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13 November 2014

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You are in: Tees > People > We Are Teesside > Thatcher's Teesside Days?

Margaret Thatcher

Had Thatcher already visited Teesside?

Thatcher's Teesside Days?

Few of us who lived through the 1980s here could forget Lady Thatcher's famous "Walk in the Wilderness", when she came to the area to see the industrial decline, but was it really her first visit to Teesside?

This is a rumour you hear occasionally around Teesside, whether it's someone who knows someone who used to work in the canteen at ICI Billingham who remembers serving that aloof woman with the hair, or someone who sits proudly in the pub and proclaims, "Of course, Thatcher used to work here, you know. Only stuck it for a couple of weeks."

Margaret Thatcher

1987: The Walk in the Wilderness

But is there any truth to it? When Margaret Thatcher took her handbag out onto the industrial wasteland on the banks of the Tees, did she hold a secret; that actually, she knew this place in better times?

Certainly, she had worked as a chemist and she did have the qualifications that ICI was looking for.

A call to Sembcorp, who now run the former ICI site at Wilton and also took over ICI's public relations when the company ceased to exist, turned up no evidence she had ever worked here.

It was only when we spoke to Julian Phillips, a former ICI employee and local company historian, that we found our explanation.

Margaret Thatcher never worked for ICI, because when she applied, she was deemed "not to have the right attributes". Furthermore, as Julian explained, "She never worked for ICI and it isn't even a Teesside myth, it's a Runcorn myth."

Yes, you may have heard that Margaret Thatcher once worked at ICI in Billingham, but in fact she was turned down for a job with the company, and the job she applied for wasn't even in the North East, anyway. It was in Merseyside.

Tees True or False

last updated: 07/11/2008 at 17:39
created: 05/11/2008

You are in: Tees > People > We Are Teesside > Thatcher's Teesside Days?

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