Oral history of British science

Hooper, Ralph (Part 1 of 11). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Richmond

  • Interviewees

    Hooper, Ralph, 1926- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Born Woodlands Avenue, Hornchurch, Essex, 30th January 1926, until move to Hull aged 7 when civil servant father promoted. Remarks on maternal grandparents living next door. Comments on earliest memories: being in a pram outside grandparents; being harassed by a caterpillar in his cot. Remarks on: Hornchurch, Father working for Board of Trade at Tilbury. [5:00] Remarks on father's fondness for gardening, which RH didn't take to as well as his sister, who worked at Kew. Comments on: Cliptico construction kit; Meccano, often gifted by father's friend Joe Reed, the managing director of Bryant and May matchmakers, and later used by his mother to make practical devices, and by RH to link his alarm clock to light. [09:50] Remarks on: Hornby trains; grandfather being chief rolling-stock draughtsman for the LNER railway, mother born at Forestgate. Remarks on parent's names: Herbert Ralph Hooper and Marjorie Spenser; family connection to poet Edmund Spenser. Remarks on parents: father dour but relaxed on holidays, smoked pipe, drank little; mother practical, fixed things round house. Remarks on: being surprised by amount of housework; many things being made at home. Description of grandfather's large garden and playing in countryside. [15:50] Description of family home in Essex. Comments on becoming interested in flying: interested in birds; nearby RAF station and Hillman's airline airport, later Romford municipal airport; early memory of seeing de Havilland Moth as a child; wanting a propeller at their home after seeing them in breakers yard; watching RAF exercises and R101 airship overhead; Meccano magazine articles on aeroplanes; uncle taking about Royal Flying Corps experience. [22:55] Remarks on paternal grandfather: going blind, lived with them for a time, haberdasher's manager according to father's birth certificate, short story about paternal grandfather's ancestors saving a family from a fire. Remarks on mother being quite religious, RH and father having doubts, father not attending church, sister becoming a Quaker. [28:00] Remarks on elder sister Sheila Spenser, mother wanting more children than father. Further remarks on mother: little education, worked in insurance company during First World War, auxiliary nurse during war weekends, met father through family connection and when he had flu, taught father to knit, born 1891, father 1880, married late. [32:30] Remarks on: father being a civil servant through First World War, uncle who was in RFC and his daughter Beryl; family around country; anecdotes about uncle's flying mishaps; several aunts living nearby in Essex. [35:55] Remarks on Miss Williamson's School in Hornchurch, finding long division and spelling difficult. Remarks on: growing up with sister, playing with family across road, houses in rural neighbourhood. Story about finding a haystack fire with his sister. [40:30] Remarks on snakes in woods, playing in countryside. Comments on sister: went to Newlands High School whilst RH went to Hymers College, so saw each other in evenings when they lived in Hull; thought she was a bit of a swot. Remarks on RH's school performance. [44:40] Remarks on childhood playing football and rugby at Hull but disliking cricket as he suffered from hay fever and eczema. Comments on model aeroplanes: interested from about 9; Skybird model kits, built with assistance of mother; first flying model a present from Joe Reed; building a Miles Magister based on magazine plans; modifying aerodynamics of Miles Magister. [48:35] Remarks on building model aeroplanes from scratch: difficulties acquiring balsa wood, drawbacks of using Obeche wood instead, twisted rubber, limited planning, flying model aeroplanes with friends in grounds of University College Hull, short description of models, friend making an engine, knowledge of aerodynamics. [54:25] Remarks on reading 'The Aeromodeller', becoming an apprentice at Blackburn Aircraft at 15, attending night school, father expecting him to get an office job, convincing father that becoming an apprentice would be good for the war effort. Remarks on wanting to go into the aircraft industry, learning to rivet metal at home, delayed start to his apprenticeship whilst he retook French at school. [59:10] Comments on move to Hull: bigger house, teasing for his southern accent. Comments on Hyman's College in Hull: minor public school, former botanical gardens, bombed in both world wars, barrage balloon in school grounds struck by lightning, collecting bomb splinters, ex-Oxford headmaster Mr Cavill, not getting caned, nicknamed 'Fatty Hooper' for a time, cliques, poor quality of school meals. [1:05:15] Remarks on: friends Brian Hought and Gordon Holman; progress at school, disliking foreign languages and English grammar, developing interest in applied mathematics; streaming of classes, oscillating between top and middle classes; French, Latin and German, which were of limited interest to him. [1:09:30] Further remarks on Gordon Holman, who also worked at Blackburn and became a lecturer. Comments on apprenticeship: 2 years in works followed by 2 years in University College Hull and 1 year offices; enjoyed time in works; spent a year in stress office; colleague enthused him with idea of going to College of Aeronautics at Cranfield, for which father helped arrange funding and for which he'd saved pocket money from apprenticeship. [1:12:55] Remarks on father probably being conservative, not discussing politics, playing piano. Remarks on refusing to join school choir, attending a boys only school. Remarks on Margaret Elizabeth Fox, girlfriend whilst at university, father Civil Service Clerical Association representative, putting him in antagonism with RH's civil service manager father. Comments on: moving to live in university accommodation; split of theoretical and practical work between University College Hull and Hull Technical College; playing rugby against RAF and Navy teams.

  • Description

    Interview with aeronautical engineer Ralph Hooper

  • Related transcripts

    Ralph Hooper interviewed by Dr Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

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

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