Oral history of British science

Coombs, Mary (Part 2 of 9). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Computer Software

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home

  • Interviewees

    Coombs, Mary, 1929- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 2: Remarks on performance at school, including distinction in maths, and Latin and French teaching. Remarks on teacher at St Paul's pessimistic predictions for her university results, being ill during final exams. [03:04] Comments on choice of French and History at Queen Mary College and going abroad after her degree, not before due to father's influence. [05:05] Comments on enjoying university: many ex-servicemen on course, hockey, music society, choir, country dancing society, first boyfriend. [07:36] Remarks on first boyfriend Ken: trained as a pilot in Canada, spent a year in France, parents opinions. Remarks on Jewish friends, being at school with aristocracy and Arab princess, father's social climber nature. [10:00] Comments on school friend Yvonne Saville, who designed their house in Wycombe. Remarks on friend from Queen Mary College, later MC's bridesmaid, who lived in Ealing and whose husband had a stroke in his 30s. Remarks on social surprises at university. Remarks on wanting to do research but not having finances or good enough degree. [13:52] Comments on exchange program to Switzerland: teaching, Swiss, English and German friends, music, excellent lodgings at the home of a doctor's widow at Lausanne, photography, story about a hair-raising motorcycle ride with comparison to a later tobogganing trip to St. Johann. Comments on an older boyfriend who played the organ at church. Further remarks on friendship with John Cowler. [19:30] Remarks on salary, typing classes, earning extra money for teaching English. [20:24] Comparison of Switzerland and postwar Britain. Comments on Switzerland: modelling career of predecessor in lodgings, limited budget, sharing a room with a Swiss-Japanese, landlady's family, cycling, friendships through the English Church, visiting Catholic cantons, learning to ski, spending Christmas in the mountains with the daughter of Stephen King-Hall editor of 'The Children's Newspaper,' [25:42] climbing to glacier level with friend Margaret. [26:09] Remarks on parents being happy for her to go to Switzerland and finding her shyness easier to cope with in Switzerland than closer to home. Story about convincing the Comte de Paris that her landlady's doctor husband was dead. [28:50] Comments on joining the girl guides at school, badges, drill. [30:38] Remarks on being a keen photographer, Box Brownie camera when she was 8, box camera, Retinette in Switzerland. [32:15] Comments on school exchanges to France aged 17. [34:35] Remarks on getting on well with house-mates from formerly enemy countries, despite the recent war. Story about seeing a coloured person for the first time at Cadby Hall as a child. Remarks on father fire watching and [37:09] mother's activities in the war. [38:09] Remarks on lectures at University, Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music, societies, working hard in third year. Comments on holiday job, collating at a printers in Chancery Lane, with a strict manager. Comments on money and parental support at University, father not applying for a maintenance grant. [43:27] Comments on history content of degree and being bored of politics. Comments on French content of degree, lecturers, literature. Short story about giving up sugar in this period. [48:24] Remarks on friends at University, Christian Student Movement, visit to St Albans Cathedral. Remarks on difference between Christian Union and Christian Student Movement, and a Jewish refugee who became an Anglican priest and had a splendid obituary in the Telegraph. [51:21] Remarks on spending year in Switzerland as she wanted to teach. [51:50] Story about starting a temporary job at Lyons due to timing of end of Swiss school year and being offered a job as a management trainee. Remarks on doing administration in the ice cream department, salary and teaching French evening classes for London County Council.

  • Description

    Interview with computer programmer Mary Coombs.

  • Related transcripts

    Mary Coombs interviewed by Tom Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

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

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