Industry: water, steel & energy

Onslow, Sue (1 of 4) National Life Story Collection: An Oral History of the Water Industry

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  • Recording date

    2009-06-22, 2009-06-23

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home

  • Interviewees

    Onslow, Sue, 1943- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Gilmour, Alison (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: [Session one: 22 June 2009] Sue Onslow [SO]. Comments on memories of moving; difference in West Country accents. Remarks on limited memories of house in Derbyshire; being despatched to aunt’s [Edith Whittingham nee Wibberly, EW] during school holidays. SO describes house in Bath; comments on being youngest of four siblings [Norman Smith, (NS) Michael Barry Smith (MS) and Anne Stockley nee Smith (AS)]. Story of MS cutting down cherry tree. [6:50] Description of bedroom SO shared with AS; AS having arachnophobia. Short discussion on open fires in the house. [11:05] Description of relationship with AS as a child and adult; as a child being bribed by AS; SO’s feelings about going to cinema with AS. [14:45] Describes use of dining room as a living room; rarity of family meals; Sunday lunch as sacrosanct; authority of parents. Description of food eaten during Sunday lunch; SO mentions not eating chips until being a teenager. [20:50] SO comments on her mum’s [Ethel Smith, ES] cooking; SO and AS preparing vegetables. SO associates her love of cooking with ES and enjoying helping in kitchen; parents’ expectation of SO completing household chores. [24:08] Physical description of kitchen; SO remarks on ES’s ability to produce meals in a small kitchen. Lengthy description of roles of parents; ES’s domestic responsibilities; Father [Charles Norman Smith, CNS] as breadwinner; SO mentions being brought up to be grateful of NS. Comments on relationship with CNS as wonderful; SO a daddy’s girl. Remarks on not having television until 1952; evening reading. [30:44] Comments on SO having similar interests to CNS and MS. [31:50] Description of regular fishing trips to Limpleystoke with CNS; CNS stimulating SO’s interest in nature; family walks on outskirts of Bath. [35:14] Physical description of CNS; SO comments on good looks. Description of CNS’s personality and sense of humour; anecdote about CNS buying window catches; anecdote about CNS on bus; CNS playing practical jokes on ES. [40:07] SO comments on having very happy childhood; parents’ arguments were not in front of children. Comments on parents’ discipline. [42:21] Anecdote of parents meeting at a dance. Mentions ES’s maiden name as Wibberly. Remarks on CNS’s name. Discusses CNS’s employment as engineer in gas industry; Assistant Manager at Derby Gas Works before being headhunted by gas company in Yorkshire then moving to South Western Gas Board, Bath. SO remarks that nepotism resulted in her employment in the gas industry. [45:13] Describes relationship with ES; ES’s reaction to SO calling her a friend; reasons for them not having a close relationship until later in life. Comments on learning from ES; cooking, sewing, avoiding housework. [48:32] SO comments on her childhood independence; AS’s profound deafness meant ES had to dedicate more time to her. [50:09] Physical description of ES. Lengthy description of ESs’ reserved nature; she always wore hat and gloves and referred to neighbours by second name; a devoted mum. SO remarks that ES did not work. Explanation of expectation that women should leave work upon marriage. Description of ES’s domestic chores; SO helping ES. [55:51] Lengthy description of childhood memories of water use; reusing water and order of washing clothes; introduction of washing machines; ES commenting on other people’s washing; using Reckitt’s Blue for whites; washing in a copper vessel. Description of Monday washing routine and references to other daily routines. [1:02:49] Detailed description of bathroom and of family washing routine. Remarks that ES never had a shower. [1:05:41] Description of Sunday morning routine; church; Sunday lunch; listening to radio programmes including Billy Cotton Band Show and Educating Archie; Sunday tea; Sunday supper. [1:09:28] Describes good relationship with brothers NS and MS and both their personalities; anecdote of MS attempting to brew beer under bed and attempting to learn cello. Comments on recently visiting MS in Belgium. Comments on enjoying being the youngest sibling [1:15:05] Comments on enjoying attending Sunday School with neighbourhood friends. SO comments on nature of childhood and makes comparisons with children today. [1:18:44] Describes daytime activities with friends; picking blackberries and bluebells; walks in Bath; rowing to Saltford; Delia Weber; Jennifer Hyde; Suzanne Mugglestone; Susan Hyde; Anne Webber; Methodist youth club barn dances and plays; meeting first husband [Roy Styles]; SO in late teens before dating boys. SO mentions her church, St Johns Church of England. [1:24:45] Discussion on SO’s grandparents; SO mentions never knowing maternal grandparents [Anne and Charles Wibberly] who both died before she was born; visiting paternal grandparents [Florence and Charles Norman de Pledge-Smith, FPS and CNPS]; grandparents’ personalities; describes difficult relationship between FPS and ES. Comments on elements of family conversations