Q&A: Christine Cooper shares her memories of Margaret Thatcher as a schoolgirl

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Christine Cooper was at school in Grantham at the same time as Margaret Thatcher.

She watched as the young girl from Huntingtower School went on to become Britain’s first woman Prime Minister and, now 91, she supports plans for a statue to be erected in the town in honour of her achievements.

Christine, who stills lives in Grantham, shares her memories of sharing a school playground with Grantham-born and educated Mrs Thatcher. What are your first memories of Margaret Thatcher?

She was quite a serious and thoughtful person, not frivolous at all.

When I first encountered her, Margaret would have been five or six and I was seven. She had a straight bob with a little fringe.

In the playground she would sit and chat with her friends, not chase around like some of the other children.

Did she ever show signs she was destined for such an important career?

She took her 11+ when she was only 10, instead of waiting until she was 11 like most children.

She studied hard so I thought she would do well.

What was it like watching her go on to become Prime Minister?

It was incredible really. I watched Margaret develop as a young person through school and then as a politician when I joined the Young Conservatives in Grantham. I feel that she has worked hard for England. Grantham should be very proud of her.

Grantham Museum wants the town to erect a statue of Mrs Thatcher in recognition of what she achieved. What are your feelings about this?

When I go on cruises and I mention I am from Grantham, the first thing people say is ‘oh, that’s where Margaret Thatcher is from’. We should have a statue but I feel it needs to be protected and in a safe place because there are certain people out there who are quite prepared to vandalise it.

What did you think of the Hollywood film, The Iron Lady, about Mrs Thatcher’s life starring Meryl Streep?

I thought she did a good job portraying Margaret but they concentrated too early on her Alzheimer’s disease. She was a very strong person most of her life until these later years.

What was life like for you growing up in Grantham in the 1920s? I was born in Houghton Road in the town. My maiden name was Winch and I went to the girls’ Central School. My father drove steam trains. He drove the famous Mallard on the main line which passed through Grantham on its way to Newcastle, York and London. If it was a particularly foggy day you couldn’t see any of his face apart from his eyes when he came back home.

What are your memories of the war? I worked at an open cast mine at Colsterworth testing the iron ore, which was an important material in the war effort. I remember the day they bombed the Marcos munitions factory in Grantham. My father was outside when he saw the German plane flying low and he saw the pilot’s face. That killed a lot of people that bombing and I recall we had a number of night raids.