I FIRST got to know Dennis Turner (Lord Bilston) when he was part of a consortium who took control of Stewarts and Lloyds social club, Bilston, after the closure of Bilston Steelworks, re-naming it New Springvale Sports and Social Club.
Under the stewardship of the consortium the club retained the sports field and football, bowling and cricket teams continued. In the club, darts, snooker, crib and domino teams continued. There was even a rifle shooting club and a small chess group. I was appointed by the consortium as entertainments agent supplying and organising events from 1981-2008.
Dennis Turner, in addition to his council duties for Wolverhampton Council and later as a local MP, was always involved in the activities. He compered shows, made speeches at events and at times called Bingo!
I was asked to appear on Tony Butler's radio show on BBC Radio WM to discuss local entertainment and mentioned my connection with the 'Springvale' and Dennis Turner's involvement. Tony was startled! He said: "An MP compering and calling Bingo at a working man's club!" I said "Yes," but after seeing Dennis compere a show I jokingly told him not to give up his day job!
Dennis loved a sing-along and got involved on many nights. He loved to sing an old music hall song Why don't we have a seaside in Bilston?
He used to let his hair down and sang with gusto! Due to his political connections a number of councillors used the club socially and a number of Parliamentary dignitaries visited. Neil Kinnock landed by helicopter on the sports field during his election campaign and had lunch and chatted to members during the miners' strike. Miners on a protest march to London 'rested' at the Springvale en route organised by Dennis. Other visitors included Jack Jones (of the TUC), Claire Short MP, Tony Benn MP, Ken Livingstone and others.
During Wolverhampton's control of the Grand Theatre Dennis cajoled some of the 'stars' who appeared there to visit after shows. Notables included Bill Owen (Compo), Derek Fawlds (TV actor), Stephen Lewis ('Blakey' 'On the buses') and others.
We had many great nights with Dennis's involvement. Amidst all this he found time to meet his constituents and help with their queries – he was a man proud of his Black Country roots and Bilston in particular.
My memory of Dennis was on conclusion of shows in the function room he would say loudly in broad Black Country: "Tarra! Tarra! Cum again. Tarra! Tarra!"All I can say is "Tarra our Den!. Thanks for the memory. God bless!"
Netherleigh, Beckett Street, Bilston.