty to other workers. Because I'm afraid some parts of trade unionism have come to this, that they can hit out and damage and wound the prospects of other workers. That the trade unions who represent other workers cannot always protect them against the actions of fellow trade unionists. The capacity to wound and harm [end p3] and damage. You think, many unions could do it, really. Most of them don't. Now why? Why do some say, “I'm going to use my muscle”? Why? Oh, why when they do use the hold-to-ransom message, why does that command loyalty? Aren't there greater loyalties than that? Aren't there also loyalties to the family, loyalty to the customer? You see, in coal they're able to do it partly because we had an agreement with them: we didn't import coal, the CEGB. Well now, no other industry could do it. If a whole textile factory comes out, it wouldn't stop people getting clothes. It all floods in. Cars go out, cars will all flood in. Food goes out, food will flood in.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Quite lot of coal is being produced.

MT

Quite a bit of coal is coming in, but there was an agreement that said electricity generating boards with the electricity used only British coal. And then, having that secured market, they're not prepared to give security of supply. I mean, it's absolutely crazy. It is blinkered.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] What will happen? People talking of strike continuing into winter. Familities, old age pensioners, bills have to be paid. Must be compromise in the end.

MT

But look, you heard what happened. ACAS, which was set up by the Labour Party for conciliation, got both sides together. National Union of Mineworkers put in a memo, a document of what they wanted, the National Coal Board put in what they wanted, ACAS married them together in a compromise. The National Coal Board accepted the compromise. The National Union of Mineworkers wouldn't. Now, who is at fault? You simply cannot negotiate with a person who says when it comes to negotiation, “I want everything you want … everything I want and nothing you want.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Both sides say same. Scargill says, “T heir fault” and …

MT

No, I'm sorry! I'm not talking about who's says what now. I'm talking about the facts! The NUM put in their document …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Argument even about the facts. [end p4]

MT

Well, Pat Lowry said that it was he who called it off because it is not just a matter of a few words.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Someone has to give in …

MT

…   . and Mr. Scargill is saying, “No closure of uneconomic pits.” We are saying you cannot carry on an industry that way. It has never been carried on that way, and it can never carried on that way.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Must one side or other give in?

MT

No. You cannot carry on that way. At the moment, you and I as taxpayers find £1.3 billion to meet the losses and costs of the coal industry, to meet the amount they can't earn by digging coal, £1.3 billion. That's equal to 28½ pence on every gallon of petrol. It's also equal to £2.50 on every retirement pension every week.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Horrifying. But there has to be …

MT

It comes back to a much more fundamental point. If you're held to ransom and give in, you'll be held to ransom many more times in the future.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] May I interrupt? sound of hammering George? Are you happy now?

George

[Question paraphrased] Just couple of photos. Please look straight at camera and smile. Thank you.

MT

And then when it's maintained by violence, you cannot give in. Hitherto … I mean, until now the other unions haven't supported, because if the other unions say, “Look, we have to close down uneconomic power stations. We have to close down uneconomic coal … car factories and textiles, engineering. Because in the end, you have to earn your keep.”

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] That simple.

MT

You have to earn your keep. Of course, all railways will always have a certain amount of subsidy because we keep some branch lines going, knowing that they won't [end p5] pay, but that's a different thing. I mean, you keep roads, you have to have some roads to places that won't pay and so on, but …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] They are not …

MT

But, I mean, we could import all the coal we needed at far less than it costs to produce it here.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Wives supporting husbands strongly. Often in past wives persuaded men to go back.

MT

Yes, well, don't forget you've got two clearly defined groups of people in the mining industry at the moment. Those who say, “We had a ballot and we voted to stay at work, and therefore we're going to work,” and the wives supported them in every way even though the intimidation against those men and against their wives is dreadful. And it seems to me very strange that a union which is there to protect its members has turned its violence on its own members, on their wives, on their children. Absolutely dreadful! That wasn't what trade unionism was for. There were one group of trade unionists throwing bricks through the windows and rivet guns.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] State of society we are in. Twenty five years since you came into House of Commons.

MT

It's extremists. Don't forget there was a General Strike in 1926. The miners stayed out six months.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Was there such violence?

MT

Well, I don't know.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Don't know either. Don't think so.

MT

The miners stayed out solid, I think, the miners stayed out solid then … [end p6]

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] They came dribbling back …

MT

And this is a strike that was manipulated. This is a strike that was manipulated into existence.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Hope camera not distracting you.

