Eileen was born on Christmas day, 1954. She was reportedly due ‘before or slightly after’ Christmas, and her mother hoped she’d stick to that appointment, not wanting the new arrival to interfere with the festive jollities. But baby Eileen was eager (or else reticent) and arrived on the 25th, and luckily, everyone was glad.
For the first five years of her life, Eileen lived in a forth-floor flat on Tottenham Street, with her mother, her father and her two older brothers Alan and Phillip – a family of five in a two bedroom flat. The family moved to the King’s Cross area when Eileen was five, and she has vivid memories of the playground on the roof of Argyle School, where she played hopscotch, skipping and jacks. Outside of school her playground was less conventional: never a particularly ‘girly girl’, Eileen spent her time following her older brothers around the bombsites of King’s Cross and Islington. The United Reformed Church on Tavistock Place (Regents Square Presbyterian Church, as was) was a particular favourite, and she remembers happy times ‘skipping among the bomb debris’ there.
When Eileen was 11 her mother left her authoritarian father. The three children, and Eileen’s mum, spent the next 6 months living in Eileen’s nan’s 1 bedroom flat, and she remembers those 6 months as the happiest time she had spent with her family. They were free from the tyranny of her father for the first time in her life.
Music was constantly present in the houses of Eileen’s childhood. Her mother and grandmother were listening to swing music, Glen Miller and Ella Fitzgerald, while her brothers were going clubbing, and filling the house with R&B music, from Smokey Robinson, to The Four Tops, and The Drifters. Eileen’s first record was ‘Hey There Lonely Girl’ by Eddie Holman. She felt the tune epitomised her, after her brothers moved out, and she was left at home with her mum and her new stepfather. This early purchase was the beginning of a major record collection, which ultimately reached 3-4 thousand singles, and 3-4 hundred albums.
Eileen talks here about the playing, partying, working, dancing and dating. When I met her, she told me about the changes in the area over the forty something years that she has lived there. To hear how partying in King’s Cross changed between the 70s and the 90s, have a listen to Andrea Smith’s Story.
Story by Polly Rodgers