Industry: water, steel & energy

Gronow, Colin (1 of 9). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Recording date

    2014-10-22, 2014-10-18, 2014-12-16, 2015-01-28

  • Interviewees

    Gronow, Colin, 1929- (speaker,, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Remarks on childhood: born Leigh on Sea, Essex, 13 January 1929; Welsh father David Morgan Gronow, who worked as an accountant in telephone industry; Scottish mother Harriet Hannah Simpson, a dressmaker, related to Sir James Young Simpson the anaesthetic pioneer; mother's family moving to South Wales where mother met CG Pontypridd born father; father's low wage after paying for train fare to work in Cardiff; father's promotion to job in Southend on Sea, then to Cardiff in 1939, followed by transfer to Swansea; CG elder sister, death of other sister aged 8, CG born when mother was 37. [04:35] Remarks on parents: father's service in First World War: two years in trenches with promotion to corporal; detached to train American troops; father reluctant to discuss wartime; contrast of father's placid personality with feisty mother; parents supportive and keen for CG to do well. [07:10] Remarks on school: CG passing 11 plus in Cardiff, but moving to well regarded Swansea Grammar School, established in 1482 but destroyed in bombing; three night Swansea blitz severely damaging city, CG memories of watching glowing sky from fires; grammar school sharing with Dynevor School for a time, until being moved to the Deaf and Dumb Institute; CG first year of school in Leigh on Sea curtailed by illness, followed by attendance of Leigh North Street School; CG a moderate pupil, but finding he excelled after move to Allensbank Road School in a working class area of Cardiff; anecdotes about learning Welsh in Cardiff; CG remembering little of North Street School; [13:30] CG doing well at Swansea Grammar School, streaming of pupils by ability; CG good exam results, distinctions in mathematical subjects, physics, languages, English; studying maths and physics at A level; anecdote about failing physics A level practical; mentions later statistics practical exams at university; CG excellent at pure mathematics. [17:10] Further remarks on Swansea Grammer School: traditional approach of school; mix of teachers; excellent maths teacher Danny Foulkes, who suggested CG study statistics at University of London; anecdote about use of routine caning at Allensbank Road School in Cardiff, little caning at Swansea; good discipline and motivated pupils in Swansea; school sports curtailed by wartime; school playing tennis against girl's school; wartime atmosphere concentrating people's minds. [22:50] Remarks on wartime: bomb crater near house; stray bombs falling near home; following new of war; outlines course of Second World War; CG father taking on allotment. [26:25] Remarks on sister [Pat]: recent death; did well at school in spite of moving from Westcliffe High School, to Cardiff High School, to Swansea High School; long train journey to University College London [UCL], then evacuated to Bangor; studying maths and physics, then radio physics; work on radar at [Telecommunications Research Establishment] at Malvern; later a maths teacher.[29:10] [cont' from 29:10] Further remarks on family: father becoming an accountant, with only limited training; mother a dressmaker and housewife; CG limited knowledge of mother's family; paternal grandmother living with CG family, large cyst on back, teaching CG to play cards; anecdote about playing bridge later in life at Farnborough; parent's ordinary working class outlook on world; mother intelligent but with little education; parents Labour voters who later became Liberals. [32:20] Remarks on Leigh on Sea: recent visit; lifetime friend Ted Collins; eating cockles by the sea, leaving large piles of cockle shells; trams; Southend Pier; changes in Leigh. [34:45] Remarks on move to Wales: adapting to changing conditions, need to make new friends; move from terraced house in Leigh to semi detached homes in Cardiff and Swansea; home on outskirts of Swansea; story about theft and return of pet cat. [37:50] Comments on tennis: CG developing interest in tennis; playing tennis on Sketty courts; practising tennis at home; anecdote about court roller surviving on tennis court for decades; CG taking part in tennis tournaments with friends Brian [Wall] and Betty Harris, wins and narrow losses in tournaments, CG narrowly missing chance to attend junior Wimbledon; [43:10] CG captaining UCL tennis team and playing for London University, but not winning a purple; CG captaining Royal Aircraft Establishment [RAE] team at Farnborough; stories about CG playing at Wimbledon in RAF tennis championships; anecdote about losing to Davis Cup winner; [47:00] CG enjoying individual challenge of playing tennis; CG playing tennis in Langland Bay in Swansea, good social life; many public school pupils playing tennis, such as Betty Harris; CG very competitive. [50:00] Remarks on interests in childhood: CG few other interest in youth due to need to practice tennis regularly; anecdote about drum set; enjoying theatre and big bands, such as Billy Cotton, in Swansea; plays and popular musical shows around world later in life; quarter size billiard table bought by parents; anecdote about parents managing to obtain snooker balls in war time; [55:10] father's friend Donald Knapman taking CG to play full sized snooker in snooker halls; description of golf-snooker played by CG, father, and Knapman. [59:00] Remarks on 1940s Swansea: old town; cockle picking on Swansea Bay; cycling and swimming on sandy bays on coast; watching Swansea play football at The Vetch; CG sharing a room in South Kensington with medical student David Bayton, who continues to keep CG up to date with Swansea football obituaries; mentions recent visits to Bayton. [1:04:15] [cont' from 1:04:15] Remarks on university: Bayton friend Alan Fuller recommending housing in London; excellent food at lodgings in London; parents having few expectations for CG, Danny Foulkes suggesting statistics course at UCL; difficult period to get into Oxford and Cambridge, CG offered Cambridge exhibition scholarship after National Service, but CG wanting to start university immediately; anecdote about strict 9am lectures and Dr David's teaching style; importance of self motivation; [1:10:25] social living conditions with house mates and family in lodgings; anecdote about room mate Gwyn Price's smelly feet; Price replaced by David Bayton after failing exams; Bayton, CG and house mate Alastair Fraser all playing sports for London University; UCL workload, students working together, CG relationship with course mate Barbara; anecdote about brightest student on course not working with other people; statistic and probability theory highly complex. [15:20] Description of statistical methods used by CG in MSc and PhD applied to hypothetical examples of tomato growing, importance of identifying statistically significant results. [1:19:15] Remarks on undergraduate statistics course.

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