MT

No. I must say, I'm used to it.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] May I ask about Brighton, if not upsetting?

MT

Of course, yes.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] People morbidly fascinated. Like the Blitz people strengthened by talking about what happened. When bomb went off, what did you think? …

George

[Question paraphrased] Thanks Prime Minister and happy birthday.

MT

Thank you very much. Thank you.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Conference organiser thought there had been an earthquake. Then said that couldn't happen at a Conservative Conference. Moment of humour.

MT

No, there's no doubt that I … there was no doubt to me that it was a bomb. Oh, there's no doubt it's a bomb. I remember sitting down here—I had a meeting in the Cabinet Room when we heard the bomb go off as the Horse Guards were coming down. I know, there was no doubt that was a bomb. There's something different about a bomb, once you know what the sound is.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] You were where? … [end p7]

MT

There's no doubt to me it was a bomb at all. Exactly where the bomb was—I mean, the windows went out—em, exactly where the bomb was one didn't know for a moment. But it didn't take long, as our windows went out. And the first instinct, I can tell you, when you've had one bomb is to just try to get, not on the outside wall but to an inner corridor, go straight into the inner corridor. And my Denis Thatcherhusband was asleep in the next room. He was woken up obviously, and all the windows went out, so he came out quickly. And Robin Butler was … we were working in the sitting room, went straight into the corridor, and other people came into the corridor. Because, I'll tell, your waiting for another bomb, you're expecting more than one.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Extraordinary. What were you working on?

MT

I had finished the speech, which is why I know exactly the time, because I had finished the speech, finally done a final run-through. It goes through several drafts. I'd done the final draft at a quarter to three and said, “Right, now that's finished. I've done the last alterations. We're going to the office on the other side of the corridor,” where the girls were still up, because however late—some people get up early and do things the next morning, I could not sleep unless I had completed the conference speech the night before. It might have to have another run-over the next morning for, oh, double meanings and so on. I went straight, completed, and they're typing as I complete, so, “There are only about five or six more pages and that's it. Will you please just type that and then go to bed.” That went into the office, they were doing the final typing, quarter to three, and Robin said to me, “Look there, I know it's late but there is one paper that you just must do because they want the answer tomorrow morning.” So I just sat down to do that, and I sat down at a desk like this in an armchair and a window behind me, with Robin over there, and then this … As I said, to me there's no doubt about what it is. pause It was quite a deep one, would you understand?

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] I have not …

MT

It was quite a sizable one and the windows went out, the curtains, the windows went out. I stood up went across the room and got Denis from the other room. He was up and came out because he saw the sitting room light on. And then we went into the corridor, went straight across the corridor to see how the girls were, and then we all came into the corridor. There was a policeman on duty, and then we, em, Geoffrey Howe was next door and his … The rooms that we have are in threes really: sitting room, bedroom, bathroom. Because we all have to do a lot of work, we have a sitting room in which to work. Sitting room, bedroom, bathroom. And his was sitting room, bedroom, bathroom. So his sitting room was backed onto my bathroom, and the [end p8] detective couldn't get that sitting room door open. So for a few moments, there was a great worry: what had happened to Geoffrey?

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] He was out of bed as well?

MT

No, he was not, fortunately, because things were … his sitting room was a wreck. And stuff, ceiling and what-have-you, I didn't know at that time had come down in my bathroom. They were back to back. He was actually in bed in his bedroom, so he mercifully, he and Elspeth HoweElspeth came out, actually got dressed and came out, and then Leon BrittanLeon who was beyond came out, so we were all in the corridor and with our girls and one or two staff who were still up, because my staff know the last night it's … I tend to be very late. And we were all together and we really waited until then the firemen came along and said, “Look, don't go out the front way, down the front way whatever happens. Try to go round the back way.” We couldn't find the back way. It was blocked.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Everything smothered in dust?

MT

Dust. It's dust, dust, dust. It's a very fine sort of cement dust. And then another policeman came along. Oh, by this time we heard that most of the people in the hotel they'd taken out and got out at the back. And there was some discussion about where we should go. And then our detective said, “Look, there's only one place. We'll have to go up to the police station and we'll get you there, all of you.”

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Where there other places you could have gone?

