Anne was born in the north of Sheffield on 5 August 1944. Her parents owned a bakery in Hillsborough. Anne has been a keen reader from an early age and has remained so. She trained as a Religious Education (RE) teacher at college in Leeds and was also involved in the Girl Guide movement for many years, as both a Guide and a Guider. She has two daughters and grandchildren.
Here Anne remembers how she encountered that most notorious book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
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Anne read well from an early age: ‘I was away ahead,’ she says. At first it was fairy stories and nursery rhymes, and then books familiar to most people growing up in the mid-20th century.
I was well into Enid Blyton at a fairly young age and then as I got older I sort of went more on to the classics. I remember reading The Children of the New Forest when I was about 13 and that became one of my top favourites. … The Chalet books in my early teens were my passion and I owned practically every single one at some point. I’ve still got a lot of them up in the loft.
Of the classics, David Copperfield and Jane Eyre were the ones Anne liked best, but although she tried, Jane Austen wasn’t for her. ‘I just couldn’t stick it,’ she says.
Membership of the public library and her school and college studies kept Anne reading, although she doesn’t sound as if she needed much persuasion (‘I just read anything I could get my hands on’). She belonged to Sheffield Libraries from an early age, walking there alone and choosing her books without any help from the librarians. When, at the age of 15, she transferred to the City Grammar in the centre of Sheffield, she joined the Central Library, encouraged by a friend, Kath. Kath ‘was doing literature and so was very much more into proper books, adult books’. Anne dates her transition to ‘grown-up novels’ from her friendship with Kath. In those days Anne usually looked for books which had some relevance to her history and RE courses, such as Jean Plaidy’s books on the Tudors and novels like Lloyd C Douglas’ The Robe.
No-one ever made Anne feel that reading was a waste of time. Both parents were busy with their business, but were happy for their daughter to read:
…Oh no, I mean [my mother] was an intelligent person, she knew the value of reading, she just didn’t do it.
Then our interviewer asked if Anne was ever made to feel embarrassed or guilty about reading. Only when she came across D H Lawrence, Anne replied. And the story came out.
I found my dad reading surreptitiously, which was totally…I mean it was when it was all in the papers about the …[laughing] I remember he pushed it under the pile of newspapers in the cupboard and I found it one day and I started doing the same thing and reading it surreptitiously. There was always a half hour part of the day, when I got in from school before they came back from work, that I’d got to myself and I used to read it. I worked my way through it. That was the only time and I knew I shouldn’t be doing it so I never let on. I don’t think my mother knows today that I ever read it.
Perhaps your father didn’t think he ought to be doing it either, suggests our interviewer. Probably not, Anne agrees, saying ‘he probably kept it out of sight from me’.
This happened around 1960, when Anne was a teenager. This was the time of the famous trial under the Obscene Publications Act, when Penguin Books re-published Lawrence’s novel (for the first time since its initial publication in 1928) and challenged the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute. The book was a huge success, with copies selling out as soon as they arrived in bookshops.
The trial, that was why everybody read it! Everybody knew about it. I did some more D H Lawrence as well.
Anne, however, did not particularly like the Lawrence novels she read. ‘ I read them but I wouldn’t say I’d want to read them again.’ She was shocked by Lady Chatterley, she says, because she was ‘totally innocent in those days’. But she
didn’t know what the fuss was about for most of it.
Here is Anne’s full interview.