Press & media
Whitehorn, Katharine (2 of 7). Oral History of the British Press
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2009-02-12, 2009-03-03, 2009-03-20
Interviewee's home, London
Whitehorn, Katharine, 1928- (speaker, female)
Brodie, Louise (speaker, female)
Part 2: KW’s grandparents had family prayers, and she knew hymns from school. Story about her christening, and father’s sermon. Gavin never wanted to go to Quaker meetings. KW was taught sex by the book Peter and Veronica. Explanation of the reality of Santa Claus. KW’s parents were not political in any way. Her father never got headships because he was non-conformist. Her mother had to learn to cater for 50 boys in the house. She was a great help in running the school house. [8:10] When KW went to Downe House, the girls were friendly, but then they sent the girls back to their own regions due to the war. Roedean had been evacuated to Cumbria like Mill Hill school, so she went there. It was very tough and sport orientated, which KW hated. The teachers were nice, but KW was teased all the time by the girls. Story of her father and the housemistress, Miss Patterson. [12:39] After two years, near the end of term, KW ran away home, 30 miles on her bicycle. They took her to a child psychologist in Edinburgh, and she remembers shopping afterwards. It was arranged that KW would board with a family, the McKenzies, in Glasgow and go to the High School. This was life changing. Everyone was nice to her. Miss Barlow was an inspirational teacher, the English and History teacher. The Baxters took her in next, though they did not really have room. Later it was the Campbells. The teaching was good and the girls nice and there were no compulsory games. [25:10] Incidents around Glasgow. Miss Barlow and her sayings. KW’s friend, Marion Gibb. KW only just passed her Higher exams. The child guidance practitioner and her theories. More stories. Memories of one dance during school. On her 17th birthday they went to dance. [32:05] KW then chose to go to the school of architecture and found very soon that it was a very bad idea. Her father had got the job at Marlborough and her mother had to stay in London to learn to lipread. She saw her father occasionally and they started to relate to each other. She told her father that she wanted to go back to study at Cambridge university. They sent her to Blunt House, a sort of boarding crammers. It was a brilliant experience. They had very bright girls and teachers. KW is still in touch with some of them. Details of them. She was given a place at Newnham. [39:40] Before she went up to Cambridge she worked as dogsbody in the Economist library. In the summer she went to France. She got a job as an au pair. The Mediterrranean was the best of everything. Her suitcase was stolen on the way home, very difficult in those days of clothes coupons and austerity. Eventually she got some clothes from America. She remembers a wonderful grey silk dress, and another duck egg blue. [47:00] At Newnham in 1947 you had a coal fire and a bath once a week. All food was cooked in hall. The girls were fresh from school but the men had served in the war. KW was reading English and had good tutors. Initially they were doing English Literature, dominated by FR Leavis who did not like Milton or Bacon which KW loved. He also hated Shelley and Housman. They studied the Greek dramatists which KW did well. And she went to TR Henn’s seminars, who was inspirational, at St Katharines. She had a platonic love for him. He taught her about Yeats among others. KW was ill and did not take her Part 1 exams. At the Finals, she just missed a First. Academically things got better and better. KW did quite a bit of philosophy study which she loved.
Life story interview with journalist and broadcaster Katharine Whitehorn