My Dear Young Woman

5th February 2019 in Archives Centre, Our Collections

You never do finish with cataloguing an archive; our current record holders are the McKenna Papers, where the second half of the collection turned up a mere forty years after the first half. Luckily the Enoch Powell Papers haven’t been nearly so spread out; the main archive arrived in 2001, a few years after Powell’s death, and was opened after cataloguing. Now, following the death of Pamela Powell, Enoch’s widow, we have some more to share with you!

Pam Powell had been a secretary at the War Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence, and later at the UN in New York before she was interviewed for a job at the Conservative Parliamentary Secretariat by Brigadier Powell. They clearly got on well, so well that after Pam moved on to work for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg she continued to visit her former boss, helping him with his re-election campaign in 1951 and after a short engagement, getting married to him in January 1952. Apart from being an extremely good secretary (bless you Pam, for keeping such exemplary lists and always writing the date and occasion on the backs of photographs!), she famously helped to humanise her husband, being his “bridge to the real world”, as Powell’s biographer Simon Heffer put it. 

In the papers which Pam kept, we see glimpses of this more approachable side of Powell. Here he is driving a donkey-drawn sulky, shortly before hitting the age of 60.

Enoch Powell driving a donkey

Powell the intrepid driver on the Isle of Wight, 1971.  (Powell Papers, POLL 1/8/3)

Here too is this gravely playful letter to Pam just before their marriage, allegedly from “Gabriel” (Powell’s car, who carried the family loyally for many years despite being driven into a ditch once when his owner fell asleep at the wheel), apologising for inadvertently making a hole in Pam’s stockings, and looking forward to being driven by gentler hands (and feet).

Letter from Enoch Powell to his fiancee Letter from Enoch Powell to his fiancee

Letter from "Gabriel" to Pam (Powell Papers, POLL 1/8/2)

Besides that we have some of Pam’s own correspondence after Powell’s death, her (sadly rather infrequent) diary from the late 1960s and 70s, an excellent selection of photographs of Powell (frustratingly missing from the original archive) and some truly fascinating notes on events by both her and her husband, such as the Cabinet’s frantic attempts to find a successor to Macmillan in 1963, the formation of the Conservative Shadow Cabinet in the following year and many of the elections which Powell contested, ably assisted by Pam.

There may yet be more to come - but hopefully not in forty years' time!

— Katharine Thomson, Archivist


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