Remembering Alice Jefferson - 25 years on
Alice Jefferson lived in Mytholmroyd and had worked at Cape Asbestos for a few months as a teenager. In her forties, Alice began to suffer breathlessness. By 1980, she was incapacitated with the disease pleural mesothelioma. She took part in a documentary called Alice a fight for Life which went out on July 20th 1982. The documentary went out at peak viewing time.Solicitor John Pickering of John Pickering & Partners represented Alice in her compensation claim against Cape Asbestos. The programme was an important catalyst for legal change and public awareness of the plight of the victims of asbestos.
An article written in October 2002 written by John Pickering's colleague Anthony Coombes here refers to John Pickering's memories of Alice Jefferson's case against Cape Asbestos in Hebden Bridge. He visited her at home. She had left notes stuck on walls in her house to her children reminding them to do the various things they would have to do to keep the house and their lives in order, because she knew she would not be with them in 3 months. He was visibly moved by this memory 20 years after the event. It is people like Alice Jefferson we have to remember.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the screening of that documentary and as we remember Alice and the many other local people whose lives were affected by Acre Mill, the local websites, our MP Chris McCafferty, The Halifax Courier, John Pickering & Partners, The British Asbestos newsletter and others who were moved by the documentary are supporting the campaign launched by Alice's daughters - Patsy and Pamela for a permanent memorial at Acre Mill.
What follows are extracts from The British Asbestos newsletter issued this week - July 2007. It contains moving tributes to Alice from Laurie Kazan-Allen (British Asbestos Newsletter), John Willis Producer/Director of Alice - A Fight For Life and Geoffrey Tweedale author of the book "Magic Mineral to Killer Dust".
Laurie Kazan-Allen (British Asbestos Newsletter)
"July 20, 2007, marks 25 years since the UK's epidemic of asbestos-related diseases exploded into the public consciousness with the broadcast of Alice - A Fight for Life ... The 90 minute documentary graphically illustrated the deadly repercussions of Alice Jefferson's short-term employment at the Cape asbestos factory in Acre Mill, Yorkshire. Watching this wraith-like 47 year-old woman tell her story, it was obvious that she was drawing on finite emotional and physical resources in order to bear witness to what had been done to her and her family..."
John Willis, Producer/Director: Alice - A Fight For Life
"It is both curious and inspiring that 25 years after the transmission of Alice - A Fight For Life it is still remembered and talked about by those who are engaged with such an important part of our industrial history. That is largely because the effects of asbestos can still be felt today."
"But much of the documentary's impact was due to its unremitting focus on Alice, who demonstrated enormous fortitude in the face of a pitiless disease. Her physician described her as a "typical West Yorkshire lass. She's tough and realistic and you can't kid this lady. This lady knows exactly what the score is." Alice's reaction was to fight, especially for her husband and young son and daughter. As she explained: "You just can't give in, can you? You owe it to yourself and your family to keep fighting, don't you. And when you get knocked down, get up and stand there again ..." Alice had been offered £13,000 by Cape Asbestos as a settlement, but after she willed herself to attend court, dosed with morphine and scarcely able to stand unaided, that offer was increased to £36,000. Alice remarked that it was not much, when what she needed was a new body."
A link is here to the FULL ARTICLE in British Asbestos Newsletter
See also: Asbestos - The Legacy of Acre MillAcre Mill - the story that won't go away Halifax Courier calls for investigation of Acre Mill tragedy. October, 2003