Linfield Cottage, Lustleigh ~ Mother with me and David 1937

15. Apr, 2016

Finally . . .

I finally found the piece I was looking for which gives a fair idea of BOTH our parents and, as I've said, typing is quite difficult at the minute (roll on 26th and cataract op) I'm giving you the whole jolly piece !

The Proctor Parents

George Longmate Proctor              ~                   Daddy / George / Gavin   ~   1903-1990

George was born in Lincoln and from the age of 9 brought up in Scunthorpe.   His parents were hard-working and respectable, and his mother a staunch Methodist. 

He won the first ever scholarship in Lincolnshire and went to Brigg Grammar School where boys, staff and particularly the Headmaster treated him with scorn in spite of his shining intelligence ~ maybe this spurred him on to outstrip all the obnoxious fee paying boys. 

Of course, University did not come into it at that time, not for a working class lad, but from school he got an apprenticeship with Boots and qualified as a dispensing chemist at their branch in Brighouse, Lancashire.   However Boots must have seen his potential and sponsored him to go to Goldsmiths College in London and train as a teacher.  This is where he met my mother.  I think between Boots and Goldsmiths, he spent 6 months in a work camp in Germany, but I don’t know much about that. 

Anne Ines Louie Proctor née Angus  ~  Mum / Mummy / Anya /  Lud ~ 1907-2008

Louie was 12th of the 13 children born to Mary and David Angus, one of the Victorian Scottish Railway Engineers.  He and Mary travelled  through South America building railways in Chile, Argentina, Brazil … everywhere.   There were 9 Angus girls, and 4 boys two of whom died as infants, and Stewart and Archiewho were both killed in the Great War.   A loss from which David and Mary (like so many millions of other grieving parents) never recovered.  By 1914 Stewart had qualified as an engineer at Edinburgh University and Archie was due to follow him there ~ my Grandfather hoped to found a great engineering dynasty much like MacAlpine (do I mean MacAlpine ?) ~ David Angus and Sons..

Anne Innes Louie was born in Chile where the family were treated like royalty ~ the railway was bringing the country into the twentieth century.   These Scottish railway engineers were akin to Space Travellers in later years. 

Christ’s Hospital in Hertford was offering scholarships to families who had lost boys in the war, and it just happened that at 9/10 Louie was the right age.   She spent the next 8 years at the school, and from there she too went on to GoldsmithsCollege to train as a teacher, which is where she met Gavin and in fact I believe they became joint presidents of the Students Union. They married in 1931.  In her seventies mother wrote her memoirs of CH, Blue Skirts into Blue Stockings (Ian Alan 1981), with her own charming naïve illustrations.

From the start our parents were full of social idealism.  This led them to work among the unemployed in the Durham Coal field, helping to run a Quaker-inspired Settlement in SeahamHarbour where my brother David and I were born.   The object of the Settlement was to offer practical help to the striking miners and their families, and also to provide Education for them.   Most of the men would have left school at the age of 12 to go down the pit, but thanks to the guidance and inspiration they received, several of them eventually got degrees, became teachers, and one a doctor.   These were men who until the Quakers came along were scarcely literate.

 In addition to academic opportunities, the staff introduced the miners to such delights as camping, walking, drama, music, art etc.   And the miners’ wives were not overlooked ~ the female staff of the Settlement, Mother included, taught cookery, needlework, dance, painting and household skills.   In fact, years later some of these Seaham Harbour folk insisted that those years of unemployment had enriched their lives beyond recognition.

Now with a growing family, my parents felt the need to set up on their own rather than continue with the communal arrangements in the Settlement.   Young as he was, Daddy was appointed head of an exciting new project in Cambridgeshire ~ a community college offering a normal education to children plus educational opportunities of every sort for their families ~ sport, music, drama, art in addition to basic literary and academic classes.   This was exactly the pioneering opening that they had dreamed of but only a week or two before he took up the post, the sponsor, some noble duke or other, died.  His heir withdrew all funding immediately and the project was scrapped, leaving Daddy, with a wife and two small children, unemployed !

Before marriage he had spent a year in Sweden inspecting the teaching of  English and now was offered the job of Inspector of English throughout the Swedish Education System, and this meant inspecting and advising every school and college in Sweden from Infant to University level !   At the time he had very little Swedish himself.   In the three months between getting the job and going out there, he taught himself Swedish, eventually becoming so fluent he was often mistaken for a Swede by Swedes !!   And later he mastered Norwegian, Danish, German and Icelandic, indeed in retirement producing a new translation of the Icelandic Sagas, and although Penguin showed initial interest the project was never published. 

There was a theory in the family that his gift for Scandinavian languages might be an indication that his East Coast / Lincolnshire forebears were descended from Viking invaders ~ and now of course with DNA testing, they are discovering the “Viking” genes in modern DNA !  Who knows …

Before he left for Sweden, they had found a house to rent in Lustleigh, Devon where Mother lived alone with me and David ~ Daddy came home in the summer for a month or two , and again for a few weeks over Christmas.  Sometimes he found her a Swedish au pair girl for company ~ Brita was the one remembered most fondly.   This went on for 3 years, I think, until talk of the impending war brought him back to England for fear he should get stranded out there.  This was when they moved to Bristol.  Their shared Social Conscience was still very strong.   He got a job in Knowle West, the vast soulless housing estate where Mike and Helen Hulbert were also working who became life long friends.   From an idyllic 16th century thatched cottage in Lustleigh, they now moved to a council house in a mean street in this already notorious slum clearance estate : Knowle West. 

I think they were fairly happy in Knowle West with Mike and Helen, and Auntie May all working to alleviate the poverty and despair of their neighbours.   A few years ago a friend took me back there and it is still a deeply depressing place.   Seeing the women of my age there, I thought how easily I might have spent my life among them ~ oh Gawd !! 

It was in that mean little council house that the next Proctor baby was born in 1938 ~ Stephen.   An interesting snippet here : I once asked Mother where Stephen’s name came from as all the rest of us had Angus family names : David, Joy, Nancy, Mary, William and Helen.   She told me that when they first moved to Bristol she was longing for another baby.  One day she went into town and wandered into old St Stephen’s Church ~ is it in Old Market ? ~ and prayed to the Saint for another baby.  Of course he didn’t send ONE but FIVE more !!   Which just goes to show you should be jolly careful what you pray for !! 

I think they were only a couple of years in Knowle West before moving to a lovely Edwardian 4 bedroomed semi in St Martin’s Road, Knowle (the more respectable Knowle !) with a splendid garden ~ a very different set-up this ~ middle class and professional.   They rented this house for the next twenty years, I think.   I was married from there 15 year later and I think Nancy was as well.   During the war, we were all evacuated back to Lustleigh ~ sometimes Mother came down there too and helped run the small private boarding school friends of hers had established in a farmhouse above the village, Mapstone.

     That's enough for today ~ I'm getting boggled eyes

~ and you are probably bored stiff ~ time for a bath before supper 

I'm transferring the rest of this to next entry

424   April 16th


Some of us in St Martin's Road round about 1950 ~ Mary and Nancy must have been away at school ~ Christ's Hospital Hertford