Back in September 1977 I had just started work, enthusiastic, cocky, long haired, obviously perfect material for a career in the accountancy profession.
Monday mornings meant a short walk from the office to the local International Stores (now that really is a relic from the past) to buy the weeks biscuits and toilet rolls. The tea and coffee were from a machine that meant that all I had to do as office junior was add milk and sugar and then take the drinks and biscuits to my fellow workers and the firms partners, this meant a journey up and down four floors and into the next building via a connecting door. One morning on the way to the office from the shop I saw the familiar figure of Jimmy Saville cycling towards me, with his shoulder length blonde hair flowing behind him, waving to all and sundry. JS had an apartment in Bournemouth as well as having a financial interest in the towns two biggest night clubs (Maison Royale and Le Cardinal), those two clubs were regarded as a bit up market by me and my mates and they definitely outside of our 'pulling capabilities' which were restricted to the pubs or possibly the Village which was a night club in an old underground car park in the same building as Maison Royale and Le Cardinal. Anyway I got back to the office and walked into the secretaries room to handover the petty cash change and to tell them who I had just seen.
We employed four secretaries back then, one for each of the three partners plus one who worked for the rest of us - I say 'us' but it would be years before I was allowed to so much as phone a client let alone write to one, three were twentysomethings and one was in her fifties (possibly older but it's thirty five years ago and anybody over thirty seemed old back then). Lynn, Ann and Paula were quite excited about me seeing JS but Barbara (the oldest one) was really hostile to the mention of his name and said that there were 'some things going on' that she didn't want to talk about'. She then proceeded to tell us about some rumours surrounding a business in the New Forest where apparently there had been some parties and the payment of 'cash bonuses' to certain members of staff to keep quiet about what they saw.
Three years later and I had changed employers and was sharing an office with two guys: Keith and Steve. Steve, by some weird science, is now a friend of somebody I work with, I have no idea what happened to Keith. Anyway one day our boss came in and said that he had been asked to quote for a company's accounts and that if he told us who was involved we had to promise to keep quiet. Well to be honest my interest in telling anybody at home the details of any clients was probably less than the zero it is now but nevertheless we all agreed to keep schtum. Anyway when he left our room Keith said, "I'm not having anything to do with that job if we get it. I know somebody who works at xxxxxxxxxxxx and he's told me about some dodgy things that have been going on, people being paid cash in hand to keep quiet."
We didn't get the job and life (and me) moved on. Anyway to cut a long story short another two years pass and a third person tells me a similar tale to those told by Keith and Barbara. That's three people over a period of five years in three different towns telling similar stories.
The revelations over the past week seem to have divided the Internet into two groups: those who want to believe and those who are in denial or want to deny that anything could ever have happened in the way that the women who were interviewed for the ITV programme have suggested. Even the revisiting of the Lynn Barber Independent interview from 1990 or the Louis Theroux programme from 2007 haven't either cleared or muddied the waters. There have been stories, as revealed by Paul Gambaccini, of newspaper editors being faced down by Saville who used emotional blackmail to deny publication of the stories of parties involving under age girls. We have had both Esther Rantzen and a former BBC employee coming forward talking of their suspicions, in the case of the former it is more shocking given her involvement in Childline and her husbands position within the BBC. Even the youngest Nolan sister has come forward and told of his inappropriate behaviour and then suggesting, as if in mitigation, that it was 'normal' back then!
Some of the deniers are saying things like, "Why has it taken so long for them to come forward?" I have to say this seems a very naive reaction, particularly when you consider the recent cases in Derby, Rochdale and Rotherham where despite overwhelming cries for help and evidence the Police took ages before deciding that perhaps the under age girls weren't lying. It also ignores the fact that until very, very recently the Police record in this country on anything to do with either underage sex or rape is nothing short of appalling. I have seen in the last couple of days a post on a newspaper comments page suggesting that the authorities knew about Saville as long ago as 1961!
I don't know whether Jimmy Saville is guilty of any crime at all and I suspect that over the next few days or weeks we may see some more stories in the press. There was a website which claimed that Saville, Alan Freeman (also dead) and a former Prime Minister (also rather conveniently dead) were all parties in what were known as sweet shop parties in the 1960's and 1970's involving boys and girls who were underage.
What I do know however is that in 1977, 1980 and 1982 three people whom I knew but who had no connection with each other, either geographically or socially told me a similar tale about a well known television and radio personality and that over the past week those stories have been repeated by women who also have nothing in common other than their tales of abuse.