Artefacts belonging to the women hailed as “pin-up” flag-bearers for industry in the north of England in the 20th Century are to go on show.Inspired by the traditional Rose Queen and May Queens, dozens of women were chosen to represent various industries from railways and mining to textiles.A tiara, gown and letter sent to one “industry queen” will be among items shown at Leeds Industrial Museum.Former coal queen Deborah Barry said she was “delighted to look back at it”.”It’s lovely to be able to share something that was very special and very personal to me,” the 54-year-old added.
Mrs Barry, from Ashington, was Northumberland’s coal queen between 1982 and 1983, promoting the mining industry at public events.She said: “It was a great privilege. You were like a lucky mascot or a pin-up girl, if you like, for the local miners. “You would be there on special occasions to be a pretty face and wave to the crowds or cut a ribbon, so you were a little bit of a local celebrity. You could also be asked to go along and help with activities for the coal miners newspaper.”
She said she was selected in a beauty pageant-style competition judged by ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock. The Queens of Industry exhibition, which begins on Friday, also includes photographs and documentary films.Spanning the years between the 1920s and 80s, it will also feature a letter written to Yorkshire wool queen Doreen Fletcher from a fan in Soviet East Berlin.
Mrs Fletcher, 90, from Batley, who became wool queen in 1947, told how the role turned her into a local star.”People used to touch me to see if I were real. That was all part of it you see” she said.
She started working as a weaver in a mill at the age of 15 and described the hard working environment.”You’ve got to be careful you don’t get your knuckles bashed with the shuttles and things, that alone would’ve broken your hand.”
Source: BBC Tyne and Wear