Industry: water, steel & energy

Gee, Kevan (1 of 4). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Recording date

    2015-03-11, 2015-03-12

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Rugeley

  • Interviewees

    Gee, Kevan, 1945- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Comments on childhood: born in centre of Rugeley, 1945; description of flat roofed 'London House' tenement style home, shared with maternal grandparents, outside toilet, cracks in walls, no electricity, gas mantle lighting; father conscripted and sent to India, KG not seeing him until age of 3, leading to difficult relationship afterwards. [05:00] Remarks on family and upbringing: mother working, KG raised by grandparents; KG relationship with father improving after he married and left home, and understood difficulties faced by father on return to family after years away; KG rejection of father on his returning from India. [06:50] Comments on parents and grandparents: mother Gwyneth, Welsh mining background, KG grandparents moving to work in Rugeley; father Albert, growing up in tied estate cottages, difficult childhood due to death of his father, loss of home, difficult relationship with his step father; relationship with grandparents, KG doted on by maternal grandparents, paternal grandparents less sentimental but pleasant; KG fussed over by aunts; family relationships strained by father's return from years away in Army; [10:50] father's service in India; father working for English Electric in Stafford on switchgear, disappointed by not being called up to RAF; father leaving English Electric to work for Lancashire Dynamo Company; description of outgoing but strict father. [14:25] Description of modern council house moved into when KG was 4: contrast of new and old home; description of modern appliances; advantages of garden; open countryside to play in nearby. [17:10] Further remarks on parents: difficult relationship with father; feisty left wing outlook of mother leading to bickering over Tory outlook of father, giving KG a balanced outlook on life; mentions mother becoming a trade union official at Lucas, KG maternal grandfather a well educated community minded man; [20:15] gregarious nature of parents, good social lives; birth of KG younger brother and sister, large age gap between KG and siblings; KG and brother attending grammar school, younger brother studying chemistry degree and working on mineral exploration; mentions parents mellowing by later children; contrast of mother's modern outlook with father's traditional views, traditional split of domestic activities; mother's wartime experience giving her an independent outlook on life; mentions parent's bickering. [24:20] Remarks on religion: mother's chapel background, father brought up strictly Church of England; parents not attending church, but expecting KG to; KG attending small Church of England and Congregationalist Churches at different times; anecdote about grandmother's swearing. [26:15] Remarks on Rugeley in the 1950s: coal mining town; lists small industries in town; rural farming area. [27:40] Remarks on: father attending grammar school with scholarship but leaving early; details of father's work in English Electric as a fitter and progress chaser; influence of parents on KG, contrast of parents' politics leaving KG with broad-minded politically liberal outlook; farmworkers tending to be conservative in outlook; outline of father's conservative political beliefs, but having to admit goodness of National Health Service; mother's admiration of Aneurin Bevan; father loosing home in tied cottage in childhood; contrast of parents' views on community and state support; [33:50] parents meeting during war; father's colleagues at Lancashire Dynamo making televisions for their own use, leading to family having television in 1950s, KG watching 'Muffin the Mule' and other children's programmes, little television on in day. [37:10] Remarks on KG interests: enjoying countryside activities after house move; bird nesting, to a code of practice, KG collecting eggs in box; father's knowledge of wildlife; Observers Book of Birds'; fishing, shooting air rifles; [pause 39:35] KG taking to outdoor life, parents expecting children to play outdoors; describes outdoor activities, such as crayfishing, dam building, conkers, fruit picking, whittling, catapults, outdoor games; few toys after war, second hand bicycles, peddle car made by father at work; [43:40] cycling locally, anecdote about cycling to Stone aged 8; visiting Cannock Chase forestry area; KG friends introducing him to outdoors life, such as fishing and shooting air rifles; holidays in South Wales with mothers relatives, fathers relative more reticent. [47:00] Remarks on days out organised by working men's club: no holidays at seaside in childhood; visits to seaside towns such as Rhyl, Blackpool, New