Press & media
Hagerty, Bill (1 of 5). Oral History of the British Press
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2007-05-21, 2007-06-04, 2007-06-25
British Library, London
Hagerty, Bill, 1939- (speaker, male)
Brodie, Louise (speaker, female)
Part 1: Bill Hagerty [BH] was born 1939 in Ilford. His father was a former crane drive in the docks, his mother Jewish, His father worked for Republic films, then sold insurance after he lost his job in the film industry. His father loved films, watched movies at home. He was a resilient man, proud of his three sons. They moved to Ilford in the 1930s and then retired to Brighton. His mother was a housewife. She was resolute and found the War fulfilling. She barely worked at all, just worked in a shop in middle age. His father came out of the army and joined ENSA, and then worked for an uncle and Republic films. It had a big social side. [5:09] One of BH's brothers died young, and the other Michael was a marketing director and is now an American citizen. BH was older than them and got on well with them, Tony and Michael were very close, though Michael was 9 years younger. BH's childhood seemed idyllic. They played cricket in the street and BH was bright in primary school, and loved acting. BH went to Beale grammar school which he didn't enjoy. He didn't work hard and it was not a good school. His mother's background was grander than his father's. There was a community feeling in Ilford and a good spirit. Playing in the street stopped each evening when Dick Barton came on the radio. There seemed to be lots of open spaces. [11:13] The big thing was to cycle to Southend, which BH did in his teens. BH was no good at sport but understood all the games, and later wrote about them. BH had lots of friends, and has used Friends Reunited to find some of them again. BH was always top boy at his primary school, Southpark school. They were taken to Tosca at the Royal Opera House. He really enjoyed the performing arts. He was good at history and English and bad at maths. Beale was a formal school, and is now a comprehensive. Dr Elvic Lewis, the headmaster, was a formidable figure. The school record was poor. They got caned on the hand. The masters had all served in the war. [19:30] BH's mother's mother was Jewish but married the mayor of East Ham, but there was no religion at all in her family. BH's father was a Irish Catholic so they were all brought up as Roman Catholics and BH went to an RC school for a time. BH has come back to it in later years. BH's mother's mother lived with them for a time. He remembers his paternal grandparents and they would drive over there. His grandfather was a surly man, a stevedore, who browbeat his wife. He was not interested in the grandchildren. [24:54] BH's father could lose his temper, but was always supportive. They were devastated when Tony died young of cancer, as was BH. Many people came to his funeral, and he is still remembered. His mother died when she was 86 after a couple of strokes. His father lived for only a few months longer. BH feels guilty that he left him in hospital when he was ill and he died unexpectedly. They loved the grandchildren, and even knew BH's 13 year old before they died. [30:20] The family went to holiday camps in Norfolk or Clacton, or Margate boarding houses. When he was 16 he went away with friends. Previously it was Potter's Holiday Camp. There were so many things to do. BH's parents were very good looking and loved ballroom dancing. There was always something for children to do. BH's mother was great at cooking roasts and the simple things of the time. [34:25] They lived in Ashburton Avenue on the Barking side of Ilford. It was an upper working class area. There was a little front garden, an enclosed porch. They had a front room with a television, and dining room, tiny kitchen. They had a 60 foot back garden, and a shed where his father tinkered with things. They had two bedrooms and a box room. BH shared with Tony. His mother grew beans and tomatoes and other vegetables. After the war, his father was away a lot, a salesman for the film industry. They went to West Ham football, and later to the pub. He would join in cricket games in the park. Even in the winter the children would be outside. [39:54] His father was a real film buff. His mother loved musicals in the West End. BH went to the cinema a lot and shared a love for westerns. East Ham Palace still remained after the war for variety shows. The daily paper was the Mirror, on Sunday it would be Empire News and Reynolds News. His father felt that the toffs knew best and voted Conservative. The church did not approve of scandalous papers. They also took the Ilford Recorder. They did not talk politics. Story of BH distributing Conservative literature. [45:30] On holiday they went for a week and it was very pleasant. It was a working class thing. You knew people in the next chalet and came back with addresses. The boarding houses were generally for Christmas holidays. Sportsmen were his role models while growing up. And also the movie people. Picture magazines were taken. And Marvel second hand comics bought and then taken back. Reading was his big enjoyment, and BH went to the library maybe three times in a week. After the children's classics he turned to Dornford Yates and Biggles, then novels. [50:54] BH used to make newspapers, writing the Ashburton Times, and the strength of his English was in composition. He also started a western novel. Local news went into his paper, but BH can't remember what exactly he put into it. BH remembers the day he discovered girls. Story. Then he would go and talk to them. They would be part of the group. At the grammar school he was very good at English, and had an encouraging teacher. Then he made a class newspaper, which was pinned up on the wall. He knew that this was what he wanted to do. Story of the headmaster making him angry and determined to do it. [57:54] BH did not work hard at school. He had already decided to be a journalist, for which he knew he needed five O levels. His father supported him in writing to every local newspaper in the area. He got one interview for the Walthamstow Post based in Wanstead. There was a train from Barking to get there. He saw the editor, Mr Morgan, then Mr Locks. Salary was £3 5s a week, and he started in the holidays for the paper. He only got three O levels, but they never asked him for the results once he had started working.
Life story interview with journalist and editor Bill Hagerty