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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Spotlight: She Wore a Yellow Dresws by John R. Cammidge

She Wore a Yellow Dresws 
by John R. Cammidge

Publisher: Gatekeeper Press
Publish Date: February 16, 2021
478 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

A spark is lit on Bonfire Night in Northern England in 1965, but for John and Jean-Louise the fireworks continue to explode for decades to come. An awkward Yorkshire farm boy with few prospects and a sophisticated town girl from Manchester, John and Jean-Louise blossom, grow - both together and apart - and find ways to compromise in this coming-of-age story that goes beyond the wedding where the curtain often drops. She Wore a Yellow Dress by John R. Cammidge is at once nostalgic and contemporary in the themes it explores so deftly. An autobiographical streak runs throughout that lends authenticity and depth of detail. 


Five years in the writing, this is an account of two young people from very different backgrounds who find love and affection together, despite jealousies and self-interest. They must cope with the social chaos created in Britain during the 60s and 70s by governments, trade unions and businesses.

An  awkward Yorkshire farm boy (as described in the separate novel Unplanned), with few prospects and a sophisticated town girl from Manchester meet for the first time during their final undergraduate year at Hull University on Bonfire Night (5th November) in 1965. The relationship develops and this coming-of-age story goes well beyond the wedding where the curtain often drops in other stories.

As a young adult, John is preoccupied with building a career at Ford of Britain whereas Jean-Louise teaches and expects to receive his dedicated attention, spontaneous affection and unquestioning loyalty because of the sacrifices she has made for him.  When that does not happen, she seeks help from elsewhere.

The challenges of cohabitation extend well beyond their domestic disagreements thanks to the national upheavals that take place in Britain during this period.  The couple struggles to adjust financially and socially, not helped by their different political values.  Examples of their challenges include:

  • UK general elections 1966, 1970, 2/1974 and 10/1974
  • The 1968 Ford Dagenham sewing machinists’ strike for Equal Pay
  • Efforts to control the trade unions through In Place of Strife, 1969 and the Tories Industrial Relations Act, 1971
  • New decimal coinage introduced February 1971
  • Britain taking up membership in the European Common Market at the start of January 1973
  • The national 3-day working week 1Q1974 caused by the miners’ dispute

Ever since his childhood, John has held a passionate interest in bird watching and Jean-Louise encourages the hobby throughout their relationship.  As the years go by, John realizes that, as well as serendipity and the help from others, his career and social life has advanced as a result of the skills acquired from his hobby of birding.  Each chapter ends with an illustration and a description of a bird species of Britain that reflects the theme of bird watching throughout the book, and mirrors the characters’ development at each stage of the story.

About the Author

I began a writing career after I left the University of California in July 2013.  My Human Resources career spans nearly 50 years, first with the Ford Motor Company Ltd. (UK) for 12 years,  then with Bank of America for 22 years, based in London, San Francisco and Los Angeles, followed by directing the Staff Human Resources function at Stanford University and afterwards in the Oakland Office of the President for the system-wide University of California.

Why did I start writing?  I think it began with a desire to keep an agile and active mind in retirement but also the need to record what my mother had told me when she admitted the details of my conception 5 years before my retirement. After she died, I was able to investigate  my biological father and obtained details of his life from his daughter, my half-sister, who I eventually traced. Maybe it was therapeutic. It was emotional and helped me understand my childhood experiences.  Because the story is sensitive and its viewpoints are heavily influenced by my mother ‘s statements, which are non-verifiable, I have fictionalized the narrative and use pseudonyms for the protagonists.

I enjoyed the investigative research of Unplanned  and, as a consequence, when I began to research the story of a Jewish family living in Berlin during the 1930s, I was encouraged by colleagues to write a similar story which became Abandoned in Berlin. The genuineness of these events is so compelling that I chose to keep the novella a “true story”.

Separately, I started to write a third book about my adolescent life, my career at Ford and my early years of marriage. It’s not a sequel to Abandoned but picks up on my life after university. The story expanded to include the perspectives of my spouse towards me and how my life-long bird watching hobby affected my adult development, and thus She Wore a Yellow Dress was born. The writing taught me more about my wife than I ever appreciated.

I grew up on a remote moorland farm near York, England,  attended Upper Poppleton Primary school,  then Nunthorpe Grammar school in York, and was accepted as an undergraduate by the University of Hull in 1963.

Throughout my life, I have been an avid birdwatcher, first collecting birds’ eggs and then spotting birds when egg-collecting was made illegal in Britain.  I received my first bird book at the age of 9 and started to record birds I saw shortly afterwards. As I wrote She Wore a Yellow Dress, I realized how important the hobby had been to my development.

In July 1966, I was awarded an honors degree in Geology and Geography by the university , and chose to join Ford Motor Company in Brentwood, Essex as a graduate trainee, rather than pursue the alternatives I was offered.  Much of what I report about Ford in She Wore a Yellow Dress are my actual experiences and I have the UK Institute of Personnel Management (as it was then called) to thank for educating me in a way that allowed me to accomplish a successful career in Personnel Management (now Human Resources).

I and my family moved to the Bay Area, California in summer 1979, lived in Los Angeles 1981-83, and after 3 more years in San Francisco, returned to London for a three year assignment; thereafter, it was back to San Francisco and the family made the decision to become U.S. citizens.  Both my daughter and son are married, and have their own children.  I have a delightful sister living in York on my mother’s side, and in recent years, I have fallen in love with my newly-discovered half-sister on my biological father’s side, resident in Shropshire.  She provided the foundation for his side of the story in Unplanned.

Most important of all, I was married to a wonderful woman who contributed the basics  for Jean-Louise in She Wore a Yellow Dress.  I lost her to cancer a few years ago but regard myself as a very fortunate human-being for having known her for 45 years of her life.

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