17 May 1969
This morning the Daily Post follows up yesterday’s account of the Princess Alexandra demonstration with this interview by Post reporter Ann Cummings with Mrs Jane Parr of 111 Vine Street:
Mrs Jane Parr, fifty-six-year-old mother of five, lives in a Liverpool slum house a Princess wanted to see. It has no bathroom, no hot water, the walls are crumbling, the roof leaks in the kitchen and there is only an outside toilet.
”But compared with many others in the area, it is a palace,” said Mrs Parr. This is why she wanted Princess Alexandra to come into her kitchen for a chat when the Royal visitor came to Liverpool on Thursday. The Princess accepted Mrs Parr’s invitation to see the inside of her home, 111 Vine Street, but was ushered away by officials because she was already thirty minutes behind schedule.
Last night Mrs Parr explained: “My house isn’t the worst, but I thought once I got the Princess inside my kitchen, I could tell her about the terrible conditions people are living in. Most of them are ill and I’m sure it’s because of how they are forced to live. I’m not a glory-hunter – I just want to fight for others.”
Mrs Parr is a member of the Abercromby Tenants’ Association, as the representative of Vine Street, a cobbled, grimy street of old, sagging terraced houses a stone’s throw from the university. On the side of the street where the houses are being demolished, the doors are broken, window panes are smashed, and rubble is piled on the pavements.
“It makes me feel sick to look at it every time I put the milk bottles out,” said Mrs Parr. ”When I go away to my daughter’s in the Lake District, I dread coming home again. I take one look at Vine Street and I want to run away.”
Mrs Parr moved into the house twenty-six years ago, and brought up her five children there. Her husband, Mr Fred Parr, aged 60, was a Japanese prisoner-of-war at the time they moved and, as a result of his experiences in captivity, he now suffers from heart trouble, peptic ulcers and bronchitis.
“I dread the winter,” he said. ”I have to keep warm, so the fires have to be blazing all day long and I sit on two hot water bottles.”
Because they have no hot water, the Parrs have to boil kettles all day long – ”It takes four kettles just to wash the front steps,” said Mrs Parr.
The couple’s two sons, Derek, aged 21, and Gordon, aged 19, who still live with them, go to the public baths every week, for a bath. Their parents make do by boiling two kettles of water to fill a bowl and carry it up to wash in their bedroom. Every day, Mrs Parr has to clean out the drain in the yard with a hose pipe and plunge her hands into the slimy water to get rid of the blockages. “I’ve told the Corporation about it,” she said, ” but nothing has been done yet.”
The tiny kitchen has a leaking roof – and a bad smell because of the faulty drain. Mrs Parr keeps a cupboard full of disinfectants to try to get rid of the smell – “it cost me a small fortune,” she added.
The gas cooker is kept in the sitting room because there is no room in the cramped kitchen. Mrs Parr is very proud of her toilet. She won it through a church sweep. “I won a ticket for £15,” she said, “and my first thought was, God, I’ll be able to get a new loo.” But it’s still only an outside toilet and the family have to go out in all weathers to use it.
”You can’t ask anyone to stay when you’ve got no inside loo or a bathroom”, said Mrs Parr. “I think if I ever had a bathroom and toilet, I would practically live in it.
The big sitting room is cosy and warm, with a cheerful, open coal fire, and a teapot which is always full – “I seem to make tea for people all day long,” she said. There is also a smaller front room, and four bedrooms.
The Parrs have obviously gone to a lot of trouble to make their home nice – “We’ve spent our lives, and our money on it,” said Mr Parr. They have put in new fireplaces, plastered the walls, built sinks, wallpapered and painted. But the house is still crumbling about them, and they can’t do anything about that – or the bulges that appear in their wallpaper.
The Parrs pay £2 2s 8d a week for the rent – it was £1 8s 11d when owned by a private landlord, but went up after the Corporation took it over in 1967. ”We’ve been told we’ll be moved out in 1973, when the houses are demolished for building,” said Mrs Parr. ”But I’m very disheartened sometimes. I keep thinking they’ll make us hang on here.”
Mrs Parr talked about the conditions in some of the neighbours’ houses. “You can see why I wanted to get over to the Princess the terrible state these people are living in,” she said. “I’m sure she would have been very sympathetic.”