Long-lost Oxford memories are made of this

A remarkable story that paints a vivid picture of a long-lost ‘Townie’ Oxford will come to life during a free literary talk later this month.

Will Wyatt: Oxford Boy – a Post-War Townie Childhood reanimates the city of the 1940s and 1950s, of Cowley workers and of battled-scarred ex-servicemen.

The author, a former BBC television executive, will be talking about his childhood and a way of life far removed from an academic and Morse-like city.

Says Will, 76, from north Oxfordshire: “It is a foreign land of being caned on the bottom, of teachers washing out a child’s mouth with soap for swearing, of conkers and fag cards.

“There was Aunty Daisy with her missing finger, who liked the American servicemen, and Uncle Stan, who took cash to buy his Jaguar while his brother rode passenger with a loaded shotgun.”

He will be speaking at Oxfordshire County Library, in the Westgate shopping centre, on Thursday, July 12 at 6pm as part of Oxfordshire County Council’s libraries summer book sessions called Memory Makers.

The author, who was educated at SS. Philip and James School and Magdalen College School, Oxford before winning a scholarship to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, says he was fortunate in being guided by gifted teachers through the teenage years of discovering music, grappling with frothy petticoats, untold hours of sport and wasting time trying to imitate Harold Pinter.

Family friend and Oxford-born actress Miriam Margolyes says of the book: “It is a triumph, clever in presenting a lost era, showing how class and rage and cunning made people as we are. I urge you to get it and read it, as I did, fast and then again, for the power and truth. Gosh, what an amazing achievement. Now get on with the next years.”

Will’s Memory Makers talk is expected to last around 30 minutes followed by a question and answer session.

Memory Makers are free informal gatherings where diaries are discussed as a way of recording history and the writers whose memories they hold - from the days of Pepys to modern times.

Carol Stitson, Oxfordshire’s Lead Librarian for Reading, Health and Culture said: “We are all fascinated by other people’s diaries. Come along and share your own recommendations and join in with the discussions.”

Further discussions on diaries, real-life and fiction, on paper and online, will be at the following libraries:

  • Chipping Norton, July 19, 2.30pm
  • Woodcote, July 27, 10.30am
  • Oxfordshire County Library, July 31, 10.30am
  • Bampton, August 7, 2.30pm
  • Kidlington, August 17, 2pm
  • Adderbury, August 21, 3.30pm
  • Oxfordshire County Library, August 29, 2pm – for teenagers
  • Didcot, August 30, 2pm

The events are free – sign up via Eventbrite at oxonlibraries.eventbrite.co.uk, or contact the library for a ticket. Visit www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/reads.

Will Wyatt: Oxford Boy – A Post-War Townie Childhood was published in February. Publisher: Signal Books Ltd ISBN-10: 1909930644

Pictures courtesy of Will Wyatt