Autobiographical account composed by Professor Peter Stein circa 1978
This account was kindly presented to the Eminent Scholars Archive by Professor Stein's daughter, Dr Penelope Stein, on 31 August 2016.
Chapter 1: Parentage
Genetically I am a mongrel. My paternal grandfather, Sigmund Stein, was born in 9 September 1861 on a farm at Skopitetz a village in Bohemia, now in Czechoslovakia. I tried to find it on large scale maps and finally found a village now called Skopytyce, about 13 km southeast of Tabor. The farm was occupied by the Prussian Uhlans (cavalry) during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the campaign of which was in eastern Bohemia. His father's name was Alois.
The Steins were German- speaking, not Czech-speaking; it seems that they were of Jewish descent, but non-practising, although the name Stein is found both among Jews and non-Jews. I never discussed this matter with my father, but I assume it from the fact that Luise Kohn, the daughter of my grandfather's only sister, who came to England as a refugee in the 1930s, was Jewish. In fact the first time that I became aware that I might be thought to be other than Christian was at the age of twelve, when, to my astonishment, I was asked by the chaplain at school whether I was a Christian or a Jew.
Sigmund Stein studied from 1871 to 1879 at the gymnasium in Iglau (Jihlava), where he was a contemporary of Gustav Mahler. Iglau is actually in the province of Moravia and about 55km from Skopitetz, so he presumably boarded with a landlady. He then proceeded for four years to the Technische Hochschule in Vienna,where he graduated in Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering and Agriculture in 1883. He specialised in sugar and particularly the manufacture of sugar from beat. After military service as a cadet in the Austrian army in 1883-4 , he worked in sugar beat factories in Bohemia and Silesia and in 1890 he was invited by Messrs Crosfield Barrow to manage their sugar refinery in Liverpool. Sugar beat was just beginning to be grown in England, and he was a great enthusiast for its merits.
In 1904 he became a freelance researcher and consultant and spent sometime in Rumania. In 1908 he went to America (Louisiana and Ontario), where he studied both cane sugar manufacture and maple-syrup making. He travelled much on the continent advising and reporting on patents relating to sugar, and was an expert witness before the Royal Commission on Arsenical Poisoning (1901-2). From 1895 to 1914 he tried to popularise sugar beat growing in England, lecturing to farmers all over the country, and published two editions of a book called "Sugar." (1898-9), and many articles, particularly some controversial pieces in the International Sugar Journal in the early 1900s, and the article on sugar beat in the Encyclopedia for Agriculture.
For a time after his arrival in England Sigmund Stein remained an Austrian citizen and so had to return every year for exercises with his regiment, in which he was a reserve officer. It was stationed at Riva sulla Garda in the province of Trento. En route he stopped once at Wiesbaden and there met my grandmother. She was born Ida Eugenie Marx in 1873 at Bingen am Rhein, not far from Wiesbaden. She claimed to have been named after the French empress Eugenie; the family adhered to the Grand Duke of Hessen and were anti-Prussian. They married and set up home in Liverpool, where they lived in a large house 214 Upper Parliament Street, then a prosperous area.
My father, who was named Walter Harold Arthur Oscar Alois, was their only child and was born in Liverpool on 25 October 1897. He was thus British born and about that time my grandparents decided to become naturalised British subjects, the process being completed on 19 June 1899. Before he gave up his Austrian citizenship, Sigmund Stein was awarded a diamond tie-pin, in the form of the letters F J 1, by the Emperor Franz Josef I. (I wore it at Barbara's wedding.) My grandmother told me that she kept my grandfather's blue army uniform and kepi until 1915, when my father joined the British army, and then sold it to a theatre company. On settling in Liverpool my grandparents joined the Unitarian church in Ullet Road, to which a number a prominent merchant families belonged,and my grandfather became a freemason. They spoke German at home, so my father was bilingual.
My father attended Liverpool College, where he became an Anglican and even for a while contemplated ordination. In 1915 he joined the Middlesex Regiment but he became ill with scarlet fever and was invalided out. After the war he studied externally for a B.Sc Econ. degree of the University of London, acted as agent for various companies in Germany and did a little journalism.
