Cashing in on the festive season: The week that was December 20-26, 1981

IN Christmas week 1981, a desperate search was launched for the crews of a lifeboat and a freighter both missing off the south coast of Cornwall.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Industry Secretary Sir Keith Joseph at a press conference after a meeting with a TUC delegation at No. 10 Downing Street. Photo credit should read: PA Wire

All contact with the RNLI Penlee lifeboat Solomon Browne was lost after it was launched in treacherous conditions.

The eight volunteer lifeboatmen were giving assistance to the Dublin-registered freighter Union Star, which had reported engine failure.

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The following morning, seven bodies were found in the water after the vessel was found broken in pieces. The Union Star was found upturned and washed ashore. The crews of both vessels – 16 in all – were lost and some bodies were never recovered.

Yorkshire-based supermarket chain Morrisons risked prosecution in four counties by cashing in on the festive season and flouting Sunday trading laws.

The company opened 21 of its 26 stores in West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, Lancashire and County Durham to make up for shopping days lost due to recent extreme bad weather.

A spokesman for Morrisons said: “What we are trying to do is to help the public. They have had a raw deal... It seems obvious to me that there is not sufficient shopping time left to satisfy everyone’s needs at this important time of year.”

He added that the company did not expect to make a large profit out of Sunday opening, as staff were paid double time.

Meanwhile, a property trends survey concluded that rocketing rates and overheads were sending companies into the provinces in search of office, factory and retail sites.

With more commercial properties in greater demand, Leeds, Sheffield and York’s rents were rapidly increasing.

And in an upbeat end-of-year message to the faithful, Mrs Thatcher said she had high hopes for economic recovery in 1982, even though the first two-and-a-half years of her government had been difficult for many.

She said: “We are winning our way through the most severe recession for 50 years... and the worst thing for the country would be to relax our efforts now.”

On the foreign pages, The Yorkshire Post reported that Poland’s ambassador to Washington Romuald Spasowski had defected, claiming that his government had imposed a state of war and an unprecedented reign of terror on his people.

The 61-year-old read an emotional statement to the press just a few hours after he and his wife Wanda were granted asylum and protection by President Reagan.

Mr Spasowski said the week-old military government’s imposition of martial law had spread “...the cruel night of darkness over my country”.

Plans for a Christmas dinner at a dogs’ home angered animal loving Tory MP Charles Irving.

He was incensed that 20 turkeys had been ordered for the dogs, saying: “What is the next stage – smoked salmon and caviar with champagne?”

The MP for Cheltenham and president of his local animal shelter said the festive feast for a dogs’ home in Birmingham was “nauseating”, considering many families could not afford to celebrate Christmas at all.

Meanwhile, scientist and TV presenter Professor Magnus Pyke said Christmas pudding was not the dietary disaster that many people suspected because it had fewer calories than cheesecake and less fat than lemon meringue pie.

And if that wasn’t scientifically convincing enough, he added: “When we turn to the mineral and vitamin content of the Christmas pudding, it has calcium, magnesium, iron,copper – and zinc in greater proportion than that to be found in haddock.”