A snapshot of life in February 1983

Schools’ merger decision

Education chiefs have upheld the recommendations of the working party which reviewed secondary education in South West Hertfordshire. This means the merging of Bushey Hall School with Grange Park School, Bushey, on the Grange Park site, the merging of Durrants, Croxley, with William Penn, Rickmansworth, on the William Penn site, and the development of Westfield School, west Watford, as a coeducational school. The decision was taken at Monday’s Education Committee meeting despite opposition from all the schools’ action groups, school governors and Watford Council. Snow swirled around County Hall, Hertford, as the demonstrators went in and out of the building to lobby county councillors about the secondary school review. Members of action groups had queued in the bitter wind for places in the public gallery to hear the debate while others stood on the entrance steps with banners, posters and leaflets.

[February 4, 1983]

Drivers are belting up

Drivers in South West Hertfordshire are belting up to avoid tangling with police over the new seat belt legislation. Opinion poll estimates state that about 90 per cent of drivers in England have been heeding the new law and people in this area seem to have been toeing the line to a similar degree. Safety experts have claimed that the new law could save up to 1,000 lives and stop 11,000 serious injuries a year. The new law, which came into force on Monday, states that it will be the responsibility of every person aged from 14 upwards to wear a seat belt when travelling in the front seat of a car.

[February 4, 1983]

Hospital tap turned off

More homes and the outpatients’ department of the Bushey and District hospital were left with dry taps this week as the water strike continued. Growing numbers of people in the Bushey and Oxhey areas had to face the misery of queueing at the emergency standpipes to collect their water. In Bushey a pipe burst in Windmill Lane causing 75 houses and the hospital department to be without water. But the hospital authorities considered that it was not vital to restore the water supply to that particular department. Already families in Harcourt Road, Bushey, have been without water for more than a week. Mrs Audrey Pollock, of the Rickmansworth and Uxbridge Valley Water Company, said that a total of 1,243 homes were affected.

[February 18, 1983]

Doubts over Revels future

One of the area’s oldest and most colourful village carnivals is in jeopardy. The Croxley Revels could be cancelled this year unless more people are prepared to help with the organisation. Crisis struck last week at the annual meeting of Croxley Society. Two of the main Revels organisers for many years stood down. The society has also lost its vice-chairman. The Revels was started by legendary Croxley Green school master, Neggie Wilson. Chairman Mr Alge Hedges recalled: “We always had processions in Croxley on high days and for national celebrations. Neggie suggested that as everyone enjoyed them so much we should have an annual May revels on the Green.” He added: “Everybody wants The Revels, but we need their help.”

[February 25, 1983]

Mill for sale – minus ghost

The ghost has gone but the memory of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer in its heyday still lingers in the old Scotsbridge Mill in Rickmansworth. The world-famous film company’s former British headquarters and distribution centre, once a paper mill, went up for sale this week for £300,000. MGM moved to Rickmansworth to escape wartime London in 1940. Shortly after MGM’s departure, workers became aware of ghostly happenings at the mill – footsteps, coughing, the smell of perfume, and icy patches. It was the night security men, who kept losing and finding their keys in extraordinary places, who finally called in Catholic priest Father Lemmon to exorcise the ghost. Now only the “ghost” of MGM lingers in the mill.

[February 25, 1983]

What was happening in the world in February 1983?

• Former Nazi Gestapo official Klaus Barbie, known as the ‘Butcher of Lyon’, is officially charged with war crimes (February 6)

• Prize stallion and Derby winner Shergar is kidnapped in Ireland. In 1999 Sean O’Callaghan stated it was an IRA operation to raise money for arms (February 8)

• Two US Marshals are killed in a shootout with Gordon Kahl in North Dakota (February 13)

• The Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria and South Australia claim the lives of 75 people in Australia’s worst ever fires (February 16)

• Over 2,000 people are massacred in Assam, India, during the Assam agitation (February 18)

• Michael Jackson’s Thriller album goes to number one and stays number one for 37 weeks (February 26)

• The final episode of M*A*S*H airs, setting the record for most watched television episode and reaching a total audience estimated at 125 million (February 28)