Listen to me TODAY on the community radio station SheppeyFM talking about everything from community radio, the band Small Faces, my campaign work, and my family connection with the poet/writer Thomas Hardy. sheppeyfm.org.uk/
Well, here we are at the beginning of another year. Here goes my attempt to summarise, in monthly bite size pieces, my thoughts and ramblings on the variety of activities that seem to fill up my life these days.
It was really tough getting back into writing. This was partly due to me facing a number of family and friend's bereavement anniversaries that occur in the early part of the year, especially January.
The loss of my best friend Pauline Corcoran, who died on January 14th 2016 hit me pretty hard. We had known each other for over 50 years and I’m still finding it hard to accept that she’s not here. The last ten years since we re-connected we were in touch most days, either by text or via Facebook. So it is weird not to be able to pick up the phone to her and make arrangements for our regular get-togethers over lunch down in Margate where she lived.
I’ve written about Pauline a number of times before here on my website, but for those of you who don’t know, Pauline was the fan club secretary for the 60’s band the Small Faces. From the moment we first met at the fan club offices Pauline and I became best friends.
It has been my plan for a number of years now to tell our full story in book form and not confine it to the odd words in a blog. It is certainly worthy of the full monty!
The other loss in January was that of my eldest brother John who died on January 17th 2017. Out of all my siblings, I was closest to him, simply because he was our big brother. When I was a young girl he would care for me, for example, taking me to the dentist, holding my hand because I was scared, even though he hated medical stuff, especially needles. Or he’d treat me and take me to the cinema. As an adult he moved to South Africa with his wife Ann and two young children looking for a new life. But we always kept in touch and still had a connection. He was a dedicated Christian and his faith was important to him. Whilst I didn’t share the same religious passion, it didn’t matter because he was such a caring person. He loved everyone and would tell people they were beautiful. During the last 15 years of his life he suffered a number of serious strokes that eventually left him dependent on a full time carer. But he never lost his humour and had a number of quirky quotes that friends and family were reminded of at his memorial service last year.
“My brain is scrambled.”
“I’m so wobbly.”
“Have you met my first wife”
“If I’m talking to you, I’m good.”
On January 11th this year I was honoured to attend a special wreath laying ceremony in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey to commemorate 90 years since the death of poet and novelist Thomas Hardy. It was organised by the Thomas Hardy Society who were also celebrating their foundation 50 years ago.
I have been a member of the Society for a few years now as part of a mission to establish whether a family rumour that we have links to this celebrated man is true or not. As a child Thomas Hardy’s name was mentioned numerous times by my mother, but I’ve never really known if the connection was real or not. I’d made a few feeble attempts in the past and then a second cousin I’m in contact with on Facebook sent me some useful documents she had obtained from her grandparents that allowed a decent starting point for my journey. But it was still difficult to know how to proceed any further.
So, in January 2016 I attended a local Family History class and was able to finally confirm I do have a direct link to the Hardy family via Hardy’s mother Jemima Hand. One of Jemima’s brothers, Christopher Hand, had a daughter called Caroline. She is my great grandmother.
I now have a number of official documents as final proof that I am indeed related to Thomas Hardy. Of course my journey doesn’t stop there. Now I am on a mission to find out as much as I can about the great man. My only regret is that I’ve left it so long and really wish I had known this connection when I was at school and university. I often wonder if that English essay I failed in my first year at college would’ve been graded differently had my tutor known of my literary connection! Sigh!
See you next month…
"There have been many events in my life over the last few years that have impacted on me emotionally. The loss of close relatives and friends in particular. I've suffered depression on and off since I was quite young so I am experienced enough now to recognise that depression is unpredictable. Hoping that 2018 will be a more positive time. Watch this Space." Val Weedon December 2017
Erin Jones, daughter of rock drummer Kenney Jones (Small Faces, Faces and The Who) will be running for two key charities MS Society and Prostate Cancer.
The Half Marathon takes place on Saturday 12th March in London.
Dig deep and give generously.
Erin pictured here with her mum Jayne Jones (left) and dad Kenney
Photo by Phil Weedon
FIRST NIGHT 7th APRIL WILL BE DEDICATED TO SMALL FACES FAN CLUB SECRETARY PAULINE CORCORAN WHO SADLY DIED ON 14th JANUARY
We lost our lovely Pauline on 14th January this year following a short illness. April 7th would’ve been Pauline’s 67th Birthday and she was so looking forward to seeing the musical. The loss of Pauline has not only left a huge gap in my life but also for the fans that she had reconnected with since 2006.
She was such a special person. Tolerant, good natured and mature beyond her years. It’s what made her such an ideal fan club secretary. The Small Faces band members loved her dearly too. They were like her brothers.
Pauline started working for the Small Faces as their fan club secretary right at the start of their rise to fame in 1965 following the release of their hit single Whatcha Gonna Do About It. She continued to work loyally in that role, right up until the time the band disbanded in 1969.
