Butler, Rosemary (1 of 14). National Life Story Collection: Artists' Lives.
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Interviewee's home, Hertfordshire
Butler, Rosemary, 1930- (speaker, female)
Whiteley, Gillian (speaker, female)
Grandparents. Father born 1884, Scotland in Symington, went to school Kilmarnock, then Glasgow University to do medicine. Biometrician, anatomist, anthropologist. In WW1, he surveyed treatment on wounded - important research - got OBE for this. Part of Medical Research Council - statistician, measured skulls. Worked University College London, wrote many papers on measurements - eg children's teeth. Rosemary used to go into his office Saturdays - father measured East End children. Flemings Restaurant in Tottenham Court Road for lunch, then London Zoo - nearly every weekend she did this. Rosemary born 1930, brother born 1937. Father felt happy once he had a son - Victorian idea. Father died 1940, brother only 3 and Rosemary 10 years old. Father died of pulmonary and glandular TB - ill a lot, but used to sit writing, calculating endlessly. Modest kind man. Near end of life, father went to Papworth for lungs in 1938 - best treatment. Father wrote to mother about treatment. Mother born 1901 in Hull. Maternal grandfather, William Buckle, worked on railways, born Cumbria, near Crosby Ravensworth on farm, moved to Hull for work. Maternal grandmother was from Barton-on-Humber, probably adopted, taken in by family in big house. Grandfather was fireman, incident where he saved child on line and awarded bravery medals. They married, moved to Neasden. Mother had 2 sisters. Grandfather strict, also worked on trains through General Strike. Mother had drive to escape, won scholarship to Northern Polytechnic, did typing at Medical Research Council, where they met just after war. Father 16-17 years older than mother when they met, fell madly in love. Social class backgrounds very different. Married 1928. Father's Scottish family felt he'd married beneath him. Mother typist and engine-driver's daughter and father doctor. Rosemary born 1930. Parents bought new house near Esher, cost £1000. Mother lived there until 1987. Rosemary has only ever moved house twice in life - contrast with today. Father's family. Never met grandparents on that side. All farmers. Father had 3 brothers (2 went to Australia) and 5 sisters (1 also went to Australia). They went in troop ship in 1918. No work in Scotland. One of father's brothers became Professor of Pathology at Aberdeen. Another was a farmer. Uncle John in WW1, a captain, Rosemary's father felt guilty about not being able to go to war. Father. During WW1, father worked for Medical Research Council and was asked to do important research on wounded rather than go to trenches. Huge amount research on wounded that returned, concerning treatment of soldiers in hospital. Father's room at UCL had clanking adding machine to do research. Anatomy Department from around 1928 to 1940 when he died. Father's name Matthew Young. Obituary in Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology in 1940. Taught anatomy to students. Gentle attractive man. Mother fun, father quite reserved, always working on calculations. He loved gardening. House at Esher. Built 1928, bow window, 4 bedrooms (2 very large), dining room, sitting room, kitchen. Description of rooms. Had maids, usually from Scotland. Agnes was one. One also from Kerry. Wore green aprons am and black pm. Parents used to have bridge parties. Father earned little, at death left very little (house plus £5000) and mother had to go out to work. Comfortable life. Village Western Green with duck pond. Father rarely angry. Mother loved a good time. Brother born March 1937. French Paris exhibition on and mother went to Paris, while baby brother left with them. Garden. Smart area. Line poplar trees from original estate. Inside house. Father liked drawing and collected etchings of landscapes, University buildings. These kindled Rosemary's early fascination with drawings. Father used to go to galleries. Furniture - describes chairs. Sitting room dark green velvet suite from Scotland.
Rosemary Butler is the wife of the late sculptor, Reg Butler (1913-1981). Over the course of this interview, she discusses Reg Butler's life and work.