News story

"We called her 'Mother Hen'"

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

10 Downing Street staff members - Paul Schooling and Michael York - recall their time working for Baroness Thatcher.

Gardener Paul Schooling started work at 10 Downing Street in 1989. He remembers Baroness Thatcher’s love of flowers and plants:

Mrs Thatcher loved the garden, and after she left office she came to a reception at Number 10. She was walking in the garden by the roses with then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and I introduced myself to her.

With her keen eye for detail, the first thing she said to me was: “What have you done with my roses?”. This was because after she had left we replaced the roses with the hardier David Austin variety.

She loved roses, so much so, that a former gardener picked a rose for her every day to go in her study. She also liked Downing Street to be decorated with house plants.

When she left office I remember us all clapping her out and her crying. She then composed herself and walked out.

Michael York, a messenger, started at 10 Downing Street on 2 April 1982 on the night the Falklands War started. Here he recalls Baroness Thatcher, the ‘Mother Hen’:

Mrs Thatcher was very generous to the staff and made sure we were all looked after. Sometimes if it had been a very long day she asked us to eat with her. We called her the ‘Mother Hen’.

When she used to walk into the private office everyone always used to stand up for her. That sort of thing doesn’t happen these days.

One of my favourite memories of Mrs Thatcher came in the eighties when I was polishing brass before Queen Elizabeth II came for a special meeting of heads of the Commonwealth at Downing Street. A figure [Mrs Thatcher’s] appeared above me and I said: ‘what a nice pair of legs’.

‘Thank you very much Michael’ she said, and walked down the corridor laughing to herself.

Visit a gallery of images of Baroness Thatcher.

Baroness Thatcher: tributes, statements and arrangements for her funeral.