Gill, Peter (1 of 14). The legacy of the English Stage Company.
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2008-11-10, 2009-02-27, 2009-03-25, 2009-05-17, 2009-09-29, 2009-11-25, 2009-12-10, 2010-01-21, 2010-02-10, 2010-03-05, 2010-03-29
Gill, Peter, 1939- (speaker, male)
Devine, Harriet (speaker, female)
Part 1: [Session 1: 7 November 2008] PG born 7 September 1939, Cardiff. Both mother’s and father’s family examples of internal migration. Father’s family from Taunton, Somerset. Gills were farmworkers, Ridleys ended with village policeman. Moved to Cardiff in 1880s seeking work. Grandfather Henry John Gill, died in his 50s. Grandmother Rosa Louisa [RLG] died in 1940s. HJG worked in flour mill on docks; description of old Cardiff, grandparents living situation. PG’s memory of RLG and his aunt Nelly and her husband, uncle Jim Hutchens. PG’s father, George John Gill [GJG], born 1903, a docker, then a clerk, then a progress chaser in the steelworks, worked till age 70. Mother’s family from Ireland, possibly from Limerick. Grandfather William Browne [WB] a docker in Cardiff. Married Ellen [EB] (possibly O’Donnell), family from Waterford or Wexford, born Cardiff. EB’s sisters, her family, devout Irish Catholics. RLG had 18 children, only a handful survived. EB’s children all survived: Joseph, James, Nelly (PG’s godmother), William (first to marry a Protestant, Auntie Violet), Kitty (PG’s first teacher), Steve, and PG’s mother, Margaret Mary [MMG] [16:20]. Family lived in Love Lane, central Cardiff, a RC enclave, very close knit. RLG and EB both clever women. All PG’s first cousins passed 11-plus, but not ambitious. GJG’s temperament more mild, English. Mixed marriages forbidden by RC church; children brought up RC; many partners later converted; no problem within MMG’s family. Relative rarity of meeting aunts, uncles, cousins owing to geographical distance. PG’s closeness to Aunt Kitty [AK]; living with AK for a period; Uncle Steve, his batchelorhood; his awkwardness, leading to lack of promotion on docks. GJG’s fondness for his older sister Mabel; not so defined by religion because Anglicans; PG first meeting his Uncle Bob at GJG’s funeral. PG’s 25 first cousins; his two schoolteacher cousins Paddy and Mary, in their 80s, still visiting PG; unmarried, owing to position in society; daughters of AK [31:17]. PG’s relationship with AK; her character; her abilities. MMG’s skill with babies. Story of taking AK to Westminster Abbey; her comment. Appearance of MMG, AK, other siblings; family resemblances still persisting. Meeting of GJG and MMG, at church hall dance; their early residences. Birth of children, Bernard [BG] (1929), Paul [PaG] (1931), Mary Bernadette [MBG] (c. 1934); death of MBG aged 5 after birth of PG (1939). PG’s vivid memories of BG and PaG when PG growing up; their home, a council house, Tweedsmuir Road, Cardiff. PG’s recent meeting with childhood friend, at Donmar Warehouse. Nature of council estate; gratitude of residents for better living conditions; their formation of a supportive group; nature of working-class life in wartime. Description of house; PG as baby of family; memory of going to Anderson shelter at night; difficulties for women with husbands at work or at war; memory of seeing crashed German plane [46:12] PG’s first memory, of trying to speak. BG and PaG’s school, St Albans. PG a clinging child; recollections of playing pirates on the settee, dressing up; MMG’s invented war job, to escape to the cinema; MMG’s physical cuddling; her ability to nurse a child in a shawl; no playing games, doing puzzles; first teaching was of prayers; memory of taking Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia to bed; parents not readers, but lovers of cinema and theatre. GJG’s story-telling about pre-war days; describing sweets; story about BG and PaG going into town, buying sweets. MMG’s stories about people: cousins, grandparents; EB’s encyclopedic knowledge of goings on in neighbourhood. Neighbouring family of pre-teenage orphans, cared for by neighbours; grandparents brought up an orphaned child. PG’s few toys; making-do and mending; PG’s clothes. PG’s first school, St Albans; memories of first teacher, early unhappiness; sweetness of headmistress; PG’s brightness on religious knowledge [1:00:21]. Story of getting into trouble, disappointing headmistress. Local youth club; PG’s appearance in ‘The Gondoliers’. PG’s first communion, aged six; disliking confession; fasting the night before, being made breakfast after communion by teachers; being given egg to take home, throwing it away; a big occasion, disturbing. Religious education: catechism; sins; training in philosophical thinking; taught by young women teachers. Learning to read, enjoying reading; getting annuals and books for Christmas; going to the cinema. Church going; different mass times for different members of the family. Coming home for dinner. Doing plays in class on St David’s Day. PG’s enjoyment of school, despite lavatories and playground violence. Friendships. Moving school to middle class Catholic independent school, aged 7 [1:15:11]. Living with AK; money for school raised by Cousin Paddy and MMG. School started by order of Christian brothers to feed needs of aspirant lower middle class and wealthier middle class; grammar school taught by same order. PG’s recent meeting with an old school friend. Grammar school friendships: John James [JJ], Michael Collins [MC], Stephen McKenna [SMK]; queuing to see Royal Ballet with MC, aged 14; getting school to put on a play. School hall used by local drama group; PG’s memory of seeing [Moliere’s] ‘Tartuffe’ and other plays; joining youth department of drama group. Having coffee with group of friends in Kardomah coffee house; dress code for boys and girls. SMK joined army, later went to St Martin’s Art College. JJ became a poet; PG’s later meeting with JJ. Further contact with old school friends; lunch with SMK, letter from JJ; JJ’s poem about Cardiff. PG’s recent lunch with Jeremy Seabrook and Michael O’Neill, writers of play ‘Life Price’ directed by PG at RCT in 1960s; their similar backgrounds to PG; conversation about coming financial crisis. Drama group meetings; plays put on; nature of youth group; plays done in grammar school halls [1:30:15]; PG’s parts. PG a natural performer, read in classes; PG and JJ did scene at school between Prince Arthur and Hubert, from ‘King John’. PG’s increasing interest in drama; fun and comradeship of staying late, painting scenery. Becoming an actor, an answer to everything. GJG’s enjoyment of music hall; MMG’s love of radio drama. Seeing plays in Cardiff, and occasionally in Bristol; loving Graham Greene’s ‘The Living Room’; exoticism of middle-class world. MMG’s attitude to PG going into theatre; jobs of BG and PaG. Going to evening classes at Cardiff College of Music and Drama [CCMD]; activities; joining full-time course aged 17, having got 5 GCEs, and briefly in 6th form; enjoying English Literature, not good at writing essays.
Life story interview with Peter Gill, theatre director, playwright and actor.