Through the daughter of the family doctor in Liverpool, who had studied at Girton, he met my mother Effie Drummond Walker of Edinburgh. Her paternal grandfather, Dr James Walker, had been minister of the Free Church of Scotland at Carnwath, Lanarkshire, where there was a Walker Memorial Church, named after him, now the parish church, and where he and some of his children are buried. He published his Cunningham Lectures on Scottish Theology and Theologians as a book and another book of his articles and sermons was published posthumously with a memoir. (My great aunt Caroline, his youngest daughter, gave me his Edinburgh Hon.D.D. hood, as well as a walnut folding table that had belonged to him). The Walkers were Church of Scotland ministers for generations, but James Walker, who was a divinity student at the time of the Disruption in 1843, was one of the first to be ordained into the Free Church of Scotland. His wife Adamina was the daughter of William Anderson, a writer (lawyer) in Edinburgh, and my only legal connection on my mother's side. He was an antiquarian and helped Baron David Hume to read black letter sources for his Commentaries on Crimes, where he is cited. I have his silver fob medal with FFF, for the Free Fishers of the Forth, an angling club to which he, Walter Scott and Adam Ferguson (after whom Adamina was named) all belonged.
My mother's father, William Walker, was with James Finlay and Co in India and was latterly a director of the company in Glasgow. On his retirement he devoted himself to the financial affairs of the Church. His wife was Agnes Douglas Drummond, the daughter of William Drummond, a prosperous farmer at Longforgan in Perthshire, where he and his family are buried. Effie was their elder daughter, being born on 1 March 1899. She was at school at St Leonard's, St Andrews, and then at Girton College, Cambridge, where she took the Modern Languages Tripos in French and Italian (she knew no German) in 1921. She was working for De La Rues when she met my father, and they were married in February 1925, having a delayed honeymoon later that summer in Italy, where I may have been conceived.
My father had decided to become a lawyer, and felt that he would like to study at Cambridge like my mother. In October 1925 he entered Gonville and Caius College, a college recommended by the doctor who had attended his mother at his birth, who was an M.D. At Caius my father had the good fortune to be a pupil of Arnold Mc Nair. I was born towards the end of his first year, on 29 May 1926, in a nursing home at Huskisson Street, not far from my grandparents' home in Liverpool. I was given the names Walter Peter Gonville, as my father was concerned that I should get into his college in due course. On my birth certificate my father described himself, rather grandly, as Member of the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, since he wanted to avoid calling himself a student. Later I was christened in Caius Chapel by the Dean, Dr J.W. Hunkin, later Bishop of Truro. When I came up as a naval cadet seventeen years afterwards, a porter told me that he had held the salad bowl at my christening.
My father took his law degree, without much distinction, in 1928 and passed the Bar Finals the same year. He also had a rudder received for coxing a Caius Trial Eight; however,as I was reminded sixty years later when I was introduced to the Fellows of Caius as a candidate for the Mastership, my father was remembered mainly for having got his rudder lines crossed and so steering his crew up the river bank.
My father was called to the Bar and after a pupillage set up chambers in Liverpool. It was not a good moment for a barrister as briefs were scarce and he was not very well organised. So we were rather hard up. I used to spend some time as a small boy with my grandfather who took me for walks in public parks. He encouraged me to address strangers with such remarks as "Boys, Boys, have you no school today ?" or "Man, Man, have you caught any fish," in a pronounced German accent. My mother was rather worried but my grandfather died when I was six and by that time I had already started school. We lived in a semi-detached house in Honeys Green Lane, West Derby, and at the age of four, I went to Broughton Hall Girls High School, to which I could walk without crossing a road. It was run by Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy, and it took boys until the age of nine.
After my grandfather's death, my grandmother moved in with us. She could not refrain from interfering in the running of the house, which must have caused friction with my mother. One day, when I was about nine years old, we went to the Empire Theatre and on our return found that my mother had disappeared, leaving my sister Joan, who was four years younger than I, and myself to be brought up by our grandmother. My father was very upset and searched for my mother without success. She had some means of her own from a trust left by her father who had just died. There was in fact some litigation in the Court of Session over this trust, which is reported in Session Cases on the procedural point of whether my mother's address had to be disclosed. I suppose this experience affected me but I am not sure how, except to make me rather careful of showing my emotions. My mother herself was very chary of displaying personal feelings and I still remember my shock when she wept as I set off in my sailor's uniform to join the Navy. My father was more emotional. Since Joan and I occasionally went to see my mother, usually at a holiday resort, I was constrained to be more discreet in what I said than I was inclined to be.
