The diary keeper

I’ve always wanted to keep a diary. It would be great to have a record of what I did, of what the weather was and how I felt on a day.

Berta Gough kept a diary and because of her diary we know about events in Liverpool in the early days of youth hostels.

She worked for a while at the African & Eastern Shipping Company in Liverpool and when the company moved to London, Berta was without a job from the beginning of 1931.

Out of work, she typed minutes for YHA committees. She did it for love of the job until the committee insisted they pay her for the work. After they paid her the work was less fun and she was glad when she could go back as a volunteer. After a holiday of three weeks she went to work for Shell Mex.

In December 1931 youth hostel members in Liverpool voted her onto their committee. Berta received the most votes!

After that she often visited hostels in Wales at weekends. She travelled to the Lake District  and London for meetings which sound lively.

With her irrepressible sense of humour she must have been a lot of fun to be with.  Once when she was cold she ran round a hostel common room to keep warm.  She was lively, enthusiastic and popular, always willing to laugh at the foibles, arguments and fallings out of others.

Berta became hostels secretary. She travelled with PJ Clarke who was the Merseyside youth hostels’  chairman and later YHA’s national chairman. Travel was an adventure. Cars broke down. Flooded roads blocked their way. Snow left them stranded. They arrived late for meetings.

In 1937 it all came to an end. Bertha resigned after four years as secretary. Committees reorganised themselves. Tom Fairclough became the first paid secretary of the Merseyside youth hostels.

He and others made speeches about Berta and thanked her for her work. She was embarrassed but proudly noted how much she had done in four years on the committee.

Berta Gough’s notes from her diary were one of the sources for my book Open to All – how youth hostels changed the world. You’ll be able to read more of her recollections in the book, due out in October.

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