Industry: water, steel & energy

Baker, Sir John (1 of 12). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Recording date

    2013-12-03, 2014-01-07, 2014-02-05, 2014-02-19, 2014-04-10, 2014-05-21

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, London

  • Interviewees

    Baker, Sir John, 1937- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Remarks on childhood and parents: born 5 December 1937 Harrow Weald; father's career at Windsor and Newton, artist material suppliers, in Wealdstone, eventually as Managing Director; semi detached 1930s home; energetic, artist mother, born in Slough where JB grandfather worked for the railway; parents meeting through work. [02:00] Remarks on father: family background of traders and butchers from Sherborne in Dorset; JB recollection of family butcher shop in Dorset; JB cousins introducing him to country life. [03:20] Remarks on wartime: memory of father carrying JB to bunker during air raid; near misses to house; loss of childhood friends. [04:30] Remarks on: visiting father's work at Windsor and Newtons; parents' social life, firm table tennis tournaments; anecdote about Charabanc trips to seaside enlivened by singing; JB helping father with growing food in back garden. [06:45] Remarks on evacuation with mother and cousins to Bangor 1940-43: seeing little of father during evacuation; locals speaking Welsh; accommodation with elderly Welsh couple, one of whom was a railway fluffer; description of work of a fluffer removing debris in Menai Straits bridge; JB recalling little of London before; working on slate and singing in Welsh at school; great difference between school in Wales and Harrow; [11:10] joining Cub Scouts; enjoying Welsh countryside; limited technology in life. [12:00] Remarks on JB cousin: cousin's later life in Southern Rhodesia, JB later helping to support her after conditions in Zimbabwe had deteriorated; description of cousin; cousin's enjoyment of African bush; good relationship with JB as children. [14:40] Remarks on father: schooling at Christ's Hospital after death of his mother; warm and intelligent personality; good relationship with staff; anecdote about father's stress over introduction of problematic computer systems. [17:30] Remarks on mother: limited formal education; artistic and creative; frustrated by her father insisting she work rather than take up scholarship to art school; demanding as a mother, later objected to JB attending Oxford; formidable and resourceful personality; worked in shops and as a designer and decorator; capable artist; great reader with wide knowledge; enjoyed tennis; making toys in wartime; contrast of parents' different personalities; JB disagreements with mother. [22:15] Remarks on influence of parents on JB; from father, hard work, respect for people; from mother, rigour, independence, value of intellect; encouragement of sport and sociability. [23:25] Remarks on younger brother David: born postwar; difficult baby; limited relationship with JB until he became an adult due to age gap; JB admiration for brother; Psychology educated at Cardiff followed by career at IBM until redundancy, then as system adviser to Newbury Council; bachelor life until late marriage; keen golfer and gardener. [28:00]Remarks on family life: traditional pattern of life; limited disposable income; little travel abroad; obtaining car and telephone postwar. [29:30] Comments on secondary schooling at Harrow Weald County Grammar School 1949-56: previously attending private junior school then prep school after return from Bangor; JB doing well academically; mixed-sex schooling; excellent school with wide breadth of extracurricular activities and good sports provision; single case of teenage pregnancy; school teaching respect and equality of women, in contrast to JB later working environment; good record of sending pupils to Oxford; high standard of education; JB good grades at everything other than art; [34:30] JB specialising in English, French, History at A-level; doing O-levels on one year course, at which point he stopped studying science; JB lifelong involvement with science; good teachers, such as Barbara Gaastra, who remained in touch after JB left school; stimulating economics and history teacher Merlyn Rees , later a politician, who encouraged a socially conscious viewpoint; encouraging English teacher Barbara Gaastra; JB happy school days with many friends and activities; [40:15] description of 1930s redbrick school buildings; anecdote about history teacher's love of cricket and caring for pitch; death of school friends in Harrow and Wealdstone rail crash; JB enjoying sport, school choirs, theatre direction, debating; school relaxed atmosphere aided by presence of female pupils; few ethnic minorities in school. [44:30] Remarks on: JB interests in youth mostly sports and outdoor activities; JB playing minor league football; school astronomical society; girlfriends; school overseas trip to Switzerland; Oxford exams; JB disagreements with mother, mother's frustrations over limitations imposed on her own life; assumption that JB would go to sixth form and then make his own mind up about direction; expectation of National Service limiting suggestions for future avenues of work; [49:15] anecdote about JB telling careers guidance teacher that he would like a career to interpret science for public; JB general interest in science; JB science reading in youth; JB enjoying 'New Scientist'. [52:10] Comments on JB start at Oriel College Oxford in 1959: studying Anglo-Saxon in first year; culture shock of starting at Oxford, few public sector schooled students, many former national servicemen, largely male environment, upper class students; JB settling in well to stimulating academic environment of Oxford; lively social life; primitive living conditions; collegiate atmosphere; good sporting facilities; JB taking time to settle in to environment; [1:01:00] pre-existing familiarity between former public school boy contemporaries; description of JB clothing in university days.

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