On leaving Broughton Hall in 1935, I went for two years to a small preparatory school in Wavertree run by a Mr Phillips, who had been a master at Liverpool College. A year or two later, my father and mother, who were in fact very fond of each other, reached a rapprochement, and he decided to leave the Bar and make a fresh start as a solicitor in the London area (my mother had been living there). Gray's Inn made him pay 20 pounds, a lot of money in 1938, to be honourably disbarred, which shocked me when I later heard of it and was one reason for my antipathy to the Bar. After his admission as a solicitor, he was much more successful and built up a substantial practice in Woolwich, although he continued to live in Hampstead.
When my father moved to London, I was left with my grandmother in Liverpool. In 1937 1 had managed to get a Choral Exhibition to Liverpool College; at the test I sang the Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond and played the piano very feebly. Without this help, I would not have been able to go to the College, and before the result of the test was announced, I had actually started at Quarry Bank High School. The College had moved the Junior School to Mossley Hill and I went into the Third Form there for one year and in 1938 moved to the Senior School in Sefton Park Road, this being the last year that the old building, which my father had attended, was occupied as part of the College. It was the year of Munich. I was in News Cinema downtown, when they showed film of Chamberlain's return from meeting Hitler at Munich, waving a piece of paper, and saying that he had applied the lesson of "if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again," in order to gain peace. The whole audience burst into spontaneous applause, to express their relief and gratitude, which impressed me greatly.
I think we had a vague sense, that year of 1938-39, that we were living on borrowed time. There was a marvellous School Concert that Christmas, when a senior boy called Robinson sang the Prize Song from the Mastersingers. I loved it and have never been able to hear it since without thinking of him (he was killed, a few years later in the R.A.F.). The Choir sang Good King Wenceslaus, and a master, C. Thomas, sang the King's verses. I longed to be picked to sing the Page's verse, but the prize went to a boy called Jones. He was a better singer than I, but I had a feeling that it was his Welshness which was decisive. In the spring of 1939, 1 sat the Entrance Scholarship examination to the College and got the second of the three full scholarships available. At that time I suffered from eczema and sat the exam with bandages on my hands. With puberty my eczema went, only to reappear in far worse form in Dorothy.
I had already been spending all holidays with my parents in Hampstead and they were planning for me to join them permanently in London, as my sister had done, and go to school there, but the outbreak of war made them think that we should both be in Liverpool, which was thought to be safer. On the Sunday morning of 3 September, we were celebrating the fact that my father, who had fulfilled a childhood ambition to visit Montenegro, had returned safely from the continent the night before. We heard Chamberlain's speech on the radio, announcing that the ultimatum to Germany had expired and that we were now at war with Germany. The air raid sirens sounded and I was asked to play a game of cards with Joan to keep her from worrying. That same afternoon she and I took the train with our grandmother, from Euston to Liverpool. I remember that we were having tea in the dining car when the guard entered and announced solemnly the slogan from World War I, "All quiet on the western front."
Most of the Liverpool schools had evacuated to Wales, but the College stayed put, moving the senior school from Sefton Park Road to the former junior school in Mossley Hill. It is clear from David Wainwright's History of the College that the war was a very difficult time for the school, when numbers fell to a very low ebb, but I had no sense of that at the time. I had some good teachers, especially C.B. Naylor, who had recently been ordained and who was later Canon Chancellor of Liverpool Cathedral, and W.A. Ankers, both of whom had done Greats at Oxford. I was also greatly encouraged by the Headmaster Canon R.W. Howard. He suggested to my parents that I should board, but I was keen to stay with my grandmother, who sacrificed much to keep me comfortable. (my sister was a boarder at Huyton College (Liverpool Coll for girls) for a year but then returned to London to be a day girl at South Hampstead High School). At first I went to school by bus but when I was about fifteen I was allowed to cycle to school along Queen's Drive. Once at the Old Swan I got the rear wheel of my bike caught in the tram line in the road and fell off between the rails. I can remember the sparks near me as a tram, with its iron wheels on metal rails, screeched to a halt. That winter I was prepared for confirmation by the Revd. J.P. Sandringham, a naturalised Dutchman, whose own son I later taught at Aberdeen, and confirmed by the Bishop of Warrington in Liverpool Cathedral. 1940 was an exciting summer, with the attack on the low Countries, Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the prospect of imminent invasion. We were told that German paratroopers in Holland had dressed up as nuns and I used always to scrutinise the feet of the nuns in West Derby to see if they were booted. In November 1940 the school was hit by a bomb one night and when we arrived for school the following day we were sent home. The Christmas holidays were brought forward, but in the end no days were lost. There were heavy raids down town, which occasionally affected the suburbs and I remember an unexploded bomb blocking Honeys Green Lane; frequently we had to retreat to the makeshift air raid shelter under the stairs but I don't think we ever used the Anderson shelter in the garden.
