The Presidential address at the 2016 reunion
Mr Patron, Honoured Guest, Fellow Veterans.
I have the pleasure this afternoon of introducing to you the President of our Marconi Veterans Association, somebody who is well known to many of you, Miss Valerie Cleare, sitting in the middle. Congratulations Val and in the other language that you are familiar with molti congratulazioni, congratulate. Did I say that right? (laughter)
If I was to cover all of Val’s curriculum today I would be speaking to you for the rest of the afternoon so I intend to mention just some of her activities with the Marconi organisation.
As many of you will know Val had to find an alternative position outside the company in 1998 when all work at New Street ceased. She currently is employed by the Essex County Council as a business support administrator, what does that mean?
Val joined Marconi’s in 1971 straight from Great Baddow High School, just round the corner where she was proficient in languages and, in particular, French and German and this gave her a good background for later in life when she became very well versed in the Italian language. She extensively used Italian on behalf of the company in many negotiations with Marconi Italiana and other similar organisations.
So the first few years with Marconi’s was learning the trade of being a secretary studying at Chelmsford College and gaining experience and proficiency in both shorthand and typing.
Her early attachment as a qualified secretary were at Marconi Radar, various personnel departments, technical information division and, of course, the typing pool.
Her achievements and number of positions ultimately held read like an input to a science directory but suffice it to say she held senior secretarial posts with commercial directors, technical directors, engineering directors and personnel directors within the local Marconi group and also sometime secretary to GEC-Marconi Electronics director of personnel John Shrigley, who is Val’s Guest of Honour here today.
Apart from being employed with Marconi organisations for over 25 years which gives her the qualifications as a veteran Val found time, she says spare time, away from secretarial aspects to be a member of Great Baddow church choir, MASC theatre group, I know as secretary also as an actress, Chairman of Chelmsford Folk Dancers and finally as a member of our Marconi Veterans Committee.
I have given you a broad outline of Val’s career and social activities; now it give me great pleasure to welcome her as our President as I ask you to raise a glass in honour of veteran Val Cleare.
Val Cleare – President 2016
Mr Patron, Mr Chairman, Honoured Guest, Fellow Veterans
Buongiomo a tutti, Hello everyone. It is indeed an honour that I have been asked to become President. Guglieilmo Marconi was the first President in 1928 and I feel especially proud to have this honour bestowed upon me. In fact I’m not as Essex girl. I was lucky enough to subsequently be a beauty queen in Eastbourne, Swanage and Blackpool.
I was born in St. Helens, Lancashire. St. Helens (famous for Pilkington’s Glass and rugby league). My parents were in the RAF, for the first part of my life we moved to wherever my Dad was stationed. Such places as Middle Wallop near Salisbury, various places in Norfolk, Odiham in Hampshire. My Dad was stationed at Trimingham, Coltishall, Neatishead, whilst in Norfolk.
My Dad, Bob Cleare, was employed by Marconi Radar as a radar systems engineer working at both Great Baddow, Crompton works, Writtle Road, Chelmsford for 24 years.
In September 1971 I enrolled on the intensive secretarial training course, which entailed studying shorthand and typing etc. at Chelmsford College, half a day each week and the remainder of the time I worked at Marconi’s. I obtained my first attachment at Marconi Radar in E-block at Writtle Road for four months then I went to the secretarial training centre for six months in Y-block under Yvonne White. Also, I learnt about commercial aspects of business with Audrey Stanhope-Lovell and later covered for a secretary in Radar Personnel department, which is where I met Joan Kendall, a previous President and encouraged her to dictate her correspondence to save time writing it and to make sure I could understand what was written and as I was developing my shorthand speed this helped me tremendously. I learnt to write shorthand at 90 words per minute from scratch in one year and am still using this skill in my current role today.
I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Peter Pitman himself at the Royal Society of Arts in London.
My second year into my training – I was attached to broadcasting division typing pool in Marconi Communications at New Street where I was required to do a variety of tasks and also able to take dictation from Broadcasting Sales personnel.
