RONALD J. HILL, a Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College, Dublin, retired in 2007 from the position of Professor of Comparative Government. Born in the English midlands in 1943, he grew up in Lincolnshire, near the south bank of the Humber. His formal education began in the village of Barnetby-le-Wold and continued at the Church of England school in the industrial village of Immingham. In 1954–61 he attended Barton-on-Humber Grammar School, where he was Head Boy in his final year. He then studied Russian at Leeds University, and took a Master’s in Political Behaviour and a Ph.D. in Comparative Studies at the University of Essex. A specialist on the politics of the former Soviet Union and the communist world, he has published a dozen books, including foreign-language and multiple editions, and many articles, chapters, commentaries and reviews.
In these recollections, he recounts his early years as a railwayman’s son, the struggles of his family in the austerity years after World War II, and the formative influences of those who shaped his mind. He recalls his teachers, their idiosyncrasies and techniques, plus the hobbies and other pursuits that helped form his identity. He remembers his first pair of glasses, a stay in hospital, his encounters with pop music, the interests and pastimes that he shared with many thousands of children who grew up in post-war Britain and the 1950s: skiffle, I-Spy, trainspotting, the Scouts, pen-friends, and holiday jobs on farms and in factories. His state grammar school education enabled him to avoid his parents’ lot: a life of ‘drudgery, hard work and limited expectations’, but enforced an estrangement from his childhood world that can never be overcome.
This memoir of one of the ‘lucky’ generation will evoke nostalgic memories among older readers, and perhaps surprise youngsters of today who do not see ‘education’ as the life-changing experience it ought to be.