In 1941 1 took the School Certificate in eight subjects. By choosing to do Greek I debarred myself from doing any science, whether physical or biological, although I did manage additional mathematics. The Shakespeare play was Hamlet, the only play I know well. In the autumn of 1941 1 entered the sixth form. Later that year we had the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and I remember F.T. Wainwright, later Head of History at Dundee University, explaining that with the USA and the Soviet Union on our side we could not now lose the war. But I was anxious to do my bit before it all ended. I became a Sergeant in the Junior Training Corps. At the beginning of the War, when it was still the O.T.C., we had been attired in First Wold War uniforms with flat caps, tunics with brass buttons and puttees, which either fell down, if too loose, or strangled the life out of one's calves, if too tight. Now we wore battle dress and were almost indistinguishable from real soldiers, as I realised when I was sitting on a bus and the conductress refused to collect my fare.
I enjoyed games but was not good at them. I hated boxing and according to a report in the school magazine "rushed in with my head down." I had learned little of the rudiments of cricket technique from the nuns and it seemed to be too late when I arrived at the college. I was a little better at hockey and as a rugby forward, where I was sometimes hooker. But I was best at long distance running, and came third in the five miles, run round Sefton Park. I probably made my mark most as an actor. School plays were produced by Basil Naylor, who discovered when I was reading the part of Gertrude in Hamlet, that I was a convincing "older woman." Thereafter I was only allowed to play olderwomen's parts, one year in The Bishop Misbehaves with Alan Carefull as the Bishop, and another year in Cottage to Let, both light comedies, suitable for wartime.
In 1943, 1 took the Higher School Certificate, in Latin, Greek and Ancient History, on the strength of which, to my father's great relief, Caius accepted me for entrance. I stayed on at school for two terms of the following school year to sit the Cambridge scholarship examination, and the Headmaster, to my surprise, made me Head Boy. As such I did a lot of lesson reading in Chapel and at the annual prize giving in the Philharmonic Hall in November 1943, 1 narrated the events of the school year in a Latin speech, most of which I composed myself. In March 1944, 1 came to Cambridge and sat the examination; I was very nervous and dont believe that I slept the whole week. By the time we got to the essay I was very tired, but my poor performance in that paper did not stop me getting an entrance exhibition. I got an economical telegram saying, "Elected exhibitioner Caius College Cameron Master" and telephoned Canon Howard, who shouted Hooray down phone. His pleasure meant a great deal.
I had already been accepted by the Navy for a university cadetship which enabled young men to have six months at university, doing any academic subject, but spending two days a week on navigation and seamanship. So a month after the scholarship examination, I had left school and was an undergraduate at Caius. I was still seventeen, not unusual during the war. I grew up a lot between April and October 1944, and made friends who have stayed friends ever since.
I continued with classics, having two supervisors, J.T. Sheppard, Provost of Kings, and Henry Deas of Caius. They could not have been more contrasting, Sheppard an outgoing poseur, who did not take too much trouble to read my proses, and Deas, a shy cautious Scot, who meticulously covered my scripts with spidery comments. I enjoyed it but began to think about what I wanted to do in the future. I knew my father wanted me to do law, so that I could take over his practice but it seemed rather feeble just to follow meekly what he did. Fortunately I did not have to make up my mind immediately, as, although the war in Europe was in its last phase, the war against Japan seemed to stretch on into the foreseeable future.
