Cyril Hilsum: retirement from the civil service to join GEC

Cyril Hilsum recalls how he retired from the Scientific Civil Service to join GEC in the 1980s.

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It was in ’82 first of all that Derek Roberts who then had moved to GEC said would I like to come and join them and his words, ‘See what life was like on the other side.’ And I asked what he meant by that and he said that more or less, ‘You have criticised us for our performance and really given us a rough time in all our contracts and now perhaps you should come on the other side and see what it’s like.’ Well that sounded reasonable, I was then fifty-six I think when the offer first came so yes, this was an interesting topic and I put it to the system who … seemed quite upset. They – they really didn’t want me to go and I said, ‘Well I’m going to go fairly soon aren’t I because I’m now fifty-six and you retire at sixty in the civil service,’ and they said, ‘Oh no you don’t, no you don’t, you’re an individual merit,’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and they said, ‘You don’t have to retire, you carry on in your same rank as long as you like,’ I said, ‘What, seventy, eighty?’ they said, ‘Yes, yeah, no problem.’ And he did point to a man I knew, Dr Sayce who’d worked in the optics lab and I did know him, he was a very good scientist and he said, ‘He went on till his mid eighties so you can stay on,’ I said, ‘Oh, well that’s interesting, I’ll have to think about that.’ They said, ‘Of course,’ I said, ‘Well what’s the formalities?’ they said, ‘All you have to do is to actually each year write us a report on what you’ve accomplished in the year, you have to produce a report,’ and I said, ‘Well who does it go to?’ and they said, ‘It goes to headquarters,’ I said, ‘And what?’ and they said, ‘Well somebody sort of looks at it and says, ‘Oh yeah, you can go on.’’ I said, ‘Well what if they don’t,’ I said, ‘who looks at it?’ they said, ‘Well some civil servant,’ I said, ‘So my life is in the hands of a civil servant that I don’t know?’ and they said, ‘Well I suppose so,’ so I talked it over with Betty and we thought that wasn’t really a good idea. It seemed more interesting to go to GEC and also to move to London. So we said, ‘No, we – we – I’m going to go to GEC, I’ll keep in contact obviously but I’ll go to GEC.’

  • Interviewee Cyril Hilsum
  • Duration 00:02:48
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 2/15/2012
  • Shelfmark C1379/69

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