One of the most rewarding experiences of working at the Civil Service Retirement Fellowship is speaking with our inspiring beneficiaries who share their memories with us of working in the Civil Service. CSRF Marketing & Communications Officer Lily Roubians spoke to Greenwich group member Lois Stevens, who shared a memory she had of applying to work in Whitehall at a time when something fishy was going on.

Lois joined the Civil Service as an Information Officer, having worked in the electrical appliance industry for several years. This was beginning to decline in the UK at that time as Japan gained dominance in the manufacturing of electrical goods. As a result of this, Lois was in search of the next phase of her career and found an advert to work as a writer on a magazine about food in Whitehall.

Lois got the job and in due course arrived in an office at No.2 Whitehall, where she was introduced to the senior officer who would be her line manager.

‘I have some bad news’ he said to Lois.

The senior officer then began to tell her that he was sorry to report that the magazine she had applied to work for would no longer be going into production – they had decided that it was not the right time and that it was better not to go ahead with the magazine at all.
Of course, Lois was not expecting to hear this when she arrived for the job that now no longer existed – but that was the least surprising event to happen when she arrived in Whitehall.

Britain’s decision to join the EEC had begun a series of conflicts between the huge UK fishing industry and European law and policy makers that became known as the Cod Wars. It just so happened that very soon after as had Lois sat before the senior officer in what was meant to be a perfectly normal ‘meet and greet’ – wet fish were being hurled at the building in protest.

There was such a storm of fish upon them that Lois and the staff working in Whitehall Place had to escape out the back entrance and all the way around the Nigerian Embassy!

Although Lois luckily did not get hit with any more surprises (quite literally), she recalls that quite a few members of staff were not so lucky and did not manage to dodge the wet fish onslaught.

Having fled the fish (and that department), Lois quite soon began what she looks back on as a ‘nice job’ working in fair trading where she was a part of some significant work. Lois was one of the workers on the consumer credit act – and worked in this department for over five years, until Margaret Thatcher came into power and transformed her parent department into something else (Lois didn’t say what exactly, but as far as we’re aware it was not a department of defence against flying fish – but you never know).

After this, Lois moved more into the world of publishing within the Cabinet Office and became the editor of The Civil Service Yearbook. She said that this was a ‘very interesting job’ and that she worked there until she had to leave the Service due to ill health because of bronchitis.

It is always a pleasure to speak with our wonderful beneficiaries and volunteers about anything – but it is a true honour to have you share your stories with us. I look forward to hearing many more from you all – and would love to see any photographs you may have to accompany them.