Remembering Violette Caillebotte May
Judy Coates looks back over an extraordinary pioneering life, well lived.
Having recently written and given the eulogy at Violette’s funeral it struck me that perhaps the ‘tax bits’ might be of interest to current ARC members and I also think that Violette would like the idea that she was being spoken about in a union magazine some 78 years after she had joined the (then) Inland Revenue!She had a couple of cases to her name, including one which examined whether or not a self employed subcontractor could claim the cost of his lunches against his profits. He couldn’t!
Violette joined the Inland Revenue in 1941, straight from school, as a temporary clerk and stayed for 46 years! Her intellectual and management talents were recognised by the Department and she was selected for full technical training and rose through the grades over the years, serving in offices around her home town of Northampton and across London, with a couple of years in Wales. Her final posting before retirement was as District Inspector at Northampton 1. Her name is still regularly quoted in tax circles as she had a couple of tax cases to her name, including Caillebotte v Quinn which involved whether or not a self employed subcontractor could claim the cost of his lunches against his profits. He couldn’t! The decision has lasted many years and I am told it is still in use.
Violette was also very active in the two unions of which she was a member during her career, serving on the National Executive Committee of both. For many years she was a member of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation (IRSF), now part of PCS, and she was a member of ARC. She served for eighteen months on the IRSF National Executive Committee in the 1950s and then on the AIT Committee (now ARC) for eight years during the 1970s and was the AIT representative in the Department’s Organisation Advisory Committee. The photograph of the group of women (right) was taken at the 1954 IRSF Conference and includes Violette (front row, fifth from right) next to Winnie Kidd who was the IRSF’s first female President.
In the 1981 New Year Honours List Violette’s achievements were rewarded with an OBE for services to the Board of Inland Revenue, an honour of which she was rightly proud.
When, some years ago, Violette asked me to do the tribute at her funeral she said she didn’t want too much in it about work as she had much more interesting things in her life! But when the time came I felt I needed to say a fair bit about it as I’m very proud, on Violette’s behalf, of what she achieved during her career. She was ahead of her time as a woman rising through the ranks of the Department.
Violette used her intellectual and management skills throughout her retirement to achieve an honours degree from the Open University and in her last few years, to organise her life to enable her to remain living at home, something that she achieved until only a few hours before her death. I’ve received many letters and cards from her ex-colleagues and friends and all express a similar sentiment—she had a good life and lived it well.