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29th Jun, 2022

New book sheds light on history

Rob George 15th Apr, 2022

FRESH insight into the history of the institution which became the University of Worcester is in offer with the launch of a former lecturer’s diary.

The daughter and son-in-law of the late Frederick Grice, former head of english, an author and poet, have published the third volume of his journals, which includes stories of his time working at Worcester’s Emergency Training College from its earliest days in 1946 through to the 1970s and of life in Worcester and Worcestershire.

‘The Handkerchief Tree’, name after the magnificent tree in Malvern Priory, was launched last month.

Established as a teacher training college after the Second World War, the University became Worcester College of Higher Education in the 1970s, and eventually gained university status in 2005.

Gillian said: “Working on the project has brought me close to the world of my unusual but privileged upbringing in the democratic, co-educational community created among the unprepossessing buildings of a former military hospital.

“I hope the book will provide a sensitive insight into the cultural life of Britain in the mid-20th century; that it will be of interest to people in and around Worcestershire and beyond; and that it will bring pleasure to readers who are interested in people, landscape, poetry and in humorous pen portraits.”

After serving in the Royal Air Force in Libya during the Second World War, in 1946 Frederick, a former teacher, applied for a post in the English Department of the newly created Emergency Training College. He went on to become Head of English until his retirement in 1972.

In the early years all staff and their families lived on site, so the Grice family lived in a converted air raid shelter. Gillian said: “The first years of the new college were very special. Many of the students, like their tutors, were returning from military service; many of them were what we would call mature students, so it’s not surprising that there developed a special bond of friendship that in many cases lasted for the rest of their lives.

“In the immediate post-war years Fred was deeply committed to the fledgling college and its values. Having grown up in a close-knit mining community in Durham, he had no difficulty in becoming part of an educational community. He was deeply committed to his students.”

Alongside his academic career, in the 1950s Fred regularly read his own poems on the radio and by the 1960s he was developing a reputation as a children’s author. His book The Bonny Pit Laddie (1960) was a runner up for the Carnegie Medal, while The Courage of Andy Robson (1969) was serialised on television.

Professor David Green, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Worcester, said: “This fascinating book is a treasure for all of Worcestershire and England. It chronicles the College’s earliest days and provides fascinating contemporary observations on life in the 3rd quarter of the 20th Century. The many insights in Fred Grice’s fascinating journals are sure to stimulate the imagination, just as the beautiful handkerchief tree in the grounds of Malvern Priory stirred Fred’s. The publication of this book serves to highlight how much has changed and also how much we owe our founders and their democratic and decent values combined with an unwavering commitment to educate, inspire and serve the country and its children.”

The book, published by Anthony Eyre, Mount Orleans Press, is available from the publisher and various retailers.

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