concealed from children. [1:29:50] Description of SO’s negative reaction at having to visit EW during holidays. Description of reserved nature of family conversations when discussing adult topics in front of children; SO’s awareness of being excluded from conversation. [1:34:14] Description of family summer holidays with CNS, ES and AS in Mablethorpe; coach trips and a memorable trip to Swaneage; SO’s impression of the family not being able to afford holidays. [1:36:53] Lengthy description of Christmas celebrations; morning routine opening gifts; family use of front room; food; preparing goose then in later years turkey; visits from family; SO hosting first Christmas lunch; SO currently hosts Christmas day in Bath or France with family. [1:40:19] Comments on learning about current affairs through parents discussing newspapers; radio news programmes; magazines such as ‘Picture Post’ and ‘The Illustrator’. Comments on being treated as a child until 18; receiving house key at 18 and being invited to participate in adult conversations. [1:45:20] Anecdote of getting first television after being invited to watch neighbour’s television, Mr and Mrs Best. SO mentions being spellbound watching Coronation [Queen Elizabeth II]. Short description of role of television in family life. [1:49:49] SO describes learning to read; Peter Rabbit stories. [1:51:20] Lengthy discussion on starting at St. John’s Junior [Infant] School aged five; physical description of school; lunch; assembly led by Head Mistress Miss Alderwick ; SO’s feelings about starting school; description of uniform; Miss Alderwick and Miss Jones as memorable teachers; school friends from neighbourhood and best friend Valerie Gould who remains a distant friend; moving to St John’s Junior School aged 9. [1:57:34] SO describes subjects she enjoyed at school; the nature of education at infant school. [2:00:19] SO describes importance of sitting the Eleven Plus exam; passed and went to grammar school [City of Bath Girls Grammar School]; expectations of grammar school students. Lengthy story of SO informing careers advisor she wanted to work in industry; negative response of the careers advisor and head mistress [name?]; reflects on male dominated nature of industry and lack of political correctness. [2:06:33] Description of preparation for the Eleven Plus; feelings about sitting exam; awareness of parents’ expectations; receiving results at school; performance of friends. Comments on hierarchy of potential secondary schools SO could have attended in Bath including Bath High School, City of Bath Girls School, Oldfield Secondary Modern, West Twerton Girls School. Describes interview at Bath High School; retrospective awareness that SO was refused due to social standing of parents. Comments on parents’ reactions to SO starting at City of Bath Girls Grammar School. [2:13:30] Lengthy description of making the difficult decision not to go to university; parents’ expectations and their reaction when SO told them she wanted to work in industry; reasons for decision linked to selection of subjects at A Level as well as practical work in sixth form. Comments on friends at senior school. [2:21:46] Description of obtaining job at George’s Brewery and then opting instead to work for Gas Board (South Western Gas Board [SWGB]); interviews for both jobs; reasons for being attracted to both positions and the greater career prospects with the SWGB. Short description of SO’s ambitions as school leaver; makes comparisons with women today. [2:30:25] Comments on impressions of SWGB as influenced by NS’ employment with SWGB and that the family lived in a SWGB house. Lengthy description of interview for position of Trainee Chemist with Chief Chemist [Len Silcox] being asked about working with operators and coping with working conditions; clothing worn to interview and decision not to wear a hat; brief description of Manager’s Office in which the interview occurred. [2:37:18] Comments on NS’ reaction to SO gaining job at SWGB. SO describes her treatment by male colleagues and relationship with work colleagues including Philip Stock, Harry Longbottom, Mervyn Eackett; girls in wages office. [2:42:30] Discussion on nature of work at SWGB; main responsibilities including gas analysis and coal analysis including calorific value test; description of coking tests; reasons for enjoying work; attending night school [Bath Technical College] to do ONC [National Certificate] then Bristol [Bristol College of Higher Education] for Higher National Certificate; male dominated nature of classes. [2:47:47] Discussion on feelings associated with earning a salary; gaining independence; contributing to household. [2:50:42] Describes getting married to RS in 1965; expectation that women should be married by age of 20; first home in Bath; bought house in Melksham. Comments on leaving SWGB after closure of laboratory and moving to Bath Corporation Sewage Treatment Works [BCSTW] after closure of laboratory. [2:56:14] SO comments on what attracted her to position of Junior Chemist at Bath Corporation [BC]. Begins describing interview with Works Manager [John Rees, JR] and Senior Chemist [Keith Fitzgerald]; being observed on tour of BCSTW. [2:58:47]

  • Description

    Life Story Interview with Sue Onslow, Area Controller for Wessex Water; NVQ Assessor

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