Roberts, Elizabeth (1 of 8). Oral History of Oral History
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Roberts, Elizabeth, 1936- (speaker, female)
Wilkinson, Robert (speaker, male)
Part 1: [Session one: 15 April 2008] Born on 18th November 1936 in Barrow in Furness. Only child, mother also born in Barrow. Father born in Scotland and came from Glasgow because there was no work. Met his wife who was working at Vickers as a secretary. Married in 1935. They lived in a newly built semi detached house on Island of Walney?? In the same blocked lived mothers brother and his wife and family and another of mothers brother in the same block. Obvious that this had been planned. Just her and her cousin and felt surrounded by older adults. Spent a lot of time in the Lake District with grandparents. [03.31] Father had a variety of jobs, initially as a draughtsman. In the War he was transferred to Manchester. They moved with him to Denton and moved back in 1947. Elizabeth was very happy in Manchester. In Barrow she did meet other children, but spent a lot of her time with adults. Once they went to Manchester she went to the local state school. Loved school and did well. Went to the theatre in Manchester. Rented 1930s semi with a garden, farm opposite. [07.10] Father was Chief Air Raid Warden in Barrow. Would not take her mother and her to the large air raid shelter as it might cause panic. One big air raid they hid under the kitchen table which was uncomfortable. Aunt and uncle had an Anderson shelter and grandparents had Morrison shelter. [09.24] War in Manchester had little impact until the flying bombs. Went back in 1947 aged 10. Parents had owned their house ion Barrow and sold it when they moved to Manchester. They came back and rented. One property was owned by Vickers. They lived in one of 1 houses in Cavendish Park. Had been very pretty. After the War it had been enclosed by the shipyard Even more encroached as they lived there. Physically cut off from the rest of the town. Local school was in poor area. Father had come back as a safety officer. Local children were from very poor families. There was no connection with them. Had left friends back in Denton. Not a happy time. Stood out from her peers. [14.09] Passed the 11+ and went to Barrow Girls Grammar School. Good and happy time there. Asked to write a history of the school. About four of them went from the primary school. Has lost touch although sees one once a year. Discusses the impact of grammar schools on the working class in this period. [18.24] More interested in arts subjects. Dad was interested in history and read extensively. He had a romantic view of Scottish history. Mum was intelligent but not academic. She was skilled with her hands. History, English Geography were her best subjects. Elizabeth got a lot of support at home. Music, dancing and elocution lessons as well as ballroom dancing lessons. She was told to get on with her schoolwork which was a change from previous generation girls. Poor therefore at household skills. [21.50] Mother didnt work. Very active at sport and crafts. Elizabeth realised that her mother might be a bit lost and suggested joining the Townswomens Guild.. She had not done any war work. [24.50] Not sure when university was mentioned. Headmistress suggested the Civil Service for her. Sat the Oxford Entrance Exams. The school had a long tradition of being democratic. No school prizes, elected Head girl and had responsibilities and was organising a large dance so overwhelmed a bit. Went to Bristol and met Hugh her husband, so no regrets about not going to Oxford. [28.30] Growing away from her parents. Father involved with his work. He was a model yacht maker as she didnt see much of him. Aged 16, her dad decided they should have a holiday in London. They were a bit frightened of the place and she realised they were diverging. Mother had never been abroad. [31.06] Has boxes of her mothers letters, she was writing twice a week. Amazed about what was in them. A lot to do with being an only child. Tradition of not boasting about your children. Real fear of being seen to be big headed. Very few girls went to university. 20 in the upper 6th of that six or so went to university. [36.24] Was in an 18th Century house at Bristol. Felt a bit of north-south divide. Bristol was full of girls not on grants private school backgrounds. [38.41] Didnt join many societies as she was having a good time. Course not too stimulating, constitutional medieval history, sometimes quite boring. Still in contact with friends from that time. Good social life. Not encouraged to go away at weekends. Ate together, formal meals. Very lucky with generous grants. [41.19] Parents didnt visit whilst she was at Bristol. Went home every holiday. Developing a taste for travel. Got to know a French boy through school and went to visit him end of first year. Went to Majorca in 1957 through National Union of Students. End of third year went with two friends to a Youth camp to Dubrovnik. Describes meeting Yugoslavs. Had to write a paper when she got back. Gave her a wider European view than she already had. Some Europeans at Bristol. Still in touch with a Macedonian woman who was at Bristol. [48.02] They had moved to London and she went to the Institute of Education. Hugh came to London to do a personnel course. Lived in Regents Parks Road in a multiple- occupied house. Loved academic input more than teaching practice and finished with distinction. Personal tutor Dr Jim Henderson who inspired her. After she left the Institute she got a job teaching in Catford. He asked her to join a discussion group. Its purpose was to write a book. She was put in charge of the editing. A baptism of fire. The book was published World Questions.
Life story interview with Elizabeth Roberts, oral historian at Lancaster University.