Oral history of British science

Bell, Nigel (1 of 12). An Oral History of British Science

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  • Subjects

    Atmospheric Science

  • Recording date

    2013-01-10, 2013-03-07, 2013-04-08, 2013-04-11, 2013-05-03, 2013-05-09, 2013-06-13, 2013-07-12, 2013-08-06

  • Recording locations

    Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College, London

  • Interviewees

    Bell, Nigel, 1943- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Nigel Bell born in Derby, United Kingdom [UK], 26th April, 1943. Mentions paternal grandfather’s occupation as railway draftsman. Story of father’s career, mostly in Rolls Royce [RR] as aeronautical engineer and ‘senior author’. Mentions father’s ability as an artist. Story of father’s establishment (after World War Two [WW2]) and unsuccessful development of own advertising agency in Derby. Comments on father’s lack of interest in socialising. [4:37] Story of father’s employment as publicist in Production Engineering Research Association, Melton Mowbray [MM], Leicestershire following closure of own business in mid 1950s, until about 1960. Mentions own move from grammar school in Belper, Derbyshire to County Grammar School of King Edward VII [CGSKE], MM. Comments on mother’s view of move to MM; parents’ tendency not to travel even within Derbyshire, except for annual holiday in north Wales, once in Cornwall. [8:13] Story of father’s move back to work for RR as designer/publicist in early 1960s. Mentions father’s retirement. Brief comments on parents’ home in Derby from 1962. [9:30] Mentions death before own birth of both grandfathers. Comments on mother’s status as youngest sibling of five; grandmothers’ lives as farm daughters. [11:04] Comments on maternal grandfather’s occupation as lace designer/manufacturer; strict Wesleyan Methodist upbringing of mother; character/abilities of maternal grandfather. [12:47] Comments on mother’s insecurity as an adult, in relation to her childhood; lace business inherited by maternal uncle; mother’s career aspirations blocked by her father; mother’s large childhood home. Mentions birth of own sister, 1946. Brief comments on character of mother; emotional closeness to mother. Mentions mother’s death, 1990; father’s death more recently; mother’s membership of MM Townswomen’s Guild [MG]; theatre trips of MG. [17:43] Story of earliest memory of aunt Hilda. Comments on setting of childhood home on edge of Allestree Park [AP], in Allestree, Derby with lake and woods; memories of WW2 blackout curtains, food parcels and Italian Prisoners of War, practices of food preparation, including preservation of eggs in ‘water glass’. Story of mother’s cleaning lady involving mother’s view of status of different kinds of Christmas meat. [25:13] Description of childhood house, Evans Avenue, Derby. Mentions father’s interest in birds. Continues description of house. Story of lodger. Continues description of house. Mentions unreliability of electricity supply. Comments on mother’s cooking; contrast between parents’ lack of and own extensive international travel. Mentions radio/loudspeakers. [39:18] Description of upstairs of house, including memories of things seen from windows, father’s woodwork room; back garden. Comments on practice of salting runner beans; fruit and vegetables grown; keeping of hens, with related story. [46:30] Comments on primary schools attended. Mentions own Christening at St Edmund’s Church, Allestree. Comments on development of/around Allestree, including effect of halted building work, WW2, leaving foundations of buildings. [51:59] Comments on parents’ home, Derby from 1962. Story of childhood experience of foot and mouth disease on local farms. [55:47] Track 1 [cont. from 55:47] Stories of time spent with mother, including shopping with ration book, travel sickness on buses, boredom in particular shop, visits to bookshops and Boots (the chemist) library. Comments on preference for upper deck of buses. Mentions visits to Derby Museum with mother. Comments on visits to Belper, Derbyshire with mother; rich industrial archaeology of Derby. [1:04:32] Brief comments on conversation with mother. Stories of parents’ driving. Mentions own lifelong dislike of cars. Comments on mother’s friends. [1:08:49] Story of relations with maternal uncle, businessman and horologist, including shared interest in biology/travel, gift of paternal great grandfather’s gold retirement watch. Mentions membership of Midland Railway Society. [1:15:32] Description of use of Boots Library. Comments on books read in childhood. Mentions use of Belper library. Comments on MM Carnegie library; reasons for enjoying Arthur Ransome’s books, including Swallows and Amazons. Mentions recent illness; membership of Arthur Ransome Society. [1:21:25] Stories of limited time spent with father as a child, including summer holidays in north Wales. Comments on parents’ unwillingness to travel (except for summer holiday); family experiences on Allestree lakes, including boating, ice skating; family sledging. [1:27:13] Stories of close family friend Adrian Lombard [AL] (former Director of RR), including own first experience of watching television, 1949, AL’s funeral with flyover. Story of origin and development of interest in train spotting; visit to London with friend; seeing Winston Churchill at Woodford Wells, Essex. [1:32:31] Stories of outdoor childhood play with friends/sister, including learning to ride a bike. [1:37:18] Comments on interest in trains/train spotting; family history of association with railways. Story of great uncle’s probable undiagnosed diabetes; coincidence involving own and current wife’s family histories. [1:45:25] Comments on exceptional performance of self and friend at first primary school; second primary school. Story of school trips from second primary school, including visit to Matlock, Castleton caverns; trip to Peak District [PD] with family au pair. Mentions PhD and postdoctoral fieldwork in PD. [1:52:01] Comments on childhood interest in natural history, including things seen in AP, abundance of frogs visiting garden. Mentions father’s membership of Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Story of showing pet frogs to au pair girl. Comments on parents’ interest in wildlife; father’s interest in history; journey on Snowdon mountain railway. Mentions pets, including rabbit, budgerigars. [1:56:30] Stories of family au pair. [1:59:35] Comments on teaching and learning, primary school including enthusiasm for history, geography, English literature; BBC radio programmes listened to at school, including ‘Rhythm and Melody’, ‘Singing Together’, ‘Music and Movement’, (Home Service) ‘How Things Began’, historical, geographical and natural history programmes; BBC Children’s Hour; radio Sherlock Holmes adventures. Comments on tendency for family to have inherited furniture/equipment. Description of radiogram. Mentions longstanding enjoyment of classical music. Comments on family financial situation, related to father’s failing business; own successful career. [2:05:33] Stories of childhood bullying. Comments on perception of large numbers of local children, Allestree.

  • Description

    Life story interview with environmental scientist Nigel Bell.

  • Related transcripts

    Nigel Bell interviewed by Paul Merchant: full transcript of the interview

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