Oral history of British science

Jenkinson, David (Part 1 of 7). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Climate Change Science

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Hertfordshire

  • Interviewees

    Jenkinson, David, 1928-2011 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: David Jenkinson [DJ] born Hollywood Hospital, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles [LA], 25 February 1928. Comments on parent’s home in Los Angeles, including lemon tree, sprinkler; positive view of lifestyle. Story of painting garage doors with neighbour, Albert, aged four. Comments on memory of Black Widow spiders in garage; status of these memories; happiness at that age. Comments on wealth of father before Depression, October 1929. Story of father losing most of money but retaining sufficient. Comments on fathers’ business activity, across North America, in South Africa [SA]. Story of father leaving Ireland and settling in America to ‘make his fortune’, including first and subsequent jobs, positive comments on father’s abilities, regular holidays back to Ireland, move to SA, wool buying in SA, conscription to local militia. [05:57] Continuing story of return to Ireland, then America around 1900. Comments on father’s love of shooting. Story of father job hunting in North America around 1900; cousin Tom joining army, serving in Philippines; father moving West, working on trains; father starting franchise with staff, including brother, warehouse in Kansas, procuring and selling dry goods across South West towns. [09:10] Story of meeting mother on one visit back to Ireland, twenty-five years younger; parents moving to California; mother running office; DJ born, father part-retired; father’s playing of stock exchange. Positive comments on family home with telephone, electricity, gas, running water, contrast to later home in Northern Ireland [NI]. [10:29] Story of slump and stock market crash; father’s decision to return to NI c.1932, buying house ‘Hollyfield’ between Armagh and Portadown, with small farm; living at grandfather’s farm while house repaired. Comments on house’s lack of utilities; use of water pump as punishment; coldness of house. [13:07] Comments on small farm; father’s fruit growing; picking gooseberries and blackcurrants with cousins; cattle and sheep; helping on farm; river and quarry. Story of seeing oil seeping out of shale. Description of wildflowers in meadows, wildlife. Story of chasing hens from trees away from fox danger; local men exchanging dead foxes for rewards from police station. Story of violent farm worker. [18:09] Description of house in LA. Comments on LA; orange growing area, with pots of crude oil burnt to combat frost; LA smogs of 1960s, 1970s. [20:47] Description of Californian landscapes, including oil pits containing fossils. Story of first seeing black people; visiting beach, Catalina Island. Comments on mothers’ friends. [22:55] Story of father’s reaction to losses caused by stock market crash. Comments on difficulty of speaking openly and intimately with father; father’s support for the American Republican Party and its views; arguing with father as teenager due to DJ’s relatively leftwing views; awareness that father had seen unpleasant, dark things as businessman in Mexico. [26:00] Detailed description of mother’s character, including contrast to that of father; mother’s talents and interests. Comments on mother’s reading: Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, HG Wells, self-help books, classics including Jane Austin; reading with DJ. [29:33]Comments on learning to read ‘early’, including books supplied by mother. [30:24] Comments on parents’ relationship; father’s remoteness; mother’s emotional, religious character. Story of seeing parents walking arm in arm away from house, turning round to see black smoke coming from bedroom window, where DJ and brother were burning camphor balls; parents visits to family members. Comments on lack of social life for adults in County Armagh. [32:45] Role of Church; strict religious upbringing; parents’ morality and effect on own conduct. Comments on DJ and brother’s Church of Ireland attendance. Story of brother praying minister would stop. [35:41] Description of content and tone of services, including sermons. Comments on own religious belief and Confirmation as teenager; lack of faith later; importance of religion in NI life, connection to racial and political divide. Story of not being allowed to use a hammer on a Sunday but