Winifred (1907-1914) Part 1 – Family Life

Click to hear Winifred part 1 - Family Life (7mins 29secs)
Winifred Barber was a remarkable woman; born in Birmingham in 1907, she was able to recall almost any event as if it had happened the day before.

At the age of 93 she made a series of recordings for the period 1907-1945 which were broadcast on BBC local radio as a unique record of English social history.

Her family have kindly agreed to these pieces being included on this blog with the series beginning in the year of her birth. After a reign of 64 years, Queen Victoria had died only six years earlier and had been followed by King Edward VII. at a time when the stability of the Victorian era was being replaced by rapid social change and growing menace in Europe.

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2 Responses to Winifred (1907-1914) Part 1 – Family Life

  1. Michael Bell says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for posting this up, I listened over a coffee this morning and this recording had my full attention.

    Growing up in the late 1980s being surrounded by technology and entertainment, it is sometimes hard to imagine a time when things such as electricity and refrigerators which are taken so much for granted now were only just being implemented into the work place and peoples homes, so it was great to hear Winifred speaking of this.

    I am looking forward to listening to the next episode in this series and hearing more about Winifred and her memories of Britain throughout her life.

    If only the kids these days would regard carrots to be “as good as a sweet”, the world would surely be a better place :).


  2. Mike Dickins says:

    Delighted to have your detailed response to the first Winifred programme. I came acros her when she was a listener to our local Talking Newspaper and we struck up a relationship which produced 36 7/8 min pieces for our local BBC radio station. She became quite a cult figure and, on completion of the series she was invited for a live interview with the DJ. Afterwards, they entertained her to tea and cakes (with the StationManager), using china crockery which had last been used by HM Queen on a visit to BBC Hereford & Worcs, some years earlier.

    I am not a professional radio man; it’s just a hobby – ideal for local radio because they don’t have to pay you anything… She was 92 when she made the recordings with me in her sittingroom; the activity gave her a great boost and and was something she could do well, at the end of her life. I think she died at 94.

    She had a phenomenal memory; being blind, she couldn’t refer to notes or diaries and I found that, if I interjected with too many questions (cues to move the recording on) she would stumble and lose her thread. She obviously had a script, ready, in her head and didn’t find prompts helpful. Most of the people I interview do find them helpful.

    Her recall was as if the events had taken place yesterday and I think you will find her character develops as the series progresses. I found the most moving event she described was her friendship with Curly, an American, who was fighting in the British Army in 1916, well before the Americans formally entered the Great War. The DJ confessed to me that he wept in the studio when those two programmes were being broadcast.

    Still, that’s about 13 sessions ahead, and there is lots more ground for her to cover before we get to 1917.

    Keep listening!


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