MT

No, you go to the police station. There were my ministerial staff and party staff and detectives and several people on the party. We, they got a car and then we did eventually have to go out the, through the main, down the main staircase to the foyer, but out a back way. And then we saw the full extent of it as you went through the foyer, the enormous amount of rubble that had come right down. One's first immediate thought, not knowing quite what had happened above, was my goodness, you know, the night porter and the policemen who are on duty. I think I had already gathered what happened was, that they heard, they heard the bomb, thought that it was over at the Metropole, somewhere like that, and all went forward. So they got out before, so they got out before all his came down but they were hit as they went forward by some of the masonry coming down, but …   .

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] You climbed over rubble on way down? [end p9]

MT

No, the dust was absolutely a thick blanket of dust everywhere. But the main rubble was at the front and then you've got the big foyer behind. The main rubble was at the front.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] So you didn't climb rubble? It was at front but you went out the back?

MT

As we went … the main staircase comes down, yes, that's right. And then, and we got to be … Oh, by that time, when they said we were going to the police station, I was in full evening dress. I hadn't, em, I had to go to the conference ball in an evening suit and I just dashed back into my bedroom, and Denis did too, to get the suit that I'd been wearing earlier in the day, which alas was on the chair and hadn't been put away, picked up the suit, the blouse and the shoes and just got one more blouse so that I had something to change into, and then Denis just picked up his things, a couple of shirts, and off we went to the police station.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Maybe silly …

MT

And, my goodness me, they got me out. They took us at speed because obviously they were worried that, em …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] How long between bomb and leaving the hotel? Three or four minutes?

MT

Oh, no, no, no. Something like quarter of an hour, twenty minutes. A quarter an hour, twenty minutes.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] So many things in your mind at such a moment …

MT

Yes And then John Gummer was still in the office, because, em, we were virtually saying, you know, goodnight to every one. “The thing's finished, goodnight.” And then Penny, Penny Gummer, was one up, you see. She had been in bed so she came dashing down and clearly had been that one floor nearer to it. She came dashing down in her dressing down and no slippers. And one or two of my people who'd gone to bed, they all came dashing down into our office. So we really were very relieved that it was our people alright. We were very worried. The longest person to get was Geoffrey and Elspeth.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] They were putting on clothes! [end p10]

MT

I imagine they were dressing.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Very British!

MT

We tried to get their sitting room door open. Well, I can't … it must be absolutely solid with rubble. Thank goodness, he wasn't there.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Were you scared? …

MT

Em, there's … er, I cannot … Were you frightened? Em, in a way you were waiting for a second one but you didn't know where it would strike, and you're conscious that there might be a second one. Em, you're more worried about other people, more worried than frightened. You know, one knew that one was there more worried for other people than frightened, and very, very conscious that there was now an acutely difficult situation, that we must stay absolutely calm and think about the best thing to do. Em, and quite clearly they were getting everyone out of the hotel and did and very quickly. The remarkable thing was the lights were still on, the lights. It is extraordinary. They must have been a multi-circuited hotel. The lights stayed on.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] One doesn’t think, but there could have been a rush to find candles and so on.

MT

And of course that made it a lot easier for people to get out, so the lights stayed on. And then we obviously had to decide what to do next, whether we'd go outside immediately and join the …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Panic? Screams?

MT

No, none at all.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Silence not noise?

MT

Yes. But someone got them out very, very … they got, they got out very very quickly. Everyone got up obviously and got out. And, as I said, there was no doubt that it was a bomb and you don't go and, you don't wait to pick anything up, you just … [end p11]

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Nothing you went back to get?

MT

No, I got my clothes and my whole vanity case which is my whole face case and things that I keep. It was just there as I came out. But I didn't stop to get anything else, but then later someone did go back in and get some more things.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] No important papers?

MT

No, I had, no, all my valuable things had gone back into the office … and we did pick up red boxes as we came out, yes.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Face case and red boxes?

MT

So face case, red box, suit, and two blouses and shoes.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Did you take control or put yourself in hands unknown fireman or policeman?

MT

Well, we knew where we were and our policeman said, “Look, would you please stay for the time … please stay there until we've got a car.”

A Voice

Was this Ray?

MT

Yes, Ray, my chief, yes. “Please stay there and stay in the corridor, because that's the, er …” They thought was the safest place, and also in the back office. And we gathered all together, and then they got, they managed and they called up cars pretty quickly. The question was what to do. It was suggested at first that one goes back to, come back to No. 10. It's not very far. And I said, “No, I am not leaving the area. That to me would be the very worst thing I could do: other people in danger, I am not leaving the area.” So, by that time, we said, “Well, we'll all go to the police station,” and then the question was how to get out. And then the fireman came along, obviously knowing the enormity of what went on under our balconies, and look, the enormity of what was happening, and said, “Look, don't go out through the front.” Then we couldn't find a way out quickly through the other way. And then eventually, and then very shortly afterwards, the police came and said, “Look, there is a way out to the [end p12] front. Follow us and we'll take you.” And we got out. There were cars, a police car, and we, a whole group of us, were driven away in a number of cars very quickly.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Denis Thatcher in car with you?

