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Mrs Thatcher visits Foley Street

In the early eighties, UPITN, who had been housed within ITN House since 1969, moved round the corner into Foley Street where they had much more room.  I had been based in the building since 1979 as Head of Commercial Productions, where I had an office together with the accounts department of UPITN.  In 1982, the building was renovated and internally re-designed to take in the rest of the UPITN staff.

On December 9th 1983, the office was officially opened by Margaret Thatcher who was then Prime Minister. This would have been during her second term as Prime Minister.

She came in with her entourage, made a speech that praised  UPITN as an organisation combining the enterprise of the Americans, United Press International and the American Broadcasting Company, on the one hand,  and the British in the form of Independent Television News.  She then opened the building by unveiling a plaque. It was normal for such events to provide the setting for a keynote speech, however, she did not add anything other than her praise for the newsgathering enterprise.  She even managed to mention the work of my department, not by name, but by describing what our various departments did.

Click here for a copy of the speech.

After the speech, there was an informal party at which there was a good supply of drink and nibbles.

What seemed to take everyone by surprise is that Margaret Thatcher stayed on and seemed quite happy to chat with the staff.  She was obviously not in a hurry to leave.

Ken Coyte, UPITN President, seemed to become quite upset when Maggie walked passed him and came up to me and engaged me in conversation. Perhaps she had already met him before; she must have got her information about the company from someone.  Maybe it was he.  She asked me what I did, so I told her.  She became very interested in the foreign countries I had visited.  While she was speaking with me, Coyte was hovering nearby. I did not get to know this until I was shown a photograph, some weeks later, which showed Coyte standing an embarrassing distance away. Whether he ever got to talk to her, I don’t know.

People may say what they like about her, but she will never be forgotten.

© Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com, 2013.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For other articles about UPITN click here.

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