Chapter 2: The Royal Navy
In October 1944 1 went into the Navy proper, doing basic training at an establishment at Shotley, near Ipswich, H.M.S. Ganges, where climbing even part of the way up the famous mast terrified me, since I have no head for heights and where we were subjected to attacks from V2 rockets, or doodlebugs, which did not bother me. We did our basic drill on the parade ground, marching up and down behind a marine band playing "A life on the ocean wave. 11 Then we went to Rosyth for a spell on training cruisers in the Firth of Forth. After a course on H. M. S. Dauntless, I passed the tests, but was thought to be too immature in officer-like qualities and was sent round again for a "rescrub" on the sister ship H.M.S. Diomede. There I was under an unpleasant course officer, called Carpenter, who disapproved of those with "academic pretensions". I was not sent on for training as a seaman officer and since I had discovered that I was prone to sea sickness, I asked to be sent to Skegness to be re-classified, perhaps as a technician of some kind (I had additional mathematics after all).
About this time I then received an official letter asking me if I would like to learn Japanese. This was sent to all those who were scholars or exhibitioners of Oxford or Cambridge colleges in classics and modern languages. I applied and was interviewed in London and sent on a six month course at ISSIS, the Inter-services Special Intelligence School at Bedford, in March 1945. There were only about 20 of us and I don't think that I have worked so intensively at any time before or since that summer. There were two main teachers, Instructor -Captain Oswald T. Tuck, R.N., who had been a language cadet in Japan before World War I, and was incongruously an enthusiast for the Japanese way of life and suspicious of alleged Japanese attricities, and Eric Ceadel, who had learned Japanese on the first course and later returned to Cambridge to become lecturer in Japanese and University Librarian. We were trained specifically to translate intercepted radio messages. The Japanese transliterated the sound of the characters into Romaji (Roman letters) and then sent them by international morse. Although we had to learn about a thousand characters with the Ong and Kung pronunciations, we mainly worked with Ramji.
This was the summer of VE day, which we celebrated in Bedford, and the general election resulting in Labour victory, which we all rejoiced at, although none of us, being under 21 had a vote. Had the war continued, as we assumed it would against Japan, we would presumably have been sent to Bletchley Park, not far away. As it was, we completed the course in August 1945, just when the atom bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered. I stopped doing Japanese and forgot it as quickly as I had learned it.
Having qualified as a translator, I was commissioned, as Midshipman, since 1 was still under 19 and a half , and was eventually put up to Sub-lieutenant (Sp), R.N.V.R., but no one knew what to do with us. After some months of leave at home, during which I attended some adult education classes on music and history and helped with sea cadets in Hampstead, I was told I was to be an Educational and Vocational Training officer, helping to disseminate information to those about to be demobilised about resettlement in civilian life. I was sent for a couple of weeks to H.M.S. Cabbala in Warrington to learn something about teaching (the three Ps, pep, personality and poise), and then set off on the great adventure to the Far East, of which I kept a journal.
I joined H.M.S. Rajah, an escort carrier, at Chatham Dockyard, on Sunday 12 May 1946 and we slipped the next morning. We passed through the bay of Biscay and into the Mediterranean anchoring off Gibraltar, but we were not allowed ashore. We then proceeded along the North African coast and on 20 May passed Cape Bon and the island of Pantellaria, and three days later reached Port Said, the first place which was not British soil, on which I had ever set foot. Before the war we had holidays in the Isle of Man and Jersey, as well as places like Lytham St Annes and Llandudno, but I had never even been on the continent. I must have seemed very naive to the hustlers of Port Said, one of whom covered my lovely white shoes with tar because I declined his offer to clean them.