MT

No, Crawfie, one of my helpers, was with me. We piled the cars as full as we could obviously. Driver, detective, and three of us in the back. So then we got to the police station and had a cup of tea. Of course, you have a cup of tea. They'd put a cup of tea ready. And gradually more people began to come into the police station and gradually the … Then one wanted to know, you know, where other people were. This was the thing, because some had been taken to the Metropole, and then the Metropole had been got up, because once you've got a bomb in one hotel … And then they brought some people from the Metropole to us, so the police station, I must say the police were absolutely fantastic. We took over the Chief Constable's room. You just crowd in everywhere. And by that time the astonishing thing was how quickly the news, although it was still night, of course, some of the radio stations were still working and the news was flashed very quickly across to the United States who were still awake.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Yes.

MT

Flashed across the television screens. And while I was still, while we were still at the police station, my Mark Thatcherson phoned. “It's No. 10, I've seen the … what has happened,” because we didn't know the enormity of what had happened. And we thought at that stage, goodness me, some people will have been wounded with falling masonry from the blast, but having, I said, seen the stuff come down … seen the stuff from the whole front of the building in that enormous front part, oh, splintered. Well, everything just total rubble, and one's first thought was: the night porter, the police, are they underneath there? But we didn't know the enormity of what had happend above except that you knew obviously a lot had come down, but whether it was in a central section or what had happened you just did not know.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] When Mark called he had seen a news flash?

MT

Yes.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Obviously …

MT

Didn't get through to me obviously, but by that time we had phoned No. 10 and told No. 10 that the numbers of the people that were with us that we knew were safe, so that they could phone the husbands of the girls who were with me. [end p13]

A Woman's Voice

Would you like another cup?

MT

Yes, yes, I'd love some more. And then gradually, em …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] None for me thank you.

MT

And I said, “Where's Norman?” Because Norman Tebbit had been … A lot of people tend to gather in my room. It doesn't matter whether you're making up a speech or not, I come back from the ball and they all tend to gather in my room, just for a sort of confab at the end of the day and then to tackle the next day. And Norman had, a number had been in my room and Norman was one of them, between coming back from the conference ball and starting again after midnight to work on the speech. And I, he looked I thought rather tired. He had done a superb speech himself so all the nervousness of his speech was over, had a fantastic standing ovation, and left to go to bed. And I said, “Well now, where's Norman? Where'sNigel LawsonNigel?” And we thought that they had gone to—those were two that I knew were about—gone in the group outside or gone to the Metropole. Or, by that time, people were, who knew people in Brighton were making their own arrangements to go and stay with other people.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Although late at night people still socialising.

MT

Oh yes, it happens. I expect the ball had finished about two, two-thirty, and people were coming back. It tends to be, it tends to be very, very late at night.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] You didn't know about Norman …? Meaning unclear.

MT

And of course we couldn't, we suggested … they wanted us to keep all together, because once we were at the police station they know where we are. And then because that police station was busy we were all taken over to … pause

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] What is the noise outside? A band? …

MT

[end p14]

No, it will be something … They come down here. They might turn in. It might be a visiting minister of defence having a guard of honour across there, in which case they all have to come down. We'll see when they come past in a moment.

And then they got a coach. The police got a coach. My goodness me, they were efficient. And we were taken over actually to Lewes police station so that we were out of the way. And we got to Lewes police station I suppose about, oh, some time about four o'clock. One couldn't, there were dormitories there where we could, er … it was a training station. The band passes.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Whole cabinet in that bus?

MT

No, no, no, no. It wasn't the whole Cabinet. It was all of us who got back, there weren't the whole Cabinet. Some of the Cabinet weren't there you see: some get back to London when we're at Brighton.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

Michael Heseltine in Germany at NATO meeting.