using screwdriver as silent. Comments on extent and effect of own faith as a child, compared to Catholic faith of Seamus Heaney; mother’s view of sin, punishment and hell. [41:02] Comments on sources of religious guilt as a young teenager. [42:14] Story of visiting relatives in Dublin with mother before World War Two [WW2], collecting fossils in Carboniferous quarry near uncle’s; car journeys to Loch Neagh and Belfast; Sunday school excursions by train to fishing village Warrenpoint, returning with live crabs escaping in train [interviewee microphone dislodged; replaced] [44:33] Story of bicycle travel during WW2, lacking petrol; cycling to Navan Fort, site of pre-Christian kings; twenty mile range on cycle; visits to South Armagh mountains as boy scout while at Royal School. [45:54] Description of work on family farm: cattle herding, sheep dipping, shearing, watching for fly-strike, fruit picking, hen feeding, making hay, ‘stooking’ oats and barley. [47:41] Comments on DJ and brothers interest in radio; DJ’s interest in woodwork. Story of growing vegetables considered exotic in home garden, including inspiration of mother and primary school teacher, Great Aunt’s seed shop. [49:27] Detailed comments on Mr R. Ebbitt, Headmaster of Armstrong Public Elementary School [APES], Fellow of Royal Horticultural Society, teaching gardening, simple botany, growing of unusual vegetables. [50:39] Description of Mr Ebbitt’s garden at APES, including vegetables grown, unusual in context of time and place. Comments on appeal to DJ of gardening at age of ten; own growing efforts; mother’s interest in produce, including flowers. [52:26] Positive comments on teacher Mr H Whisker, encouraging class talks. Story of giving class talks on fossils, wild flowers, birds, bird nests. Discussion of these talks and collecting. Comments on use of Arthur Mee’s ‘Children’s Encyclopaedia’ to research talks at home; negative view of copy of this Encyclopaedia viewed recently; very positive view of it as a child, introducing geology, botany, astronomy not encountered at school. Discussion of Encyclopaedia as first experience of these subjects. [55:41] Comments on colour pictures of volcanoes, loan of Encyclopaedia by family friend. [56:12] Story of visits to County Museum, Armagh from time at APES onwards. Description of the contents of Museum. Detailed comments on the curator Mr TGF Paterson, moving between two religious communities, work in folklore recording. Story of Paterson talking to and showing DJ exhibits taken out of cases, including moulds for bronze spearheads, a mantrap. [59:24]Track 1 [cont. from 59:24] Story of mother and aunts buying DJ natural history books while at APES, including ‘Birds Shown to the Children’ and ‘Flowers Shown to the Children’ in series edited by Louey Chisholm; acquiring books from The Observer’s series later. Comments on own birdwatching, plant pressing, keeping records of birds’ nests. Story of breaking uncle’s collection of bird’s eggs taken from nests. Comments on own birds nesting; listening to natural history radio programmes; BBC Northern Ireland programmes on Irish mythology. [1:03:20] Negative comments Royal School [RS], Armagh attended from 1940 for six years as dayboy scholarship; ‘harsh’ nature of RS; absence of encouragement in natural history; chemistry and physics sciences; prominence of classics and sport; not fitting into RS ‘ethos’; DJ’s view that RS’s aim was partly to supply the Services; ‘ethos’ inherited from foundation to teach sons of Protestant planters; religion regarded as ‘soft’ though church attended. Story of prefects reading from Old Testament exclusively. [1:07:23] Comments on Headmaster W Hutchings [WH], Emmanuel Cambridge mathematics graduate, amateur astronomer. Story of WH’s undermining comments on DJ’s Sixth Form talk on electronics. Comments on WH favouring athletic students; extent and kind of bullying, including practices mimicking practices of German wartime torture; certain teachers’ view of bullying as character building. Story of boarder being ‘hunted’ by group of peers. [1:10:18] Comments on high standard of teaching; methods of classroom discipline. Story of teachers overwhelmed by indiscipline. Brief comments on teaching of Geography.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Professor David Jenkinson, soil scientist

  • Related transcripts

    David Jenkinson interviewed by Paul Merchant: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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