Oral history of British science

Charnley, John (Part 1 of 23)

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Camberley

  • Interviewees

    Charnley, John, 1922- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1 [1:24:37][Interview One: October 7 2010] Born 4 September 1922, Shrewsbury Road, Garston, Liverpool. Comments on parents and family: George Edward Charnley, Liverpudlian, skilled woodworker in building trade, former Royal Engineer; Katherine Wederburn Mathieson, from Cumberland; maternal grandmother; father's brothers Bert and Tom, who were also practical men. [04:26] Remarks on father: practical, loving relationship with mother, sensitive, lived until 88, out of work in Depression; took tram or cycled to work; Anglican. Comments on JC's co-educational Church of England school in Grassendale: run by Mr Ashcroft then Billy Davies, who taught JC to swim; description of Victorian school and playground; fancying Phyllis Roberts; continued attending after family move to Springwood. [09:33] Remarks on: being an only child, except for a miscarried sibling, who he learned of from cousin Jean, family historian; new home at 17 Darwall Road, visited while building by toy motor car with father; being a choir boy at new Church on estate; sporting activities at school; Mrs Gregson's sweetshop. [14:35] Story about crushing friend Mabel Tharme's fingers in a mangle while playing. Remarks on new house in Springwood: Liverpool corporation house; story about breaking a glass pane while helping father build greenhouse; three bedroom semi-detached; near number 8 tram terminus. [20:25] Describes journey to Liverpool by tram, passed Penny Lane. Remarks on: school scholarship; support of parents at grammar school; story about teacher Mr Tomlinson asking JC's parents that he stay on to do sixth form rather than go to work for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board; [24:35] Remarks on: father teaching him cricket; being in choir and Boys Brigade; camps in the Isle of Man and Lake District, where he beat local vicars at chess, paid for by parents. Remarks on money in childhood: period when father was out of work; buying secondhand school uniform or new from Blacklers rather than more expensive John Henry Lees. [28:40 Pause - Door bell] Comments on father: worked as carpenter for building firm; job building Seamen's Union, on which JC made tea in vacations; woodworked at home; background of family engineering company whose success was destroyed by grandfather's excesses. Remarks on mother: from Workington, Cumbria; holidays in maternal aunt's home; sweet natured; Catherine Kennedy Mathieson; died of cancer aged about 50. Remarks on: father remarrying to 'Aunt' Doris and move south to Windsor in old age; watching football with his father; travelling to grammar school by tram or cycling; playing cricket and football before rugby at grammar school. [38:25] Story about beating a Welsh school at rugby while evacuated, resulting in a favourable impression on local girls at a subsequent dance. Remarks on hobbies: helping father with woodworking; singing in choir; interested in practical activities; built air raid shelter. [43:18] Remarks on: father being air raid warden; spending nights in an Anderson shelter with mother. Comments on Oulton High School, attended aged 10 c.1933: winning a scholarship, at a time when his father was unemployed; parents not thinking about education much. Remarks on: being in card playing family; being in the choir in All Hallows Church in Springwood, where the choir boys exchanged comics, which they read in services. [51:30] Remarks on religious background: moral upbringing, father church warden, mother involved with charity work, joining church youth club, helping father build a church noticeboard. Remarks on: dates of evacuation; failing a scholarship to Oxford; duties of a school head prefect. [55:36] Comments on dancing: youth club dances; dancing with local head girl Huldah Jenkins after win at rugby match in Wales; dancing with wife Mary; story about dancing more recently at friends' wedding; bands at dances; youth club dancing partners Barbara Beswick, Dorothy Foyer, Jean Johnson. [1:01:00] Remarks on: cricket; wide ethnic and religious mix in school; morning religious assembly at school. Comments on religion: was religious but not so much now; maintains standards but doesn't see the need for religion in them; story about problems of dealing with church bureaucracy for his Anglican daughter Katrina to marry a Catholic husband but finding a local compromise; compromises with Catholicism in his family; granddaughter Leonie's Catholic family. [1:10:45] Comments about wife Mary: parents' deaths lead her becoming the ward of Dr Pugmire, a Quaker; met JC at Oulton School; moved to Leeds, leading to her and JC meeting for walking trips in the Pennines and Cumbria hills; influence of her religious outlook on JC. [1:17:15] Comments on: Dr Pugmire's marriage and movements during war; Mary's completion of training and move to work at Botley;s Park War Hospital, near Guildford where JC visited her at weekends. Story about Dr Pugmire's refusal to approve Mary's marriage to JC and lack of attendance at the ceremony.

  • Description

    Interview with aeronautical engineer and government scientist, Sir John Charnley

  • Related transcripts

    Sir John Charnley interviewed by 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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