Acre Mill - the story that won't go away
Ruth Hickman of BBC Look North contacted the Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd websites on Monday. She wanted to know if there were still people suffering as a consequence of working at Acre Mill. A local solicitor contacted the Mytholmroyd website to say that indeed that was the case and they were prepared to speak with BBC Look North as was one of their clients. The story will go out tonight when Paul Glanville of John Pickering and Partners 20 Clare Road, Halifax West Yorkshire HX1 2HR (Telephone 01422 345 535) - will meet with BBC Look North at the home of a lady who has been given 3 months to live as a consequence of shaking out and washing her husband's clothes when he worked at the mill.Following the feature on the Hebweb - Acre Mill feature, The Halifax Courier article on 31st October Britain's biggest industrial disaster and Patsy Jefferson's campaign for a memorial on the site of the mill Acre Mill is very much in the news again. Patsy's mum, Alice Jefferson, was the subject of a documentary Alice, a Fight for Life. She only worked at the factory for three months when she was 17 and 30 years later was diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Patsy said in an e-mail to the Hebden Bridge website following a feature on the mill "I was 5 years old when I lost my mother to this terrible illness. I am glad my mum didn't die in vain, I am glad she has not been totally forgotten...I think there should be some sort of a memorial at the site that was once Acre Mill for people to see and remember. We cannot afford to stop remembering."
Halifax Courier 1st November, 2003 - A memorial for my mum
THE daughter of a woman who died after working with asbestos at Acre Mill is campaigning for a memorial to the staff who lost their lives.
Alice Jefferson worked at the Cape Asbestos factory in Old Town, Hebden Bridge, for just three months when she was 17.
Right: Alice Jefferson, who worked at the Asbestos factory, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an incurable cancer linked to asbestos exposure
Thirty years later Mrs Jefferson was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an incurable cancer linked to asbestos exposure.
Her brave struggle against the illness was documented in a Yorkshire Television programme "Alice: A Fight For Life", which was screened in July 1982.
She had died in February that year, a month after filming for the programme ended. Mrs Jefferson's daughter Patsy Jefferson, 27, of Willowfield Terrace, Pye Nest, Halifax, who was five when her mother died, said she wanted to put up a memorial at the site of the former factory, which was pulled down in 1971.
She has contacted Calderdale Council and Calder Valley MP Chris McCafferty to tell them of her plans. Miss Jefferson, who works in the telesales department of Beech Tree (Manufacturing) Ltd, off Pellon Lane, Halifax, said a memorial garden had been suggested.
In March 1990, a tree was planted along with a commemorative plaque at the former site but the plaque has since been taken down after it was vandalised. "I want to do something just so it doesn't get forgotten about," she said. "There are people dying to this day. The memorial will be for people to see so we don't make the same mistakes again. "It will be something for the next generation to see because they probably don't even know about it."
Mrs Jefferson was told by her doctor that she only had three to six months to live when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. But she fought to stay alive, against all the doctors' predictions, so she could give evidence in her compensation case. Miss Jefferson said she was too young to remember her mother's struggle properly but her brother Paul, 36, was 15 when she died.
"It was a lot harder for my brother. He saw my mum going through all the pain," she said. "In the end she was just glad to go because she had had enough because it was so painful, it takes over your whole body."
Laurie Kazan-Allen British Asbestos newsletter contacts the Mytholmroyd.net
Laurie Kazan-Allen, dedicated campaigner against asbestos for many years and founder of British Asbestos Newsletter and IBAS (International Ban Asbestos Secretariat), had this to say in an e-mail to the Mytholmroyd. net when hearing of Patsy's call for a memorial:
"Please pass on to Miss Jefferson, my regards. Before I ever saw the program, I read the transcript. I remember it clearly. Sitting in my armchair with tears rolling down my face -- as a native New Yorker, I like to think of myself as not the type of person to cry easily but even reading the printed words, I could not help myself: the overwhelming sense of sadness and loss reached out and grabbed me by the throat. Then, when I finally got to see the tape, the sight of Alice and her struggle to tell her story affected me deeply.
Please tell, Ms. Jefferson that in many countries and at many times, the program Alice: A Fight for Life is referred to. People from Australia, France and Japan have mentioned it to me. I am in no doubt that it marked a turning point in the debate on asbestos issues not only in the UK but also abroad. The courage of Miss Jefferson's Mother, Alice, in making this documentary was without doubt one of the most remarkable feats of sheer determination I have ever seen. She was a women of great character and she will not be forgotten!
On behalf of IBAS, I would like to donate 50 pounds towards the cost of the bench or whatever memorial is decided upon to the victims of Acre Mill. Please let me know who to make the check out to and where to send it."
Laurie Kazan-AllenE-mail: Laurie Kazan-Allen
www.British Asbestos Newsletter
Halifax Courier - 3rd November 2003 - Prepared to fight: Chris McCafferty
Calder Valley MP Chris McCafferty, whose father died from asbestos-related cancer, will take the fight to Parliament in a bid to find out how many people have died after working at the former Cape Asbestos plant, Acre Mill.
Our campaign, launched on Friday, calls for an independent public inquiry, full co-operation and release of information by Cape Asbestos and a guarantee that everyone affected has been fully compensated.
"I will consider putting down an Early Day Motion," said Mrs McCafferty. "I will ask if there is a record of asbestos-related diseases and if the Government can require Cape Asbestos to release information relating to employees that have developed the diseases."
Mrs McCafferty said the "Courier" article about Acre Mill had highlighted an industrial tragedy that must never be forgotten. "My own father died from cancer contracted from working with asbestos at the Cape Asbestos factory in north Manchester."
Mrs McCafferty said compensation could never be a substitute for the loss of a loved one. And in many cases the amounts paid could be small and only paid after years of protracted legal argument. "Even today, I believe that the process of identifying people who are eligible for compensation and securing their rights takes too long," she said.
"And I would certainly welcome anything to make sure that people diagnosed with asbestos-related illness are helped in their final years - too often, at present, payouts are only made after the person has died. "Although the full dangers of asbestos may not have been known, both the firm and the factory inspectors failed the workers. "One of the legacies from this tragedy is the vivid reminder that strong Government regulation is essential to make sure that private business cannot pursue profits at the expense of the life of ordinary working people."
Cape Asbestos, which now operates under the name of Cape Industrial Services Ltd, has its headquarters in Wakefield and provides scaffolding and insulation.
The company has so far declined to comment.
Halifax Evening Courier - 03 November 2003
Frank Woolrych of the Hebden Bridge Historical Society gave us photographs of the mill and of people working there and gave us permission to use them here.
This is one story that simply will not go away....