MT

Yes, but those of us who'd got to the police station and the staffs and the party conference staff, well, we filled a whole bus, a whole coach. They'd got a coach very quickly. Remarkable efficiency! They really were extremely good. I suppose there was no doubt in their minds about where we should go. We had to go to the police station, you know. They couldn't disperse us. They wanted us still to keep … Some people went to the Metropole because, having got out—the main thing was to get them out of the hotel—but our group were taken straight to the police station and our staffs, and then they got us to Lewes. So they knew where we were, that was one lot dealt with, which enabled them, as they duly explained, “Now, we want to use all our resources on dealing with the bomb and the aftermath itself, so we can go and see exactly and concentrate on what is happening.” And then it took … we just gathered and over across at Lewes the police had again tea ready for us, and they gave me just a little sitting room by a bedroom at the little training school there. I had a sitting room. Again, everyone congregated in that. You get together, in times of trouble you get together, and of course really waiting for news …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Were you watching news or listening or being told by police …

MT

We got from the police direct, the news we got from the police direct.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[end p15]

[Question paraphrased] Your main worry was your colleagues?

MT

Well, you see, it's a question under those circumstances of finding out where everyone is. The Grand Hotel is a fantastically large hotel. And also there are Members of Parliament, there are the staff of the hotel, there are our own ministerial staff who are with you and detectives, there are the party political staff. Do you know? Everyone was equally good, everyone. It was a total togetherness, as it always is in disaster. It's one person, it's not who's who, it's one person to another. And eventually at about ten minutes to five, I said, “Look …” Oh, we had, the police were very good, we found out from the police before we went to bed that night that there'd be no police operational reason why the conference couldn't carry on, that we could, the conference building was alright, and as far as they were concerned we could carry on with the conference. They cordoned the area off but we could get people into the conference, so at ten minutes to five I said, “All right, I've got to, first I've got to …” We brought the speech out. I must tell you, we brought the speech out from the office obviously. We brought out the red book and the girls who were with me doing the typing in my office said, “We've got the speech, we've got the speech.” They were just about to tell me, “We've got the speech.” It hadn't finally been typed, but we'd got the speech. So we took the speech. Em, and at ten to five I said, “Look, somehow I've got to deliver some kind of speech tomorrow. The one I've got now may not be quite right. It's going to need quite a lot of alteration, but first I've got to be back on the platform at nine-thirty tomorrow morning, and I've got a lot of alterations of the speech to do and I've got to deliver it at two-thirty tomorrow. So I just simply must get a couple of hour's sleep.” So at ten minutes to five, I did go and lie flat in the bedroom next to my …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Could you sleep?

MT

Well, I was by that time exhausted and I did get a couple of hour's sleep.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] You didn't take anything? …   .

MT

Oh no, no, we had a … no, no.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Or refuse medicine?

MT

But, you see, by that time what we still did not know, as I said, the enormity of what had happened. Because by that time we didn't know that there were people—well, our great worry was that the night porters and the police, em, and I said, “Has anything happened?” And they said to me, “Look, as far as we are aware, there are no severe injuries,” because by that time they knew that the police were alright. Well, alright— [end p16] they'd been hit by falling masonry—and I think they knew that the night porter was alright. I did my duty, came out of the Brighton police station to go to Lewes. We thought as I went to bed that there were no deaths or very severe injuries. Now, very early the following morning, and we were listening to the radio to get, because one station goes all night, I had a radio, listened to the radio to get any news, because sometimes you know that is the quickest way. There's a reporter on site gets the news. And then about two hours, and then it look a little time to get to sleep, yes, it did, but then I did sleep because I knew that I must be fresh for the morning. And then at about half seven I was up.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Were you called or woke naturally?

