Thirty-nine years ago this fortnight we were hot, hot, hot. From June 22 until August 26 there was no rain and record-breaking temperatures. I remember the heat – but had completely forgotten about that plague of ladybirds... “My husband was playing golf and had to clear the ladybirds from the holes before putting his shot,” writes Lynda Davies. Lynda, had the misfortune to be pregnant in the sizzling heat. As was Viv Lewis: “I was expecting my third child in August and until the end of July had to walk my two young daughters two miles to school four times a day. The tarmac was melting and sticky and my shoe size went from a five to a seven and a half.”
Two more unfortunates were Carol West and her brother Geoff. “My leg was in bandages following an operation, while Geoff had broken his ankle and was in plaster. Desperate to cool down in Blackpool, we put plastic bags over everything in the hope of keeping it dry and went into the sea – as you can see from the photo.” Carole Hughes had her own secret weapon: “At work I was lucky enough to sit at the back and had a desk with an enclosed front. I took a washing-up bowl to work and filled it with cold water which I put my feet in to keep cool.”
And then there were those hosepipe and sprinkler bans – torture for keen gardeners like Barbara Beasley. “Just before the drought started we had had new turf put down and I was determined not to let this dry out. One evening I was watering it with bath water, which had previously been used by my two small children and my husband. As I watered with it, two people walked by. One mumbled to the other, 'there's a blooming drought on and she's watering her garden. Some people!' George Rogers got lucky though: “A neighbour discovered a long-abandoned well in his garden. With help from another neighbour, a professional plumber, a hand-pump was fitted to bring the water to the surface and we were invited to irrigate our gardens.”
Others headed north: “My husband and I were returning from a fabulous holiday in the far north west of Scotland,” emails Janet Boardman. “As we passed some of the lochs we saw lots of people stopping their cars and getting water from the lochs to wash them as there was no water rationing there!”
Would it ever rain again? Eventually in August, a Minister for Drought was appointed. On August Bank Holiday, as Shirley Mew remembers, “The children and I were out on the cliff top hoping to catch a breeze when it began to rain. My 18-month son was in an open pushchair and started to cry. What was this wet stuff falling out of the sky? The Minister for Drought pronounced that we would need heavy rain from now until Christmas for the reservoirs to fill. Little did we dream that was exactly what happened.”
- There's more memories in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.