In October 1972 my training manager asked me to step in and cover the role of Secretary to the Personnel Director, James Pease-Watkin for one month. I shared an office with another secretary and we had about 10 telephones. Learning how to cope answering them was another skill I learnt as we did not have a phone at home.
I won the award for the best shorthand typist on the Marconi Training Scheme. I went on to evening classes and obtained RSA 100 words a minute and Pitmans 110 words per minute shorthand. Meeting Sir Peter Pitman must have inspired me. Following this I did the two teacher’s courses in shorthand and typewriting, which enabled me to teach at Chelmsford College and Adult Community Learning (12 years)
A memorable telephone call I once took at New Street was from Buckingham Palace. When I repeated Buckingham Palace – people who were in close proximity to me – their jaws dropped. No it was not April 1st I was being asked to locate aenior Royal who was visiting on that occasion.
In the January following I was asked to be secretary to the University Liaison Officer and ironically it was my previous training manager – Marilyn Gibbs (nee Smith) and the Personnel Director asked me to provide cover on Fridays and any time his secretary was on holiday or sick as she was returning on a part-time basis. She eventually left to raise a family and I stepped into the post as secretary to James Pease-Watkin. Subsequently he moved to another company and I worked with John Shrigley for six years.
To enhance my status as secretary and PA I applied to be a member of the European Association of Professional Secretaries. John Shrigley signed my application. I think he thought I was applying for another a job. Among other things this enabled me to learn how to do public speaking. It was interesting, because one year I went to a secretarial conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Two weeks before the conference I was asked to do a presentation about the future of shorthand in both the UK and Europe (covering for someone who had been double booked). I delivered my presentation in the Houses of Parliament in Stockholm.
I attended about 12 conferences across Europe. The icing on the cake for me was when I attended the conference in Montecatini Terme, Tuscany, Italy I was able to converse with Italian secretaries.
Then GEC-Marconi Limited was decentralised and John moved to Stanmore. I helped him install his filing system at Stanmore. A few months later I became PA to the Managing Director of Marconi International Marine Company working with Iain Dick and George Hill for six years. Whilst at Marconi Marine I was involved in hosting visits from a Chinese delegation. We even found a Chinese tea set so jasmine tea was the order of the day for a week. Also we hosted a visit by Lord Prior.
I then moved back to New Street as secretary to the Technical and Engineering directors, Dr. Steve Rotherham and Dr. Philip Thorpe. During that time I covered on numerous occasions for Pauline Easton who was working with the Finance Director sharing the office with Andrew Glasgow’s secretary. Subsequently as an Italian management Giorgio Ghiglione. I was at the forefront of arranging for engineering staff to learn Italian. Although I attended evening classes initially I was able to transfer to the company course where I studied for six years and obtained advanced Italian from the University. My role was very valuable in arranging visits etc. I was able to speak Italian not only on the phone, via fax and in person when greeting visitors to the company.
In 1989 I worked on the Personal Communications Networks Project with the technical director in Piccadilly, London. On arrival I was given a five minute crash course on the Apple Mackintosh computer. I was working with both American and English personnel on this project as part of a consortium. At that time there were bomb threats in London, quite often I found I could not use the underground and had to resort to London buses.
I also worked with the Commercial Director of Radar, David Harrison. Part two of my interview I had to be able to converse in Italian with a lady who I had never met before Un grand’ experienza! Needless to say I got the job. I was involved with the production of key tender documents, which successfully secured important MOD contracts. Sometimes working long hours to get the work done.
After 32 years’ service I was made redundant and have since worked for Essex County Council in a variety of posts, but I learnt so much during my time and have some very happy memories.
You have probably heard Peter say I am a keen folk dancer and I have been Chairman of Chelmsford Folk Dancers since June 2014. We have hosted folk dance from Annonay, France (Chelmsford’s town-twin) on a number of occasions. I am a former member of St. Mary’s Church choir, Great Baddow for 25 years still keep my singing up having been a member of the County Hall Singers since April 2004. I’m an actress and was secretary of Marconi’s Theatre Group and acted in two productions.
I received my long service award for 25 years’ service in the Marconi organisation in 1996.
Grazie a tutti per l’attenzione. Thank you for listening.