MT

No, I awoke. And by that time the news was coming in. First it was Norman Tebbit about that time was being dug out. So that was the first time we knew that he wasn't away. Norman Tebbit and then Margaret TebbitMargaret. And then later they had discovered John Wakeham was talking and they couldn't get at him, it was going to take them time to get at him. And gradually the news got worse and worse and worse. And gradually one realized the enormity of what had happened. And I said, “Nevertheless, we've got to …” to John Gummer, “I've got to get back and get in at nine-thirty.” So we got in a car and came back from Lewes into Brighton and, as you know, we went through the front door and of course people were being checked very, very closely—they had been all the conference—and went on the platform at about nine-twenty-five waiting for the nine-thirty conference. And Pam Hunter and the others came on and I saw Alistair McAlpine. He was told that so many people had not got clothes and Marks and Spencers had kitted them, and I had just taken mine with me. And gradually the whole story was pieced together. I knew that I couldn't … I had to stay sitting on the platform. It was a Northern Ireland debate. By that time no one had claimed the bomb, but … I knew I must stay for that and I must stay for the opening of the next debate. And then, after the opening of the next debate, I heard two or three speeches and then left the platform, because I had then to go and really do, cut out all the what I call highly combative parts of the speech, because it is not appropriate at the time you've had a disaster which affects everyone that you should have highly combative party political stuff. So I had to cut out all those and radically change it and cut out one whole section, which … er, re-do a new beginning and go through everything and do it as fast as we could and then start to re-type. And, of course, people coming and going the whole time about any decisions that needed to be taken, and with all the news, and as I say the news was … em, getting steadily worse and of course people were missing, missing. And it was seven hours afterwards we knew that John Wakeham, they'd got him out, seven hours inaudible word missing. John had been talking until they got him out, but then I think he lost consciousness, and then we were faced as I say with missing people. And then … and then someone went out and bought food, so that we had a sort of buffet. I think that also came from various shops in Brighton.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] You had no breakfast … [end p17]

MT

Well, we had, I did, I did have a cup of coffee before I left.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Before leaving Lewes?

MT

Yes, and we had a quick buffet and then it was a question of getting on with the … Oh, and then, bless his golden heart, Harvey Thomas came, and Harvey came in to see me. Harvey had been trapped for an hour and three-quarters. His wife was expecting a baby. She wasn't with him. And he told me he'd been trapped but he'd got into a small air pocket. He'd been trapped …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] He explained very clearly.

MT

Yes, and he was marvellous.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Meaning? …

MT

No, you were just unbelievably thankful that a person who could have been like this was still remarkably cheerful and keep going. Now, we decided by that time … he normally does my autocue and first I decided in any way not to have autocue. Autocue sometimes I find very constraining, because somehow you're trapped between reading off two screens. And I said, “Look, Harvey, no autocue.” He said, “Thank goodness. I don't know whether I could do it.” “No autocue. I'm just going to do it the old-fashioned way with my notes, and anyway the thing isn't sufficiently perfect for you to put on autocue. We've just got to get through as best we can.” And then did say we just have to make one or two arrangements that I would not as usual … We would have no great organ music at the beginning, because it wasn't appropriate. We'd just go on, have an introduction, do the speech. And I would not as I do normally go through the audience at the end, because I wanted to get to the hospital. Various of our people had been to the hospital, bringing back news at half-hourly intervals, and I … The hospital was so busy that I thought it would be best if I went to the hospital after I'd done my speech so that they by that time, I hoped by that … tape switched over Many, many people I saw looked very, very shaken …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Your appearance …

MT

But there wasn't a single sense of panic. The orderly way in which they went out, and one of my policemen told me, one of the policemen who'd been in the foyer when it happened, that there were quite a lot of people still in the bar behind and he said, [end p18] “There was a Yorkshire chap calmly got them all together and took them all out cheerfully.” And that was, em … No, it was not so much fear as a sort of realisation that there might be another and how best therefore could we, what best could we do first partly to get out, which way, or to be in the safest position so that if another one struck …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Your family obviously very …

MT

Then Carol Thatchermy daughter was in South Korea on a journalist expedition. She heard and her office told her—Daily Telegraph—that there had been a bomb, that we were alright but they didn't know the full inaudible word. And then she went, she was dining, having supper with some people who had been in that South Korean bomb when four members of their Cabinet were killed. And then she said, “There's been a bomb in Brighton. My mother … my mother's all right,” and they said, and they told her the full enormity of what had happened, and that was the first time she knew, the first time she knew there had been a bomb actually on the hotel. And when we were told that we could, that we were going to the police station, then I did go back in my room and collect some clothes, put some clothes, we put some clothes in the suitcase, and someone got the suitcase out. But I was going to get something from the bathroom and I went through and that was when I realized just what the bathroom was like, because the ceiling was down, the windows out, the ceiling down, and the tiles were on the floor and the ceiling down, and therefore I did not stay to collect many clothes. Quite honestly, clothes don't matter under those circumstances. You … unless you've lost a lot it doesn't matter. But one of my staff was able to go in and I was told it was all right to go into the bedroom, and the next day someone went in and collected more things, and half an hour after they'd been collected, the whole ceiling came down.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Many amazed when they saw you on conference platform following day how composed you were, dress and hair perfect. Had you …

MT

Well, my hair, I can tell you, was going to be done, going to be done that morning. It wasn't done! The poor hairdresser who'd be coming … obviously, it was not done. So it was just what I could do with it with a normal brush and comb, and normally one of the girls from the television studios comes and makes me up. Well, there was no time for anything like that. There was no time. I had a … I always keep a special outfit for wearing for that conference speech. Well, that wasn't worn either!