We proceeded through the Canal the following day, anchored in Suez Bay and then went down the Gulf of Suez into the Red Sea. I visited the Radar room and was interested in the profile on the screen of the land on three sides, the first demonstration I had seen of its powers. On 28 May we reached Aden, where the people were better behaved than in Egypt and there was cricket gear for sale in shop windows. I spent the evening of my birthday at the officers Club, got rather drunk on gin, missed the official launch and had to return to the ship on a bum-boat. I have been off gin ever since, but the next day I recovered and swam in the Indian Ocean, extremely salty. On 4 June we reached Colombo where I disembarked. After a night there, including a bathe at Mount Lavinia, I took the train across the island to the Naval base at Trincomalee, on the east coast. It took all night to go 160 miles, with an attendant offering drinks and snacks at every stop. The Fleet Education Officer told me I was assigned to Singapore, but there was no ship there for a week. While I waited, I swam and saw some of the sights of Ceylon, including Anurajapura, the sacred city with enormous brick temples called dagobas, tended by Buddhist monks. on 12 June I joined H.M.S. Oceanway, a Landing Ship Dock, 7,000 tons, with a shallow bottom and a speed of about 12 knots. We went back to Colombo, where we spent a few more days, eating etc. and then took on 12 Motor Fishing Vessels in the Dock and set off to Singapore. After one unpleasant day of heavy rolling, I recovered, as usual, and was OK for the rest of the voyage. The immunity from sea-sickness was lost once I went on land.
On 24 June I arrived in Singapore and was taken to the base, H.M.S. Sultan, on an island known as Blakang Mati (after death) off the main island. I met my staff of 3 ratings and tried to organise some educational facilties. There was an exam called Forces Prelim. that was roughly equivalent to O-Level, that I had to organise, and I had to teach Chinese boys English. Soon a Schoolmaster, an old Etonian called Michael Thomas, was appointed as well and when the warrant officer rank of Schoolmaster was abolished he became an Instructor Lieutenant, R.N. We set up an education centre in what had been a civil engineers workshop. Much of the conversion was done by Japanese prisoners with whom I could exchange a few words. It was a pleasant life, not very arduous, and easy to get into the main town with its exciting Chinese life.
On 16 June I played a game of rugger, and since the monsoon had not started, the ground was rock-hard. I grazed my knees rather badly; two days later it looked pussy and I had it dressed; it seemed to be getting better and I thought no more about it until 8 August when I was violently sick with a temperature of 103; the middle finger of my right hand swelled to vast proportions. After 4 days in the sick bay I was transferred to the 69th Indian General Hospital on the mainland of Singapore. On arrival I was quite delirious and had to be restrained from careering round in a wheel chair by fierce sisters of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, but thereafter I was too weak to misbehave. The complaint was put down by the navy as subacute rheumatism but the army doctors from Captain to Colonel, both Indian and British, did not believe it and eventually pronounced septicaemia and ordered penicillin by injection every three hours for five days and nights. That cleared the infection and raised thick crusts on my leg, which only then was seen as the source of the infection. I had a pleural effusion in my chest; I could not be washed properly for a couple of weeks and ringworm appeared on my back and groin. By the third week I was recovering fast, and by the fourth week I could get up and go out in the afternoons.
On 16 September I was sent in a ward coach on the night train to Kuala Lumpur, then transferred to the Siam train and the following afternoon, I reached the Cameron Highlands, No 3 Indian Malarial Forward Treatment Unit, where I spent two weeks convalescing. I did not return finally to duty till October 10. The only permanent effect was to the joint on the middle finger of my right hand which was destroyed by the poison; one surgeon lieutenant wanted to remove the finger but I held out and kept it. If I'd not been an officer, he would have just done it.
In November I went with some other officers to the British Far Eastern Broadcasting Service, a satellite of the BBC broadcasting cultural programmes in English to Siam, China, Japan and Indonesia, for an audition. They hired me to read scripts, about 11 minutes long, on such subjects as education in England, anniversaries of figures such as Purcell and Delius, the British Way of Life etc. The best thing about it was that there were nice English Girls working there, one of whom, Helen Sell, I got to know quite well. She came a couple of times to Sultan to parties, but then broke her leg getting out of a truck on the way to a party in the wardroom and I was persona non grata with her colleagues for a while as she recovered.
