Press & media
Greenslade, Roy (1 of 9). Oral History of the British Press
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journalists; editors; journalism educators
2007-05-30, 2007-06-06, 2007-10-12, 2007-11-22, 2007-12-07
British Library, London
Greenslade, Roy, 1946- (speaker, male)
Brodie, Louise (speaker, female)
Part 1: Roy Greenslade [RG] was born in 1946. His father was a gasfitter and they lived near his mother’s parents in Dulwich before moving to a London County Council house in South Ockendon. Under pressure from his mother, his father took a white collar job as a clerk till he retired, while his mother became a book-keeper. His father was a morose, taciturn man, and his mother talkative. RG and hs younger brother were latch key kids. Later on the family bought a bungalow in Leigh-on-Sea, and RG travelled from there the 32 miles to the grammar school in Dagenham. Different members of the family have different memories of this time. RG’s mother was determinedly upwardly mobile.[9:21] They were not meant to mix with rough boys from the working class housing estates. She was fussy over what they wore and what they ate, and had a clinical approach to life. His father was addicted to puns, and was socially gauche. His brother resembled his father, being quiet, and RG shared the love of cricket and football with his father. [15:35] RG’s maternal grandfather was a cabinet maker and had his own workroom in the house, and was a warm and loving person. His mother had a brother and sister each with two children. Story of cousin David’s death. When they moved to South Ockendon they were living close to his paternal grandparents and it was very different. His grandmother was bedridden and hard to get to know, and there was a lot of tension in the house. [22:49] They moved from Dulwich when RG was aged 6. He remembers walking to school, and going to the Methodist church. Eventually they moved to a tiny terraced house in Walthamstow. RG knows that his grandfather there was traumatised by his experiences in the First World War. His father was called up for the Navy in the Korean War. He was wearing his uniform in the wedding photos. [28:17] His parents suited each other and lived for each other. They retired to Cornwall and went on some exotic holidays. His mother was a militant atheist and republican, and Labour voter, Daily Mirror reader. RG dropped out of church maybe at 12, and his brother earlier, which is ironic as he is now an active Baptist in Australia. RG is a Marxist, lost the belief in an infinite being and found religion in Leigh-on-Sea to be full of hypocrisy. [40:11] Having started school in Dulwich, RG then went to Mardyke school in South Ockendon which were happy years. He remembers spelling Bs, pretty girls, country dancing. His best friend was Roger Velacot, the son of the factory owner with a huge house. RG was a boy scout and in the football team. In Leigh he joined the tennis club. It was the teddy boy era, 1957, and the beginnings of youth culture. He had this long (one and a half hour) journey there and back, during which he could do his homework [53:09] He remembers smogs, when the trains were cancelled and staying with friends. He enjoyed school at Dagenham, where he was very badly behaved. It was a co-educational school, with four streams of 35 pupils. Mention of some teachers and Dudley Moore, who had been a previous pupil. The parents’ aspirations were to become white collar instead of blue collar. RG’s book (Goodbye to the Working Class) was an exploration of his anger and upset. [1:01:49] RG left school under a cloud, but the headmaster found him a job. RG had a hardened view of societal conspiracy, that the working class were being domesticated. He wrote the book ten years on, and found 120 fellow students from his era. An important fact is that the girls, even then, were doing better at exams, but the boys got better jobs. RG’s polemic class argument in the book is an embarrassment to him now. He liked being a journalist, an observer with lots of power and no responsibility. Sadly, very few stayed in Dagenham, they left their parents and culture behind. [1:08:38] Once a year they have a reunion cricket match. The school was turned into a comprehensive in 1965, but the old friends come back and play against a team based on workers from the old May and Baker factory. People come to watch, old girlfriends like Jennifer and Sandra. [1:12:03] RG was badly behaved at school wanting to be an entertainer playing jokes. He wanted to be a librarian and helped there, changing the old classification of the books. He rented out the stock room for snogging couples, and took a rake off from the tuck shop next door. When he thought of becoming a journalist, he wrote to 32 newspapers around the area for a summer job. No luck. He, and his mother, were called in by the headmaster, and told that his academic career was very poor, and his behaviour a disgrace. Then a week later he was called in again and told that he could have a job with the Barking and Dagenham Advertiser on six months probation with an apprenticeship to follow if they liked him, to start the following Monday at ¹6 a week. [1:20:22] English was his subject at school and he loved reading, Dickens, R L Stevenson and Alistair MacLlean. He got top marks for grammar and essays. He was so unalike his brother John, who was studious and brilliant at maths. He had gone to Grays Palmers school and they lived different lives. RG played football for the school, which meant going in on a Saturday and he had a camaraderie with the girls. He even played in a Sunday league. His parents never watched. His English teachers were warm and helpful. As well as prose he enjoyed plays, not poetry, and won prizes.
Life story interview with journalist, editor and professor of journalism Roy Greenslade