Oral history of British science
Baillie, Mike (Part 1 of 8) An Oral History of British Science
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Queen’s University of Belfast and interviewee’s home, Belfast
Baillie, Mike, 1944- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 1: [1:33:39] [Session one: 20th August 2012] Mike Baillie born Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, November 1944. Story of father’s life, including truncated education due to death of his father (paternal grandfather), employment. [2:24] Mentions father’s valuing of education. Comments on father’s religious and political views. Mentions own lack of interest in politics/religion; effect of work on father. [3:38] Comments on effect on father’s health of work related stress. [4:18] Detailed comments on father’s role in preparation for own 11 plus examination. Comments on school reports viewed recently. Story of returning home from 11 plus. Story of successful interview for Belfast Royal Academy [BRA]. [9:54] Comments on father’s home tutoring; father’s advice to avoid a career in ‘business’. [12:07] Story of mother’s life, including education, employment, role as housewife following marriage. Detailed comments on relations with extended family on maternal side, including regular summer stays with uncle/aunt in Glasgow, Scotland and visits to other aunt/uncle in maternal grandparents house, east Belfast. [16:12] Detailed comments on influence of relations with uncle Jack, Glasgow. Comments on relations between self, mother and her identical twin. [19:59] Comments on time spent at home of maternal grandmother. Story of outdoor play near allotment of uncle, including interest in collecting archaeological objects from field surfaces. Mentions flying of kites; watching aircraft. [25:06] Description of first family home, Belfast, including story of storm affecting gas lights. Mentions large boulder opposite. Comments on ‘wasteland’ behind house. [30:47] Description of second family home. Mentions father’s car. Comments on toys; outdoor play. [35:01] Comments on childhood reading, including ‘Eagle’ comics. Mentions attempt to see Sputnik 1, 1957; radio programmes (Dick Barton Special Agent, stories of Professor Quartermass); development of interest in books on World War Two [WW2]. [37:37] Comments primary schoolmasters; school tests; level of enjoyment of primary school, including recent suspicion of own dyslexia/memory difficulties. [43:05] Comments on childhood churchgoing, including lack of influence on self. Story of being repelled by argument of minister that intellectual questioning is sinful. [48:29] Story of move from A to B Stream, BRA. Comments on lack of memory of biology teaching; enjoyment of and performance in mathematics; chemistry teaching; tendency for peers to make explosives at home. [53:47] Comments on learning in physics. Detailed comments on own strategy of scoring forty percent in examinations; contemporary perception of school as confinement; education authority experiment involving examinations taken a year early. Story of conversation with physics master. [59:01] Comments on parents’ view of own academic performance. [1:00:34] Comments on interest in space exploration while at BRA. Detailed comments on own fascination with WW2. [1:08:23] Comments on social life as an older child/young adult. [1:09:31] Comments on decision to read physics, chemistry, mathematics, geography at Queen’s University, Belfast [QUB]. Story of interview, QUB. [1:11:59] Comments on similar performance of boys and girls, BRA; living at home while at QUB. Mentions father’s opposition to home ownership; university vacation employment in Birds Eye factory, UK. [1:14:04] Story of finding content of first year course challenging. Mentions dropping of chemistry. [1:19:43] Comments on own relaxed attitude to university study. Mentions forming new friendships, QUB; lack of involvement in clubs/societies. Comments on social life, QUB. [1:22:04] Comments on meeting of/ development of relationship with future wife. [1:22:52] Story of failing applied mathematics ‘2a’; employment as science teacher in secondary school, Lisburn, NI, during ‘year out’. [1:25:31] Story of development of interest in archaeology through visit to Ulster Museum [UM], NI, discovery of flint scraper and other ‘worked flints’ in flower beds, QUB, sharing of flint objects with research assistant Peter Woodman [PW], UM; development of friendship with PW involving ‘field walks’ together, looking for Mesolithic/Neolithic material. [1:27:01] Story of ‘field walking’ during lunchtimes as school teacher, Lisburn; discovery of bronze age arrow head on building site, south Belfast. Mentions participation in excavations in UK and NI. [1:29:03] Story of finishing physics degree, QUB. Comments on switch to interest in archaeology. [1:30:36] Discussion of first visit to UM, including story of earlier meeting of Ulster Archaeological Society [UAS], involving discussion with attendee Paddy Shannon. [1:31:45] Story of meeting with Professor of Archaeology [Martyn Jope [MJ]], QUB leading to employment as part time Research Assistant in Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory [RDL], QUB working on project to develop an Irish tree ring chronology [TRC].
Interview with Dendrochronologist, Mike Baillie