They now started to run down the base, and I even had to do some watchkeeping owing to the shortage of seaman officers in transit, but it was mainly to do with minor disciplinary matters. on 20 January 1947 1 embarked on an army troopship, the Eastern Prince, doing a routine "pongo run" and, and at 1800, in the rays of the setting sun, saw my last of Blakang Mati. I had little to do on the voyage home except read the news over the ship's radio, as an expert broadcaster. We stopped again at Colombo, and it was quite chilly when we reached Suez on 6 February. The news from home was very bad, with shortages of fuel and food and a hard winter. We chugged up the Irish Sea in very cold weather and on 19 February, we came up the Clyde and landed at Glasgow. When I got home to London, there was no electricity in my parents' flat in Hampstead and I sat shivering in my great coat in the lounge.
The rest of my service was as Education Officer at H.M.S. Vulture, an air station at St Merryn in Cornwall. It was a training establishment where seaman officers learned to fly and there were several accidents. Unlike at Singapore there were several Petty Officer Wrens, whom I took at weekends to places like St Austell.I took up rug-making which was very popular. FOFT, Flag Officer Flying Training, allowed me out of the service just before my two years since commissioning were up, so that I could get back to Cambridge in time for the term in October, 1947. The surgeon dentist would not give me an appointment before I left and I had to threaten to cut off his rug wool supply, which I controlled, before he found a time.
I had made up my mind to do law and embarked on the shortened two year course, doing Law Qualifying II in 1948 and the Law Tripos Part II in 1949. The first of these included as options two Roman law papers, in which I was supervised by David Daube. we immediately clicked and he excited me with interest in the subject. In Constitutional Law and English Legal System, I had John Thornely, in his first year of supervising. The lectures were given by J.W.C.Turner and P.W.Duff in Roman Law, from both of whom I took excellent notes, E.C.S.Wade in Constitutional law, a wonderful man but an unexciting lecturer, and R.M. Jackson on the English Legal System. As a result of my performance in the Roman Law papers, I got a first, rather to my surprise. The following year I took Contract, Tort, Criminal Law, Real Property and Personal Property. In the first three I was supervised by Geoffrey Lane, the present LCJ, just back from the RAF, who was establishing himself at the Bar. John Methven, later DG of the CBI, and I were put in his first class of the weekend, and were trusted to have looked up all the relevant cases for the supervision questions. In the property courses I was supervised by John Thornely, who had just become a Fellow of Sidney. Of the lecture courses, we had S.i. Bailey for Real Property, who was by far the most interesting lecturer in my view, and a superb expositor; Harry Hollond, for Personal Property, pedantic but clear, T.Ellis Lewis for Tort, careful and conscientious, and Jack Hamson for Contract, brilliant and eccentric. He held our attention during the hour but I never felt that I took away from his class as much as from Bailey. The criminal law course was given by Henry Barnes, but since Turner despised him, we were told by our Director of Studies, Ellis Lewis of Trinity Hall, not to attend. In general we obeyed, except for the famous lecture on whether buggery could be committed with a duck, which my father had already heard, and for which we all flocked in.
I suppose I took my work seriously but did a lot of singing and attended societies so as to get the most out of Cambridge, in what I took to be my last year. My main exercise was crosscountry running and I was in the University second team. In my last vacation, Easter 1949, I spent a lot of time writing a poem in rhyming couplets for the Scales club at Caius, which was later published in The Caian.
In the examinations, there was a gap of about a week between the other papers and criminal law and I thought I could use it to mug up the subject, since it seemed rather easy. In fact the weather was fine and I knew I hadn't long in Cambridge, so I did little revision for it. I got firsts in Real Property, Personal Property and Tort, a two-one in Contract, but only a twotwo in Criminal law (from Meredith Jackson, whose obituary I wrote later for the British Academy). A two-one in the paper would have given me an overall first, but I ended up with a two one, to my disappointment.
In fact it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I had agreed with my father that whatever I did eventually, I would qualify as a solicitor, and that, if I got a first in Part II, I would stay on in Cambridge to do the LL.B. course before entering articles, but if I did not get a first, I would go straight into articles. So I left Cambridge and prepared to enter my father's office in Woolwich, since he could pay me a small salary; at that time most articled clerks paid a premium to their principals. If I had postponed articles for another year, I would not have been able to take advantage of the concession to ex-servicemen of doing two years articles instead of three years; and I still managed the LL.B.
