Butler, Rosemary (2 of 14). National Life Story Collection: Artists' Lives.
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Interviewee's home, Hertfordshire
Butler, Rosemary, 1930- (speaker, female)
Whiteley, Gillian (speaker, female)
Describes furniture. Books. Brett Young, Galsworthy, books on primitive man. No art books. Lots of geographical magazines. Mexican images impressed Rosemary. Chac-mool - excited and horrified Rosemary. Recalled these images as student at big exhibition of Mexican Art in London as student. Also lots of novels in house. Mother beautiful and auditioned for Old Vic to be actress. Mother born Hull, family came to house at Neasden, Woodheys Road, backed on to marshalling yards. Grandfather died at about age 89, had paper patterns he made from newspaper. Mother trained as dressmaker but ambitious and driven. Her younger sister was typist and worked in telephone exchange. Her older sister had heart problems. Mother's 'drive' - lost her original accent, fashionable, ambitious. Exquisitely dressed flapper in 1920s. Describes dresses, coats. Mother never worked after married father. Mother tennis club champion. Rosemary's schooling. Kindergarten. Great friend, Mavis Gunter with 3 children, family doctor and lifelong family friend. Mother had difficulty having brother. Mavis delivered brother, Rosemary sent next door neighbours and returned to find brother. Not told he was due. Surprise. Stuart, brother, slept in drawer, can't remember any preparation for baby coming. Father's sisters were both nurses. Mother always vulnerable, ambitious but easily unbalanced, had lifted herself out of different world. Kindergarten - Rosemary very bright early on, scholarship to local school. Went on train at age 7 on own from Esher with Mavis Gunter's daughter to Bearwood Park at Walton-on-Thames everyday. Steam trains but local electric trains too. Spark in eye from steam trains. Religion. Father's parents were church attenders. Father never a church-goer once left Scotland. No relgious leanings in family as young girl. Schooling. Burwood School. Lovely house, wealthy area, gardens. Enjoyed it and did well until father died 1940. Summer holidays in Scotland. Uncle Hugh had farm, description, managed farm for Aunt. Remembers being taken up at aged 8, in 1938, and left for summer with old Aunt, very strict, Victorian ideas but loved Uncle Hugh. Father very ill at time. Memories of holiday on farm. Sundays very quiet. Rides on horse. Family was related to Flemings, penicillin founders. Following summer 1939, father ill with double TB. Saw father in hospital, shocking state. Sent to Scotland again, war about to start. Father's friend had Manor Farm near Reading, went there often too - the Steels family very influential. While at Scotland, August 30th 1939, Rosemary was collected in huge car and drove back September 1st to Manor Farm, remembers listening to radio and declaration of war. Rosemary and brother, aged 3, evacuated to Manor Farm. Went to village school. May 1940, father returned from Papworth, Queen's physician came to check him but he died. Rosemary despatched next door. Father cremated. They returned to farm at Reading. Rosemary had been at Wimbledon High School 1939-1940, Girls' Public Day School Trust, linked to Oxford High School where she spent whole of war. Father died while at Oxford High School, desparately upset by father's death. Knew he was sick but never anticipated he would die.
Rosemary Butler is the wife of the late sculptor, Reg Butler (1913-1981). Over the course of this interview, she discusses Reg Butler's life and work.