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] What outfit is that?

MT

[end p19]

I always decide what I'm going to wear and keep it. I was going to wear a grey suit and a soft grey blouse for that conference speech, but … that was left. And so it was literally all I took with me was—I knew that I couldn't deliver, I couldn't go around in evening dress—so I took my navy suit I'd been wearing that day, the blouse I'd been wearing that day and another blouse, because somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I must have a fresh blouse to wear for the speech. Well, I hadn't time to go to the wardrobe. It would have been ridiculous, because we didn't know whether the ceiling or anything would come down.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Great presence of mind …

MT

So then, shoes, shoes! I can't go in evening shoes, so I picked up the shoes.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] DT worried about his clothes or …

MT

He just similarly got trousers, jacket, and picked up two shirts. And we didn't have toothbrushes, because, you see, that was all in the bathroom. We couldn't collect toilet kits …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] What did you say when you saw the bathroom? …

MT

No, I went to open the door to go and get some of the stuff and then …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] And saw it was …

MT

Yes, and that's … You see, had I not sat down and done that paper at quarter to three, I would have gone, gone into my office, finished, went into the office and said, “Now, alright, pack up. You can finish this tomorrow. I'm now going to bed.” And I would have gone straight through …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Reports say you’d been in bathroom before …

MT

No, that was not correct. I would have gone straight through. I wouldn't have disturbed Denis in the bedroom, undressed in the bathroom, taken off make-up and gone to bed. And I would have been in there when it happened. Well, I think I might have survived, but, em …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[end p20]

[Question paraphrased] Could have been hurt?

MT

I wouldn't have delivered the speech so well. I mean, it just depends. If something comes down on your head and knocks you out, and you're … it would have been difficult. But, you see, I could have actually been in the bathroom when it happened, because you're pretty tired by the time you've been giving out all day and you've put a lot of nervous energy into the speech. And you work at a pretty high pitch of concentration, and then you're always, I always know, even though I may not get much sleep, the important thing is to put a few hours of sleep between the days, and even if it were only an hour, it's important to do it, strangely enough.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Marking division of the days.

MT

Yes, that's right. Well, as I say, all had been arranged then. Normally we do a final run-through of the speech the following morning just to look for ambiguities, because when you're creating things you don't see the ambiguity, which is one reason why you simply must put a little bit of sleep between you and the last draft, because then you are looking at it with a fresh mind and you see an ambiguity there that might be fatal when other people see it. And when that is done, normally then it's put on autocue. I would look at it on autocue quickly. Then my hair would be done and make-up would be done and then we would be off. So normally everything is carefully done that last morning.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Our time short now …

MT

But, I assure you, none of that. But it was my usual me, whatever I could do, so I …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] It was good. You are in Dublin next month. …

MT

It's the, it's the summit, isn't it? It's the summit, yes, but it's the EEC summit.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] You can't live in a cocoon, but does it alter your feeling about moving around the country, about security? You are now a marked target. [end p21]

MT

Well, yes, and I think, well, obviously one has to watch security, but you can't stop living the life it's necessary for a Prime Minister to lead. Yes, security will be stepped up.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Security will be greater, but your outlook unchanged?

MT

Oh, it's infinitely more precious. You know, there's a little anonymous poem I have known for many years. It is anonymous:

Life owes me nothing. One one clear morn
Is boon enough for being born,
And be it ninety years or ten,
No need for me to answer when.
While life is mine, I'll find it good
And greet each hour with gratitude.

Now that, as I said yesterday …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Where is that from?

MT

Just let me see if I've got one line right. break in tape “No need for me to question when”:

Life owes me nothing. One clear morn
Is boon eough for being born,
And be it ninety years or ten,
No need for me to question when.
While life is mine, I'll find it good
And greet each hour with gratitude.

You do. It alters your perspective. You're not going to be worried or complain about silly, niggly little things.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Will you change your mind about big issues?

MT

No, you get on, the big things are …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Does it firm your resolve?

MT

[end p22]

You try to do the right thing about big things in any event, and you just go on doing the right thing about big things. But you're not going to waste you time on tiny little—I can tell you exactly where it came from. This was given me years ago: 1965. It's a calendar.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Name?

