Cyril Hilsum: background and education

Cyril Hilsum talks about motivations for entering higher education and support from university and state scholarships that allowed him to continue in education.

Listen to the full interview track and all other tracks from this interview on British Library Sounds

Oh, I’ve always been competitive, yes.  It’s a great fault in there, everything is a competition and that certainly goes back to your roots, that you knew that you had to do things for yourself and had to do things better than other people did otherwise you’d just get swallowed up in the morass of life in the East End of London, which you certainly didn’t want.  The only question was to choose which way you went.  You didn’t have any models, that’s really the problem, that… you didn’t, nobody in any of the families I knew had ever been to university and the geography teacher said, ‘But why don’t you go to university?’ And I said, ‘What’s university?’ and he explained. And I had taken the UCL scholarship.  Cambridge had told me that I was welcome to come and do physics if I could get funding as a bursary. And I did look at that, but essentially you couldn’t live in Cambridge on the bursary, you would need more support.  I didn’t know where I was going to be going in ’43 - but I was pretty certain that I could get support from a state scholarship. State scholarships weren't very common but the school was pretty good actually, they knew enough about it and said you will do well enough, you’ll get As or top marks in your physics, chemistry and your applied maths, and that’s what happened. And that gave you £100, which was pretty good then, we’re talking about 1943.  And I also, and the school also, probably through the local authority gave us some more, so I think that was twelve pounds we got from the school.  So that was enough so I could actually give mum some money for my keep during holidays.  And so, 1943 I went up to Bangor.  The reason why I went to Bangor was because the college was evacuated.  UCL obviously was normally in Gower Street but it was broken up.  Physics, French, English, maybe even history, not sure, went to Bangor.
  • Interviewee Cyril Hilsum
  • Duration 00:03:11
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 2/15/2012
  • Shelfmark C1379/69

Related Audio Clips

The following clips are short extracts from an in-depth interview.
To listen to the full interview visit