That summer I went with Robert Sprigge to do a course in Italian at the University for Foreigners in Perugia. We lodged wih a very cultivated lady, the widow of a senator called Signora Innamorati, who could quote Keats and Shelley and who insisted on good Italian pronunciation. we had a wonderful time and it was then that I fell in love with Italy. Once we walked from Perugia to Assisi, bathing in the Tiber on the way. Afterwards I stayed in Rome with Robert's father Cecil Sprigge, the Observer correspondent in Rome, and his second wife, Sylvia Sprigge. She gave me a parcel containing the text of a translation of Croce that she had done to deliver to Allen and Unwin, since she did not trust the post. I put it into one of my bags. I took a train to Zurich and then a plane to London, since I had been on holiday with my parents before Perugia and had the return half of the ticket. When I got to the Air Terminal in Kensington I thought all was OK . My father met me at the terminal and a porter carried the bags to a taxi. My father gave the driver our address in Hampstead but he did not want to go that far and in the end just drove off. Only then did we realise that the vital bag was in the back of the taxi. We took the number of the taxi and told the police, who eventually searched the driver's flat but nothing was ever found and the manuscript was lost for ever. The letter to Sylvia Sprigge was the worst I have had to write, though years later she stayed with us in Aberdeen and we buried the manuscript.
John Methven who had got a first and was doing articles in local government with ambitions to be Town Clerk of a major city, pointed out to me that we could do the LL.B. externally, without residence at Cambridge, and he was doing the public law section. on making inquiries, I found that this was feasible in the first year of my articles. I chose Property in Roman and English law, Private International Law, Trusts and Sale of Goods. John Thornely lent me his superb notes of Trevor Thomas's lectures and Tony Mallinson his notes on another course. I had lodgings at Abbeywood with a nice family called Lancaster, and cycled to my father's office in Woolwich every day, going home at the weekend.
At that time the solicitors' final exam was done at the end of articles. I decided that I could prepare for it by correspondence with Gibson and Weldon and that one year' s work. after I had done the LL.B was sufficient, but I had to pass trust accounts, then a separate examination, first. We were allowed to take time from the office for a three weeks cram course with Gibson and Weldon in Chancery Lane, where we were pushed through the mysteries of book-keeping and the Earl of Chesterfield's Case; I was baffled but passed in November and from then until May 1950 I could concentrate on the LL.B. Since I was staying in digs, I seemed to have fewer distractions than at Cambridge, and was particularly interested in the Roman law and in Private International Law. In the event I got a first, as did John Methven, without attending a single lecture. Emlyn Wade sent me a warm letter of congratulation, and I began to wonder if there might be a possibility of an academic career after articles.
That summer I spent my holiday doing a German language course at Mayrhofen in the Zillertal of the Tirol. There I met Janet, who was nineteen and had finished the first year of her zoology course at Kings College London. She was keen on climbing the hills and I found that I had become an enthusiast for the hills as well as for her. There was some kind of dance at the end, at which she was elected Miss Mayrhofen, and because I danced with her I was Mr Apollo of Mayrhofen. The prizes were trips to Vienna but, as I had to return to the office, I was allowed to transfer mine to her.
I decided not to take the honours papers in the solicitors exam but to go for the earliest chance of qualifying. I took the final in June 1951 and passed. It was most exhausting and I remember taking Janet out after the last paper and being too tired to dance. Also my finger kept having to be pulled straight since the joint had gone. However, the result of all this was that between 1947 and 1951, as a result of time concessions, I had got two law degrees and qualified as a solicitor.
I had already decided that I wanted to try academic life, and applied for assistant lectureships and also for an Italian government scholarship to spend a year in Italy. I was invited to interview at Nottingham but just before it I heard that I had been awarded an exchange scholarship at the Collegio Borromeo at Pavia. This was offered with the government scholarships but could only be held at Pavia, so that they seemed to be less popular, but I thought it would be interesting to live in an Italian college. Roger Crane at Nottingham kindly told me to come anyway as there might be a job the following year, when I returned from Italy. Before the interview candidates had lunch in the refectory with an apparently random collection of people. I was surprised to be asked questions about the Church of South India and other ecclesiastical topics. When I afterwards repaired to the Gents, I met a man William Frend, who said he was a candidate for a post in religious studies but had been quizzed throughout lunch on legal topics. We were both eventually given jobs at Nottingham, in the right departments.