The Union Jack flew at half mast over Marlborough town hall today (Wednesday) in tribute to Baroness Thatcher, Britain’s first female Prime Minister whose ceremonial funeral was being held at St Paul’s Cathedral.
And it will stay there until tomorrow morning, revealed Shelley Parker, Marlborough’s new town clerk, for whom the death of Lady Thatcher revived memories of her own days working in the Falklands Unit at the Foreign Office.
“Yes, I was at the heart of it during the Falklands War,” she told Marlborough News Online. “It was my first job – I was only about 23 — when I joined the diplomatic service at the Foreign Office when the Falklands war was happening.
“Obviously, Mrs Thatcher was hugely important then. It was amazing. I used to go to meetings at No 10 with maps when they were deciding our next move.
“It was fantastic being right at the hub of things, and seeing how it was dealt with, the decisions having to be taken very quickly. We slept in beds at the Foreign Office during what was a very exciting time.
“Mrs Thatcher was very much the PM in power. Someone used to lend her their carbon rollers for her to do her hair. There were all sorts of tiny little details that I remember now that she has died.”
The town council office received several requests for a flag to mark for the funeral following one being flown last month for the election of the new Pope. “But the rules are quite clear,” explained Mrs Parker.
“You have to wait for permission from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which is what we did. When it came through the Union Jack went up just after 7.30am and will stay up until tomorrow morning.”
She was unaware of Lady Thatcher’s death was announced on Monday, aged 87, until one of the town councillors came into the office and told her: “ Have you heard the news — Mrs Thatcher’s dead.”
“It was a shock and my face crumpled,” she said. “And he received different reactions from people when he told them because she was someone we all thought she was going to go on forever.
“She was in government when I was starting off my career as a diplomat. So she was always an important part of that. The Foreign Office and Mrs Thatcher have their own history.
“It was her favourite department. And everywhere I went in the world while travelling as a diplomat there was enormous respect for her from foreign and Commonwealth countries.
“It was huge. She made her mark in perhaps not quite the same way as she did at home, with President Gorbachev for example.
“I was in Moscow but only for six months after he left office. At the time I was floating, filling in for people at embassies round the world when they went on leave and it gave me a very interesting insight.”
And Mrs Parker added: “I certainly think Mrs Thatcher played a vital role in emancipating women. You hear lots of conflicting stories about her not bringing any women into her Cabinet while she was there, but my be it was because it was early on.
“May be it was because what structures she was able to put in place that women did then begin to play a much larger role in politics, as they do today.”