Oral history of British science
Bundy, Colin (1 of 4). Oral History of Oral History
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Bundy, Colin, 1944- (speaker, male)
Wilkinson, Robert (speaker, male)
Part 1: [Session one: 8 March 2010] Born in South Africa in 1944, parents were both teachers. Made the decision to teach Africans, only missionary schools took African students through to the end of high school. Childhood was one dusty village after another, very rural areas of South Africa centred around a very old and decaying mission school. Mother was born in England but lived in South Africa from the age of 2, father was born there. He died when Colin was little. Had a very peripatetic childhood. Has a younger sister, currently living in Cambridge. [02:10] Has very few memories of childhood, dad died when Colin was 11 and has few memories before this time. Was rather a lonely child and became bookish. Was not terribly lonely, a South African childhood meant you spent a lot of time outdoors. The mission schools were all in rural areas. Aged 12 they moved to a small town on the Eastern Cape called Grahamstown and completed schooling. [04:05] Father had a heart attack, completely out of the blue. He worked hard and would smoke 50 a day. Mother had to bring up 2 children alone, left the mission school environment and moved to Grahamstown. Became a teacher first but wound up as headmistress of a girls primary school and stayed for 10 or 15 years. She remarried 5 years after father died to a university librarian. They spent the next 40 years together very happily. [05:53] They eventually moved to the UK, was very close to stepfather Ron. He was thoroughly English, born in Cheltenham, went to Oxford and then went to South Africa as a young man, taught briefly became a librarian. They came to the UK in the mid 70s and both died 2002, 2004. [06:50] Went to a very non academic school. Had a pretty ordinary education, did alright but did not excel. One lad from same class went onto an extraordinary career in the American space industry. Always won prizes for English, imagined would become a journalist and so aged 15 was the only boy attending evening classes at the technical college learning shorthand and typing. Has had very good typing skills ever since. [08:35] Was not on his own, did things with other lads from school, was passionate at cricket but was hopeless. Became the official scorer for the first XI, travelled a lot with them for 2 or 3 years. Admired these sportsmen, they often saw him as clever. This was a big part of school life. First published accounts of cricket matches in the local weekly newspaper.[09:51] It was an all white school, became critical of the status quo within the limits of intellectual availability at the time. Was unhappy with it though politics were not radical or incisive, they were mildly dissident. Some of this came from home. Mother and stepfather had black servants, mother tried very hard to have humane and decent relations with them. Parents worked closely with black teachers in the mission schools unlike most white South Africans.
Life story interview with Colin Bundy, South African oral historian, former Head of SOAS and retired Principal of Green Templeton College, Oxford.