MT

“Life's Tapestry.” And it must have been in my stocking, you know, in a Christmas stocking. One of those things one gets at Christmas, you know, tiny little things. And I remember looking at it, and it has these marvellous little … poems. turning pages There, look, anonymous.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Beautiful! Anonymous gift?

MT

I don't know who gave it to me. I looked at it and it has all this. “Life's Tapestry.”

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Which year? 1965?

MT

Sixty-five.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Why still hanging around?

MT

Because I looked at these marvellous little things at the beginning. There are about twelve of them, each of them perfect.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] You keep it close by.

MT

I can lay my hand on it immediately. Because it's got these marvellous things. There's another one. This is—it must be in quite a good taste—this is another anon. It starts the same way. Look at that one. It starts “Life owes me nothing” but …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

Life owes me nothing. Let the years
Bring clouds or azure, joy or tears.
Already a full cup I have quaffed,
Already wept and loved and laughed,
And seen in ever endless ways
New beauties overwhelm the days
. [end p23]

MT

You see, they're all anonymous.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Beautiful.

MT

And there are various ones. You know, one can build all sorts of things around these, so I, it's still there. It's still there. I always keep a book or file of poems, quotations, sayings that appeal to me. That's why I know immediately where to get them. Otherwise you know you've seen something and you don't know where to get it, so I keep a whole file of it.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] What will you do with the Union Jack …   .

MT

Oh, I'll keep it. I must gather together some things which remind me of this. Not necessarily reminded … I mean … one still cannot get over the fact that the number of marvellous people lost their lives and they're most of them, all of them, people who spent their lives looking after the well-being of others. And that they should end their lives in this manner is very cruel, but they're just the sort of people who would say, “Now, alright, if our lives have been taken away from us, that means you must carry … that means the more that those of you who are left will carry on for the things in which we believe.” The cruellest thing of all is that it's the … so many of the innocent ones whose lives were lost, and it means the more we have to carry on. And I say it as “one clear morn is boon enough” for me … break in tape and saw the injuries. Of course I was just … What can one say? Well, I suppose …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] You saw the television pictures? Everyone struck by close-ups of man who had made a speech day before, a Cabinet minister just became a human being helpless and in pain.

MT

Well, I went in to see Norman TebbitNorman and he was asleep and he was sleeping. You know, you know the regular breathing. He was sleeping soundly, and I thought, thank goodness. But, you know, I saw Norman—Norman I could scarcely recognise.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Made it clear to you …

MT

[end p24]

Yes, and then I went to see John Wakeham in the intensive care. He was also asleep, for which I was glad, because it, sleep is the best way of … and then I spoke and had quite a talk with Margaret Tebbit, who is wonderful.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Greatest tragedy … The band approaches.

MT

She is wonderful and we pray almost hourly for her. Goodness me, she's wonderful. And then to both to Mrs Taylor and Mr Shattock, neither of whom knew whether their respective husband or wife was still alive, didn't know, and neither did we. We didn't know whether Roberta Wakeham was still alive. Their suffering was just enormous. In a way …

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Still coming home, isn't it?

MT

Can I … It's the injustice that they should suffer more than anyone else, you know, but life is unjust and unfair.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Would you rather? …

MT

And I just went round. And Mr and Mrs MacLean from Scotland. Both of them I know. He has been my chairman of Scotland. She was very, very badly injured.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Great worry about her this morning.

MT

This morning she's back in. Very, very badly injured. And she was asleep when I first went in, so I crept out and went into see him in the next room, and then the nurse came and said, “Oh, Mrs MacLean 's awake. She wants to talk to you.” So back I went. break in tape.

A Woman's Voice

The staff were , so proud. They were working on your speech. There was the usual tension there is before a major speech.

MT

It will be the guard of honour to the Ministry of Defence, I think. For the visiting, either a visiting general or a Secretary of State for Defence. They get this fantastic guard of honour. Isn't it marvellous? [end p25]

MT looking out of the window.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Don't stand there.

MT

Well, life must go on. Life must go on. Thankyou. I hope that comes out. I somehow can't express sufficiently … the depth of ones feelings.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Greatly appreciated.

MT

Now, you see, when someone says, “Many happy returns” on your birthday, you realise just exactly what it does mean.

Douglas Keay—Woman's Own

[Question paraphrased] Bernard Ingham said “can't allow you to interview the, PM. Last time was after the Falklands and now … ”

End of recording.