Industry: water, steel & energy

Holliday, Fred (1 of 14) National Life Story Collection: An Oral History of the Water Industry

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  • Recording date

    2009-08-13, 2009-08-20, 2009-11-16, 2010-02-09, 2011-02-02

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home

  • Interviewees

    Holliday, Fred, 1935-2016 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Gilmour, Alison (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: [Session one: 13 August 2009] Professor Sir Frederick Holliday [FH] lists his former professional roles: Chairman of Northumbrian Water, university Vice-Chancellor, Chairman of a stockbroking company, Director of Shell, Director of British Rail. Born Worcestershire, in a council house. Comments on being old enough to have childhood memories from before WWII and during the war. Description of early childhood memories of a horse and cart carrying bananas before the war, fishing with father, early interest in natural history, eating doughnuts with father. FH’s father was a factory worker. Comments on frequent walks with father, mother and sister in the countryside. Description of fishing trips on local Birmingham-Bristol canal with father and father’s friend, Mick, and customs of the canal. [05:44] Father, Alfred, known as Fred [AH] born in a poor household, Bromsgrove. AH’s father was a sweep. AH raised by strict grandparents. Mentions AH’s work in a glass factory: Triplex [Safety Glass Company], part of the Pilkington Group. Comments on AH’s initial job (aged 14) delivering groceries to large houses in Birmingham. FH’s grandmother was a cook in a large house; FH’s mother was the kitchen maid. Comments on FH’s father and mother courting. [07:48] Description of father’s attitude to family and work at glass factory. Father and mother left school aged 14. Description of parents’ attitudes to education for FH and his sister. Comments on relationship with sister, Myrtle [MH]. Comments on American relatives. Comments on sister’s birth. Description of school life and education. Comments on sister’s health. Description of mother’s work as a cook in a hospital. Story about mother providing calories for children during the war and keeping animals for food. [19:12] Story about slaughtering pigs and sharing meat with a syndicate and the government. Comments on diet and exercise. [24:34] Description of house in a council estate where FH grew up. Lived next door to grandmother. Comments on Friday night baths at home. Description of bombings during the war and father blacking out windows. Description of domestic chores and caring for rabbits. [32:26] Description of family activities and listening to the news during the war. Comments on the difference between FH’s and FH’s grandchildren’s childhood activities. Remarks on childhood reading habits. Description of childhood summer routine and games, making a gun at 11. [43:46] Further description of grandparents: grandfather on FH’s mother’s side killed in the mines near Walsall, grandmother had Alzheimer’s. Grandmother on FH’s father’s side spoiled children. Description of great-grandparents. Comments on tight family units at the time and fear of solitude during the war. Comments on close relationship with cousin on father’s side, Tony, who contracted tuberculosis. Tony’s sister Anne still visits FH. [49:46] Story about Homer family: father was Methodist minister and son, Trevor studied medicine at Birmingham University. Description of FH's unofficial adoption by the Homer family (aged 12), relationship with Trevor, and Trevor’s death. FH’s growing interest in science and coaching in public speaking from the minister. Description of family attitudes to religion. Comments on ongoing friendship with old school master David Hobson. Remarks on desire to learn about how things work. [57:39] Description of childhood fascination and experimentation with water. Description of childhood trips to Aberystwyth, New Brighton (Liverpool), and Rhyl (Wales) with Sunday school. [1:06:20] Comments on lack of family discussion on religion. Description of the challenge of writing sermons. Comments on taking care not to upset creationists, the congregation in general, and the Methodist minister. Remarks on FH’s subsequent preaching in Church of Scotland, York Minster, and Durham Cathedral and refusal to be censored. Mentions advice given by the Methodist minister to FH which remained with FH when he worked with the Bishop of Durham Cathedral, David Jenkins. Comments on relationship with the minister and ability to challenge religious ideas. Remarks on sharing religious views with David Jenkins. [1:19:04] Description of appreciation of Darwinism aged 14. Comments on reading [Albert] Schweitzer’s book, ‘The Quest for the Historical Jesus’ and ‘Who Moved the Stone?’ [by Albert Henry Ross]. [1:24:53] Description of lecturing to medical students at Aberdeen University and FH teaching methods. Comments on taking the Human Ecology course designed by FH to Stirling University. Remarks on popularity of the course. Comments on Richard Dawkins’s work and FH’s agreement with Mary Midgley, philosopher at Newcastle University, on the subject. [1:27:30] Comments on parents’ non-attendance at church and school events. Remarks on FH’s relative independence until meeting the Homer family. Description of family discussions about the war and politics. Story about mother’s reaction to Churchill’s advice regarding paratroopers. Comments on involvement of the United States in the war. Comments on receiving food parcels from America. Parents were Labour voters: comments on parents’ need for the National Health Service and attitudes to education. Comments on father’s lack of sympathy with strikers. [1:34:04] Description of starting infant school and school routine. Comments on reading at school under first teacher, Miss Williams, and winning the Peter Pan Prize for reading aged 6. Attended Stalbridge Road Infants School from age 4. Comments on lack of air raid shelters at infant school. Description of air raid routine at middle school under headmaster Tommy Able.

  • Description

    Life Story Interview with Fred Holliday, former chairman of Northumbrian Water Group

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