Oral history of British science
Gibson, Roy (Part 1 of 10). An Oral History of British Science
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Science management; Space Science and Engineering
Interviewee's home, Montpellier, France
Gibson, Roy, 1924-, (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 1: Born July 4th 1924 Manchester, to alarm of ardent Yorkshireman father. Remarks on father: farming background compared to city born mother; tram driver; wounded in First World War and suffered from shell-shocked; born c.1894 died in his 50s; met mother a staging camp outside Manchester and had a happy relationship, RG only child. Remarks on mother: accountant for small companies, well educated, started work at Prudential insurance company after losing both parents, interested in getting the best for people, thrifty, kind, occasionally churchgoing. [06:30] Remarks on: father's name Fred, and coming from a family where boys were given names of one syllable; Remarks on mother: Jessie Tailor born c.1898, father grocer in Cheetham Hill, parents died when she was a teenager, musical. Remarks on parent's religious outlooks: mother not keen on over organised religion, father claiming he was a Calithumpian to explain his not going to church. [09:15] Comments on evacuation to Lythem St Annes in 1939: shortage of teachers meaning that elder students, such as RG, who was school head boy, were roped into teaching; arrival and billeting with a strict sea captain and his servant Bessie. [14:00] Story about beating the sea captain at bridge. Remarks on: returning to Manchester when he couldn't stand the situation any longer; Bessie, the captain's warm-hearted servant; working for a marine shipping company when he returned to Manchester, until his father made him sit the municipal exam, which resulted in employment in the transport department working with staff records; father's dutiful outlook on life and being strict. [21:05] Remarks on being in Chorlton High School, after moving from Fallowfield and Wilbraham School. Comments about the Home Guard: lying about his age, benefits of military training, examples of home guard training sessions, going on air-raid watch duty when Manchester was bombed, people taking it seriously, only having one rifle at first, local colonel being his future wife's father, mix of ages. [short pause] [25:40] Further remarks on home guard: well organised, useful activity, enjoyed it, giving martial arts classes to ladies, benefit of training for military career, friends being killed in the air force in the war. [29:00] Comments on school days: interested in geography, languages and history; good at science and mathematics but disliked them; did not do A-level but went to Manchester technical college to learn subjects like transport law and statistics. Remarks on disliking strength of class distinctions, with story about applying unsuccessfully to the army for intensive language courses. Comments on Chorlton High School's status compared to other Manchester schools and on being working class. [34:00] Comments on: playing chess as the partner of a family friend, until he developed an interest in bridge and enrolled RG as his bridge partner; benefits of playing bridge, meeting lots of people at tournaments, enjoying the mathematics, [short pause - phone], meeting middle class professionals at tournaments; girlfriends, two year relationship with Patricia Alberta Lee. [40:25] Remarks on mother keeping a friendly open house, where people could just drop in. Description of home in Heaton Moor, shared with aunt's family, father's preference for growing vegetables and allotments. Remarks on father's patriotism and taking to air raid shelter with zeal. [45:20] Description of father, non-critical, sporty, precise in his gardening, reader, sociable. Description of mother, welcoming, peacemaker, kept an open home. Comments on living with aunt and cousins. Remarks on money being short, father not believing in taking credit. [51:20] Remarks on father's family in Yorkshire, visiting for holidays, mother fitting in well wherever she was. Remarks on grandmother, midwife, [short pause] tough life, optimistic, but strict. Remarks on inheriting honest attitude from his father, and acceptance of difficulties from mother. Remarks on parents' good relationship and hopes for him when he grew up. Story about father ribbing him about going down South to Oxford and hiding his pride when RG was commissioned as an officer.
Life story interview with Roy Gibson, Scientific manager, Director General of the European Space Agency (1975 - 1980).