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Childhood experiments


My mother's contribution to the war
Avrion Mitchison Scientist
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It had been a sporting estate. It had a grouse moor and salmon river, and the gardens. So that was how wealthy people who owned a house like that, lived before the war when they were- easy to employ people. Then all the time we were there, the moor and the river were less looked after and- Of course, they both do need looking after. It was not such great- it wasn't such a great sporting place as it had been, but still, it was- people came there to catch a salmon or to shoot a grouse. And my mother, my immensely energetic mother, decided that her contribution to the war was going to be turning the land to farming, because there was a- much food shortage. Which she did and which, in retrospect, I realise was a fairly amateur way because- partly because she didn't have the labour to do it. There was one- we'd- we'd gone to the Outer Isles- to North Uist before the war for three years and we became attached, very attached to the house which we rented on the Island of Varley, off North Uist, tidal island. And she had made friends, in the way she did, with local people, and she brought from Varllay to Kintyre, Bella the cook and the farm labourer. Oh, God, lovely man who I, as a boy, I admired greatly and did lots of things with, but his name has just slipped my mind. It'll come back. And, so he, with help from, basically with help from my mother, not that she was much direct help, because she was a small woman and she wasn't quite as young as she had been. But there were all these lads or young men, who Murdoch and Danny, my brothers, had brought up to Scotland and they were certainly conscripted into the harvest. So there was lots of that going on. So this was particularly during the war years? And then stopped after? Yes. After the war years it took a while, I think, for things to work themselves out. She brought in a tenant on an agricultural lease, which is almost the same as selling the farmland. I see. Lachlan, that was the name, sorry, I mustn't forget Lachlan, who just died. He, in his quiet way, taught me a lot, as did Eddy Martindale, the gamekeeper, who also worked on the farm. They taught me not to lose my temper, you know, an 11-year-old or 12-year-old, it's quite easy to do. They taught me how to make a stook, these were- a horse-drawn reaper cut the corn and how you wind a strand of corn around it. They taught me how to build the sheaths into a stook in the field and then eventually I had to load them onto a cart, and so on.

Avrion Mitchison, the British zoologist, is currently Professor Emeritus at University College London and is best known for his work demonstrating the role of lymphocytes in tumour rejection and for the separate and cooperative roles of T- and B-lymphocytes in this and other processes.

Listeners: Martin Raff

Martin Raff is a Canadian-born neurologist and research biologist who has made important contributions to immunology and cell development. He has a special interest in apoptosis, the phenomenon of cell death.



Listen to Martin Raff at Web of Stories



Duration: 3 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008