Something of My Personal History

I was born in 1926 at Cardiff in South Wales and lived there until 1945. Both my parents had also been born and bred in Cardiff but all my grandparents had settled in the city from elsewhere. My father’s father, a tailor, had come from Berkshire and was married to a Somerset woman. My mother’s father, a telephone lineman, had come from Shropshire. His wife had come from Carmarthen in southwestern Wales. Her first language had been Welsh. Widowed before I was born, she was a much-loved ‘second mother’ to me.

My father, a great Boy Scout in his youth, served as a soldier in World War I. My mother had been the girl next door. By the time I was born he was employed in the running of a local chain of a dozen tobacconist shops. Among our shared enthusiasms were especially swimming and music. I was their only child to survive infancy. No-one ever had kinder parents.

At Cardiff, we lived only ten minutes walk from the centre. Dating from Roman Britain, at one time it had been a Scandinavian settlement. It has long been the most populous town of the English-speaking coastal area of southeast Wales close to the border with England. The southwestern suburb in which I grew up had been built in the nineteenth century, providing housing mainly for working-class people, on riverside former farmland by the municipality.

After nearby infant and junior schools I transferred to the oldest of the city’s high schools, built beside some small public gardens on the east of the city centre. In 1941, a couple of years after I’d started there, parts of it were destroyed by bombs. The one subject I regularly came top of the class in was French. English and Latin were my other subjects in my final two years there. I enrolled at Cardiff University College straight after school, the only one among my family who had ever had any education beyond the age of fourteen. I wasnt able to complete a first year of university before I was required to ‘serve the nation’. While a ‘soldier’ I did a fair amount of teaching of English and French and even some Musical Appreciation.

Returning to Cardiff after almost three years in the Army, I looked forward to courses in English, French and Italian. I was becoming gradually more and more interested in linguistics and phonetics so that I was very disappointed that they were all almost entirely concerned with literature, offering, if any, only dismally meagre content on the language sciences. After graduating I took a job teaching English close to London in a technical college from which I was able to get to courses at the Phonetics Department of University College. I was very fortunate to have learnt from especially A. C. Gimson and J. D. O’Connor.

After three years I found a job giving classses in English and even some in English phonetics for the ‘Folk University’ of Sweden. Next I spent half a year teaching English and even less English phonetics at the Mangold Intsitute in Madrid. I then taught English for a year or so at a Yorkshire college at Dewsbury quite enjoyably but all the time looking out for a more suitable opening. Finally I obtained a lectureship in English language at the University of Tehran. Three years later in 1963 I found a thoroughly congenial job lecturing exclusively on English Phonetics at the University of Oslo. After I had stayed in that post for five years I was tempted away to a full professorship at the Brussels Free University. When promises made to me about that work were not fulfilled, I resigned from it and returned to Oslo from where I’d fortunately been granted a year’s leave of absence. In 1970 I was appointed to a lectureship at the Department of Phonetics of Leeds University. I was very pleased to stay at Leeds for the remaining nineteen years of my full-time teaching career.

Over the years, in times free from my regular teaching, I also lectured abroad at in time over eighty Universities most of them around Europe but some as far afield as South America and very happily Japan. In Spain I directed various summmer courses chiefly at Cordoba and Murcia, in the latter university for seven consecutive years.

I also worked, chiefly in London, on numbers of summer courses for the British Council, for the last six of which I’d been the Director. I worked on a number of the remarkable University of London Summer Schools and, in my retirement, was very happy to be invited by John Wells to join the staff of the University College London Summer Courses in English Phonetics with which I stayed from 1990 to 2010 when, on reaching the age of 84, I retired.