Dorothy and E.P.Thompson remembered: a talk by Shelia Rowbotham
For many years the Thompsons lived near Worcester. After Edward’s death a local group organised lectures in his memory which Dorothy encouraged and attended. Many of those lectures were recorded and published but many are now out of print, but watch this space in 2020.
Upon Dorothy’s death it seemed fitting to have a lecture in both their names. Sheila delivered this first lecture.
The organisers were very grateful to Shelia for transcribing her lecture which enabled them to publish it in this form, long used by the Thompsons.
A5 format, 32 pp, softback.
Introduction by Jeff Carpenter, a long standing friend of the Thompsons.
Welcome. It’s good, very good indeed, to see so many of you here, each one of you, with our special memories of Edward and Dorothy. Their time in Worcester was very deep with me, very deep.
I remember a Parents’ Evening at the Technical College in the days when they didn’t do courses like “Janet and John Learn about Corporate Finance”. They did a course “Age of the Chartists” and I’m really proud to think that Kate Thompson was one of the students.
If you can imagine the scene [at this] Parents’ Evening, which is a bit of a hullabaloo, [with] the long line [of parents] and there were Edward and Dorothy at the back of the queue waiting to ask questions. It was pretty humbling, if not altogether awesome and frightening.
We have another really poignant memory, The Guildhall, where we decided to - it was Edward’s idea - do you remember the BBC had turned down the idea of “The Dimbleby Lecture”? Too strong meat for them. Edward asked if we could do something locally as a community in Worcester, Worcestershire.
So we had this meeting in The Guildhall and, my God it was crowded, there was no room at all. The place really had every space taken up. Then, just five minutes before E.P. began, a policeman came into the doors of The Guildhall, with all the portraits of George III and all the other Tory entourage he managed with a police dog to come to the front. I was the Chair of the meeting and he handed me a note, a note which said abandon this meeting because there’s a bomb in the building. So I put the note straight into my pocket because I looked up, I looked at Edward, I looked at everybody I looked at the portraits of George III on the wall, that had been there since 1788, and I thought, “Well blimey, if Edward and I are going up then so is George III.” So I ignored that one.
I think of all the wonderful hospitality and kindness there was at Wick Episcopi. Taking an aged aunt from Ludlow, she was a Godly Matron of the Parish of Saint Lawrence, and not exactly the type you’d imagine, so I took her along to Wick Episcopi and the welcome couldn’t have been more warm. It was like that with everybody. It was like that after Edward’s death, with Dorothy in Rainbow Hill Terrace. The wonderful, the great ability of bringing people together.
It is just wonderful that the committee have got Sheila Rowbotham here to speak to us and to give her memories and her impressions. You would know about her reputation as a historian and I know that she is particularly proud of being now a writer in residence at the British Library, Eccles Centre for American Studies. We’re so amazingly happy to see her in Worcester. Will you show that by the warmth of your welcome.
Jeff was a personal friend of the Thompsons, is a retired lecturer in History, author of short histories of Worcester and served as a Labour Councillor and Mayor of Worcester City Council.
(this is an edited version of his introduction.)