I was born on 27 July 1936 in Southampton. My father had been in the Royal Navy from 1910, and went round Cape Horn under sail. In 1924 he went to Cunard and became a captain (of both the “Queens”). My mother was from a legal family. Her father was a Mason and a solicitor, also mayor of Southampton, and welcomed Charlie Chaplin to the city. Both my parents were converts to Roman Catholicism in the 1920s.
I have an older sister who is 93, a sister who died before I was born, and a brother who died in his 70s.
My first school was a Quaker school in Philadelphia when I was four. We went to live there because of the War. My father was on the North Atlantic convoys, with his ship at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and didn’t know we were coming. It was a surprise! Later we came back to live in Scotland, and I went to Fort Augustus School when I was six. The prep school for that was normally in Edinburgh but was moved during the War. I’ve been with Benedictines ever since I was six, but I have never been tempted to join them – never! After the War my parents moved south, but I stayed in Scotland at school in North Berwick, and then went to Douai. I finished my schooling at Woolhampton in 1953.
By then my father had just about retired because of ill health, and funds were short. I went to do an engineering degree at Bournemouth Tech, and then took an apprenticeship with GEC in Coventry 1954-59 with a sandwich course in electrical engineering. I didn’t work very hard at that; I wasn’t very interested.
From 1959 to 1961 I did my National Service in the Air Force, including a year in Cyprus doing meteorology. Afterwards someone I had previously known from the Norwich Union suggested I join Norwich Union as a trainee actuary. So in 1962 I came to Norwich. I changed to the legal side of things as I wasn’t interested in finance. It was mainly conveyancing and mortgages, and I did get a qualification: I am a fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives. I stayed at Norwich Union till I retired on 1992.
Early on I was in digs in and around Norwich. At one time I was engaged to the daughter of my landlady, and I have been in touch with her again since Mabel died.
I met Mabel through a mutual acquaintance in 1967, and we were married in 1968. Mabel had been to teacher training college, and was a teacher at St Edmund’s School in Bungay. Mabel was a Fairhead, and that part of the family can be traced back to 1390. This house is her family home. When she had been doing her training in Clacton she had contracted chicken pox and this made her deaf. Over the course of our marriage her hearing got worse and in the end I had to write things down.
I was attracted to her because we had a lot of interests in common – our faith, history, old churches. It was very important that we shared a faith. A lot of girls I had known had not been Catholic.
I came here to Brookside on 18 October 1968, and Mabel spent that night over the road at her aunt’s, as we were not married. This happened on the next day at St Edmund’s with Father O’Hara. I don’t always feel I am entirely connected with Norfolk; maybe there would have been a better connection if we had had children. It’s not really a regret that we didn’t have any – it made it so much simpler to deal with everything after Mabel died.
I was 56 when I retired in 1992. After that Mabel and I went out and about a lot, but as time went by Mabel became less keen. She put on a lot of weight, and this contributed to her death (on 24 July 2013).
After the funeral I started sorting things out here. I cleared two bedrooms. Mabel kept bits of small change all over the house, and in the end I took £1700 of coins to the bank! I had to wheel them in a sack barrow.
Mabel’s condition (it is thought she had Asperger’s) alienated me from my own family. I read an article on someone with Asperger’s in the Daily Mail, and I wrote to the paper, and my sister read this, and told me she had never known that Mabel had this condition. Now I’m in touch with her and with my nephew.
I am busy. I have the garden, the orchard and hedging of the fields – the meadow across the road, where I had goats at one time. Goats keep you fit. They make you run. I used to spend a lot of time doing things for Mabel – housework and mending; I don’t mind doing that. I also write. I have written on the Mass, and at present I am researching in order to write an essay on evolution. I want to get my facts right, but I don’t think I believe in it. Yes…I am a Creationist.
My house is full of Catholic books and directories and Church history. Mabel was very keen on the English Martyrs, and indeed my own Confirmation name is Thomas, after St Thomas More. I was confirmed on the Feast of St Benedict.
Because I lived away from my parents almost all my life my parents’ faith is not really known to me. At school we lived in a Catholic atmosphere and ethos. It was an era marked by a Tridentine outlook – which I share. I have felt uncomfortable with developments since Vatican II. There is too much compromise with the world and the world’s values. It doesn’t seem right to me to live by the world’s principles.
I am very interested in the history of the Church, and I have been instructing someone in the faith. I go to Mass when I can, and certainly every Thursday, when I am also a carer for the person I am instructing, who is long-term ill.
My mother wrote her autobiography before she died, and said that my father was the most upright man she had ever met. I hope that could be my epitaph.