Hale, Brenda Marjorie (1 of 8) National Life Story Collection: Legal Lives
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2008-11-25, 2010-03-16, 2010-03-22, 2010-03-23
Hale, Brenda Marjorie 1945- (speaker, female)
Thompson, Paula (speaker, female)
Part 1: BH describes family. Born 31 January 1945 Leeds. Parents lived in Redcar North Yorkshire. Father Cecil teacher in Redcar and mother Margery Froebel teacher trained. Two sisters, one eight years older and other fifteen months younger than BH. Younger sister and BH mistaken for twins. [03:45] Discussion of Mother’s work as teacher in Birkenhead High School Prep. Father taught at Birkenhead Grammar School. Mother forced by law to give up teaching upon marriage. [04: 53] Parents’ relationship – Cecil thought that, having been independent, wife should receive housekeeping allowance and own money. Parents were inter war generation, educated middle class, believed in equality between the sexes. [06:26] First home at Redcar, Coatham.[08:05] Moved at three to Scorton village, five miles from Richmond (N. Yorkshire). Father headmaster of boys’ Grammar School. Family lived at school in the boarding house. School requisitioned by RAF during war but reopened after war. Lived there eleven years when father died suddenly and family had to leave, very traumatic. [09:42] Recollections of moving to house and life as part of school. [12:04] Three girls in middle of boys school. Sister had supper with the boys. Scorton Grammar school closed in 1990’s. Sad for BH. [13:30] Mother’s character: ran the boarding house and taught. Had opened own school in Redcar when elder sister small; never idle and strong personality; high expectations felt by BH and others. [14:56] Father’s unhealthy lifestyle; would rest after tea but worked until two am. Smoked, led busy but sedentary life. Looked like quintessential schoolteacher. [16:02] Religion. Parents committed members of C of E. Father a lay reader had card index of a hundred sermons. Mother ran local Mothers’ Union. BH went to Sunday School then services. [18:06] Father’s funeral – regrets that not permitted to attend. BH reflects on Mother trying to protect them but feels was not right decision. Family lived on in school for year. Mother ran boarding house but then became headmistress of local C of E primary school. Family stayed in parish so younger sister and BH could stay at Richmond High School. BH speculates her mother had no wish to return to mother and unmarried sister in Leeds.[21:40] Holidays. CH (studied Spanish at Oxford) took boys from school to Spain alternate years. Regular summer family holidays caravanning in the Lake District. CH involved with scouting in school and with county. [24:08] BH would have liked to be a guide but no troupes in village.. Driving: father had car and bought mother a car for wedding anniversary present. BH recalls mother being handed keys at breakfast table. Mother could drive before given the a car – father one of a generation of professional men who had married educated women and treated wives as equals. BH first and second parents in law were very similar. [26:25] First school. Scorton Local Church of E primary school next village. People thought she could read she knew so many books by heart. Recalls parents and big sister Jill reading aloud to her and very happy childhood. [28;30] Describes small rural primary school, divided with curtain, earth closets. Few middle class children in school. Hales regarded as a bit snobbish and not popular as mother made them come home for lunch by car. [31:32] BH liked learning, passed eleven plus year early and went to High School. BH youngest girl in High School and sister was head girl. As parents were teachers did practice at IQ tests at home. Elder sister ‘in different stratosphere’ doing university entrance. Younger sister not put in early for exam. BH regrets that - caused resentment on sister’s part.[35:0] High School was small, 170 pupils but in town, travelled by bus. BH pleased to be there, bored with primary school. Not keen on sport or good at art. Had shone in primary school. No one else passed 11 plus. [37:00] Top of class from start . BH had similar friends uninterested in sport. Describes self as ‘Specky Swot’ though not called it. Wanted to do well and taken for granted in family that would all go to university. Preferably Oxbridge. CH had been at Oxford, maternal grandfather Cambridge [39:00] Oxbridge was height of ambition. BH – ‘can’t think when I wasn’t aware of it..,’ watched boat race every year. Grandmother got a television for the Coronation. ‘When Paternal Grandmother couldn’t live alone and came to live with us the television came too.’[40:27] No ITV – parents didn’t approve of commercial television. Newspapers, Daily Telegraph, Yorkshire Post, Sunday Times and weekly Darlington & Stockton Times. BH surprised they got Daily Telegraph because ‘were not right wing people at all.’ After father died persuaded mother to change to Guardian. The Illustrated London News all enjoyed especially the pictures of the grand houses advertised and Punch. [42:20] Comics The New Elizabethan Comic a magazine aimed at young and ‘Girl’ female equivalent of ‘ Eagle’. Dandy/Beano ‘not have been allowed in house.’ [43:47] Parents not involved in politics. BH expects they would have voted conservative. BH very surprised if voted Labour. Maternal Grandmother and aunt lived in Leeds near a Co –op. Recalls Aunt saying shouldn’t shop at the Co-op then decided that she would because of ‘the divvy’. That is the most political remark BH can remember from childhood. BH recalls discussions in 1956 – the year after went to big school – crushing of Hungarian Revolution, Suez Crisis. Not disinterested in current affairs just not politically active. BH recalls lively discussions at mealtimes, she took them for granted. [46:09] BH contrasts first husbands’ family where meals were pretty silent.[47:20] Teachers and school. BH describes the fine buildings and surroundings of the school and the nature of the staff: many long serving dedicated maiden teachers, one or two married women, but most were archetypal lady teacher with a lot of character. Headmistress – Oxford historian with high expectations of BH, who was “frightened stiff” of her. BH would have liked more maths and a mix of arts and sciences. BH recalls other teachers was very aware at time who was married or not. [52:07] [53:08] Subjects at school - BH liked everything and took nine ‘O’ levels. Always interested in history. Did History, Latin and French.[54:05] BH cannot remember when first thought of doing law. No family or friends lawyers. Very few women in law. No one in the school had ever studied it. BH gives ‘great credit’ to headmistress that when BH said interested in law she thought it a good idea but not a lot school could do to help.[56:00] Clubs and Societies. BH enjoyed choir but staying was difficult after school. BH not arty or sporty or “life and soul of party”. Was not a lot going on; a very rural community. [58;46] No debating society at school but a compulsory public speaking competition for whole school. All had to do speech in class from which representatives picked . BH didn’t do well in first two years but was finalist every year after that and won in sixth form. Remembers winning speech about the devil. Only allowed notes on one side of a card. Final in front of the whole school. Nerve wracking because didn’t do that kind of thing often. [1:02] Enjoyed drama but not star actress like sister. BH played Mrs Fairfax in Jane Eyre and Mrs Noah in Andre Aube sp?? play, where character goes out of her mind at end once floods subside. It was great fun an interesting play, new departure for conservative English dept. BH makes no connection between school public speaking competition and law. It was a school chore. BH didn’t go into the law ‘because I wanted to be a barrister or anything like that.
Life story interview with the judge Brenda Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond (1945-)