Oral Histories

In the 1980s and 1990s, local historian Percy Reboul tape recorded a number of very important interviews with local people, most of whom were born in the early years of the twentieth century and who were therefore able to recall people and places long forgotten. It is these interviews that help to bring the past back to life. In recent years we have maintained this policy of conducting oral histories for the benefit of future historians.

Brief details of the interviewees and their stories are show below. To view transcriptions of the interviews, click on the relevant PDFs.

BEATRICE DOBIE. Beatrice's grandfather, Joshua Kidd Bruce, was born in 1871 and became a vet for London Tramways Company, eventually becoming the General Manager. In a letter written in 2005 she describes his life and work.

BETTY INMAN. Interviewed in 2011 by David Berguer. Betty recalls the time she worked as a secretary at Friern Hospital in the 1970s.

BRIAN CHARLES. Interviewed in 2014 by David Berguer. Brian recalls the time he spent working for the important local company, Michael Gerson

DORIS COLE (nee CATCHPOLE). Born 1903. Interviewed in 1988 by Percy Reboul. Doris was born and lived in Whetstone and went to All Saints' School. She started work at 13 as a cleaner. She remembers seeing the Cuffley Zeppelin flying over Whetstone.

ENA CONSTABLE. Interviewed in 1991. Memories of the First and Second World War and schools in the area.

ENA KARTON. Born 1922. Interviewed in 2011 by David Berguer. Ena was a social worker based at St Ann's Hospital in Tottenham and at Friern Hospital.

ERNEST DAVIDSON. Born 1893. Interviewed in 1978 by Percy Reboul. Ernest was a soldier in the First World War and he describes in details his experiences at the Front, including the day the armistice was declared.

FREDERICK HARVEY. Born 1903. Interviewed in 1980 by Percy Reboul. He had his first job in 1917 as a delivery boy. He joined the army and  in 1928 became a tram conductor at Finchley and later worked on trolleybuses - total of 37 years in public transport.

GEOFF SMITH. Interviewed in 2011 by David Berguer. Geoff was manager at Friern Hospital between 1981 and 1982 and recalls how the hospital was run and the attitudes to mental health.

GILBERT DYET. Born in 1931. Interviewed in 2010 by David Berguer. Gilbert lived in The Alexandra Arms pub in Cromwell Road, N10. He married in 1955 and started his own company, Alexandra Car Hire, and ran it for fifty years. He recalls life in The Freeehold which was a rough area in the early years.

JACK PRIME. Born 1904. Interviewed in 1983 by Percy Reboul. Jack had a huge number of stories about Whetstone and its people, and recalls apppearing in a film shot in Whetstone in 1914.

JOAN HIGGINSON. Born 1918. Interviewed in 1994 by Percy Reboul. She moved into the area in in 1922 and relates her memories of Woodhouse School inthe 1920s and 1930s.

KARL RUGE. Born 1912. Interviewed in 2008 by David Berguer. Karl was born in Germany and came to England in 1935. He joined a merchant bank after the War and moved to Friern Barnet in 1953. He became a LIberal councillor on Friern Barnet Council in 1962 and was a JP for 20 years.

MAMIE PALACE. Born 1909. Interviewed in 1982 by Percy Reboul. Her father managed The Orange Tree pub in Friern Barnet in 1919. She describes her life in the pub and the time she became a jazz drummer - very unusual at the time. She also describes shops in the area.

MAUD SWAIN. Born 1908. Interviewed in 1984 by Percy Reboul. Maud lived in Whetstone ands describes life and the shops in the area from the First World War oneards. She recalls seeing the Potters Bar Zeppelin.

PERCY REBOUL. Born 1930. Interviewed in 2008 by David Berguer. Percy describes his life in the Whetstone area, his lifelong friendshiop with John Heathfield and his employment in the plastic industry.

PETE ABBOTT. Born 1930. Interviewed in 2011 by David Berguer. Pete was one of the DJs at Radio Friern, the hospital radio station, for 5 years.

PETER & MARGARET CRAGG. Interviewed in 2008 by David Berguer. Peter and Margaret both worked at Friern Barnet Town Hall.

R M FRANKIN. Interviewed in 1981 by Percy Reboul. Mr Franklin was Finchley Town Clerk during the Second World War and was responsible for the civil defence operations at the time. He gives detailed descriptions of the actions taken to keep the population safe.

STAN MORTIMER. Born 1909. Interviewed 1983 by Percy Reboul. Stan describes working at Lawsons timber merchant from 1923 to 1974.

THELMA HARRIS. Born 1914. Interviewed in 1885 by Percy Reboul. She lived in a house lit by gas until 1945. She describes her time at Friern Barnet Girls Grammar School and the family laundry business next to STC.

ANTHONY BENNETT. Born in 1936. Interviewed in 2005 by Yvonne Ruge. Anthony waa proprietor of Bennetts upholstery repair shop at 61 Friern Barnet Road.

TOM RELF. Born 1908. Interviewed in 1908 by Percy Reboul. Tom describes in detail his job as a motorman (tram driver) based at Finchley Depot.

VERNON MULLER. Born 1940. Interviewed in 2011 by David Berguer. Vernon was born in South Africa and came to the UK in 1976. He was chaplain at Friern Hospital until 1990.

DORIS HAMMERSLEY. Doris was born in 1914. She was interviewed 1994 by Percy Reboul. Doris has many memories of the second World War when she was a member of the Civil Defemce in Friern Barnet.

JOHN HOLTHAM. Interviewed by Ollie Natelson. John lives on the Halliwick Estate in Friern Barnet and recalls domestic conditions there in the 1960s onwards including descriptions of early heating, lighting, sewage and television.





Friern Barnet & District Local History Society
46 Raleigh Drive,
London N20 0UU


Telephone: 020 8368 8314

Email: friernbarnethistory@hotmail.co.uk

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