When she went for the interview with Don Arden she was hoping the vacancy was to work for The Who, as she really liked them, so when Don Arden told her it was the Small Faces she’d be working with she looked rather disappointed. That response got her the job! Don told her he didn’t want someone who would be in awe of the band. He wanted someone who wasn’t going to be dazzled by their fame. Being a fan club secretary for a professional famous band was one of the most envied positions back then. But Pauline was so grounded she handled all of it with such calm and dignity. She travelled almost everywhere with them, going on tours, including Europe and even accompanied them to television studios for the recording of programmes like Ready Steady Go and Top of the Pops. Don Arden told Pauline he wanted her to have unlimited access to the band so that she would have all the information she needed to write her fan club newsletters.
There were two other girls who worked in the fan club office with us. The receptionist was called Stella, a young mum with two children, and then there was Linda, Don’s secretary. I was so fortunate in getting that job working with Pauline. I had been a fan and used to hang out at the office helping out as a volunteer. Pauline and I just hit it off and we became best friends. She really begged Don to take me on full time. He obviously knew what a huge fan I was, but I had to promise him I would behave myself, especially as the band came into the office a lot. We had such a laugh everyday in that office, but we worked really hard too as there was so much to get through. We didn’t have computers back then and everything was answered on a manual typewriter. It was quite amazing to think that Pauline was only 16 years old herself and she handled her role with such maturity. The workload she had to deal with everyday was huge, coping with thousands of letters and she would answer as many of them personally as she could. The phone calls from fans were non stop too. Then there were the newsletters, produced every few months, that she wrote herself. All so incredible for someone so young. I don’t think I ever saw her get angry or stressed, she was so good natured and always smiling.
The band could be quite a handful when they came up the office, always in high spirits and mucking about. Although we all loved them coming into the office it could be quite disruptive, but Pauline handled them very well and I never saw her get irritated with them, even when they answered her phone or messed with her typewriter, adding funny messages to letters that Pauline would be half way through typing. Kenney was the main culprit, although he was the quiet one, he was also the joker. Mac was mostly well behaved and sensible, it may be that he was still fairly new and finding his place. Steve had a special bond with Pauline, often using her as his confidant. He was probably the closest to Pauline out of all of them. Ronnie was the cheeky one, always trying to flirt with her, but Pauline knew exactly how to handle all of them. To Pauline they were her brothers who needed looking after.
When the Small Faces left Don Arden’s management Pauline went with the band to work from the Immediate offices. Eventually, in future years, she ended up working from home for them until the band finally disbanded.
Pauline went on to work for Don Arden again when he took over the management of the band Amen Corner, and he asked Pauline if she would be their fan club secretary. Pauline and I remained friends throughout this time and even both got married to musicians in the same band. We both had two children and lived close by for a few years until she moved away. We lost contact when Pauline’s husband, drummer Dave Neal, joined the Suzi Quatro band and because he was touring abroad a lot Pauline and the children went with him.
But, thanks to the internet, we reconnected in 2006 and we picked up on our friendship like we’d never been apart. We had ten wonderful years reconnecting again with Kenney, Mac and of course the fans.
Pauline was a beautiful person and I think it’s so lovely to have the first night of the All or Nothing musical dedicated to her. Such a fitting tribute. All or Nothing was her favourite Small Faces song and was being played as she passed peacefully. It was also played at her funeral. She will be missed so much, but we were so lucky to have her in our lives.
Best friend and Fan Club Assistant.
These are my pride and joy and thought it would be nice to share them with a wider audience. They were written by fan club secretary Pauline Corcoran who was just 16 years old when Small Faces manager Don Arden employed her. She had unique access to the band, attending concerts and tv appearances, at the instruction of Don Arden who told Pauline it would enable her to gather the material she needed to write her newsletters. They were published about every 3 months throughout 1966 and there is one last one published around April 1967 when the Small Faces moved management from Don Arden to Harold Davison and Tito Burns. When the fan club was run from Don Arden's offices in Carnaby Street fans were able to visit the office fairly easily. Well, it's how I got my job working for them. Unknown to my parents, I used to scive off my day job in a boring City office and go to Carnaby Street to help Pauline in the fan club offices instead! Eventually I got offered a full time position helping Pauline. But when they moved management I went to work with Galaxy Entertainments (the agency that handled all the tour concerts for the band) whilst Pauline went to new management offices alone. In the first newsletter she produced there, she announced to fans that "you will no longer be able to visit us anymore.." She revealed some years later that the new management resented her position and made her feel very uncomfortable, giving her a really cramped office the size of a cupboard and not being particularly friendly towards her. In time she ended up running the fan club from her home in Wembley until the time when the Small Faces finally split.
These old newsletters make fascinating reading and for a mere 16 year old Pauline did an amazing job relaying stories to the fans that were full of intimate facts about the band and what they did and how they felt about life at that time.