Brighton, and Belle Vue theme park in Manchester; grandfathers' involvement in working men's club and comrades club; pocket money and sandwiches for trips; long journeys by old buses; anecdote about variable conditions and age of buses, accompanied by breakdown bus on long journeys; occasional travel by excursion train. [51:15] Remarks on primary schools: KG attending local Church of England [CoE] infant and junior schools; KG passing 11 plus exams then attending local grammar school; strict and old teachers in CoE school, no sport facilities other than nearby football field; strict discipline in primary schools; church attendance expected, vicar doing religious educational talks; wife's Catholic school even moire religious; caning in junior school for misdemeanour’s; KG a timid pupil; anecdote about caning of boy who was talking during final school assembly; KG not caned but smacked for talking; [58:00] c150 pupils in junior school until large increase in numbers caused by influx of coal miners, including Poles, at time of opening of new Lee Hall Colliery; construction of new schools and buildings to accommodate extra pupils; changes in school pupil hierarchy as social organisation rearranged itself; many new pupils from very poor backgrounds, mentions odd clothing of poor pupils; progressive views and forward looking methods of teacher Mr Sandbrook; some teachers at junior school also teaching KG father. [1:04:10] Remarks on grammar school: KG not enjoying school before, KG gaining confidence in grammar school; Mr Sandbrook supportive at junior school, KG finding 11 plus a reasonable experience; culture shock of being further down the class when he joined grammar School; mixed grammar school buildings, sports facilities, seemed large at time; mentions studying Latin, French; KG not working hard in latter years, father buying milk round suggesting a job for KG after school; [1:09:30] teachers advising KG to work harder, KG not getting on with father when he joined milk round. [1:09:45] Remarks on KG leaving school to work with father on milk round: KG disagreements with father in teenage years; small pay, in contrast to KG friends who worked in professional trainee roles in mines, mines paying well, or went to university. [1:12:30] Remarks on KG taking part time work in afternoon on farm: KG loving farm work; [pause phone 1:13:00] mixed farm bringing range of work, crops, animals, tractor driving; KG adapting to hard heavy work; KG getting on well with farmer, KG leaving father's milk round to work full time on farm; outline of days work, long days at harvest time; KG enjoying the solitude and physical work; pay not much. [1:16:35] Remarks on milk round: early morning starts, but free afternoons; enjoying freedom of being out and about; good experience of mixing with people; mix of town and country round; milk delivered from larger dairy in Market Drayton; self built cold room at new house in Breerton; typical seven day working week; anecdote about KG embarrassment over a mistake with free milk for pregnant women; KG enjoying work apart from friction with father; JG annoyance over brother-in-law being paid more by father for doing KG job after he left to work on farm. [1:22:55] Remarks on KG return milk round from farming: KG marriage needing he needed better paid job; KG approached by owner of a milk round to buy his round; KG still working on farm part time; mentions children being born; KG selling milk round to larger diary but continuing to work on a different milk round. [1:24:30] Remarks on: courtship arranged through family and friends setting them up, meeting wife at Saturday night dance; KG marriage in 1968, purchase of milk round in 1967. [1:25:40] Further remarks on milk round: rounds valued on gallons of milk sold; KG paying off milk round on a monthly basis; KG driving milk van not electric float; working for a larger milk company allowing KG luxury of a day off a week and holiday time, expectation he worked on a different round; [pause 1:28:50] KG working life always allowing him freedom and movement, size of power station in doors but with similar freedom. [1:29:30] Comments on building of Rugeley A Power Station c1959: KG aunts marrying construction workers; KG father delivering milk to station contractors; contractors' village on site, earthworks; local people grateful for prospects of power station bringing jobs and security for coal mine; culture shock of giant power station cooling towers emerging; anecdote about power station ruining television reception in area; KH never thinking of working there, but supplying milk to contractors; KG impressed by how well contractors were paid; Power station not employing as many people as mines, early staff drafted from other stations; many of KG school friends working in mine.

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