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I was born in Norton on Tees in July 1939, a month before the beginning of the

Second World War.

My mother told me that the house where I was born (and where we stayed

for only a few weeks), was demolished shortly afterwards and the site disappeared

under the new ICI chemical works.

It seems that my birth was protracted and my mother was attended by a local

doctor who went onholiday prior to my actual delivery. All of this was before the

birth of the NHS and the doctor’sabsence angered my father so much that, in protest,

he paid the medical fee in small coins and spread the payment over several weeks.

My childhood was complicated by frequent moves of home and school. I was unhappy

andunsettled. At one point I was even expelled from kindergarten in Barnsley for pouring

milk down a little girl’s neck and kicking my way through a plate glass window. Immediately

after this incident I was ill. As my mother tried to return me to school we were met at the

school gate by a teacher who said ‘Robert has left.’ ‘No, he has been poorly,’ insisted my

mother, but the teacher stuck to her guns and would not let us into the playground.

I remember that we left, hand in hand, with my mother crying.

Eventually I went to Glasshouses primary school, near Pateley Bridge. It was there that I sat my 11+
exam. I think that I was the first child from the village school ever to pass the examination and my
mother and I were summoned to the home of the Head Teacher, Miss Knight, where I was presented
with half a crown as a reward. In my book, I write about this. Ms Knight was a most severe single
lady. I had only ever seen her in the classroom and I remember my feeling of amazement, almost
disbelief at seeing her in a domestic setting.

Initially, I was a day boy at Ripon Grammar School. By this time, my relationship with my father had
become very difficult. Many years ago, someone in the family told me that after the first year I
became a ‘ boarder’ at school in order to get me away from my father. The school gave me a
scholarship. Though I had achieved high results during my first year I think that this scholarship was
a ‘grace and favour’ award, because my family was without money. I was a troubled child, insecure
and anxious, a target for bullies. The years I spent at school were desperately unhappy. Gradually, I
slipped down the academic ladder. I left school at the age of 16 with no sense of direction, very little
academic achievement and a blind faith that natural justice would hold sway and that I would find
my way in the adult world.

My first jobs were clerical and then, surprisingly because I was already 20 years old, I was
conscripted for National Service. At that time I was living with my parents in Bradford.

The Army was good for me. I was commissioned as best cadet in my Corps and later as a regular
Army officer I was promoted to Captain. By this time, I was married with two small children.

In my mid 20s I resigned my commission with the intention of becoming a photojournalist. I
struggled to survive for many years, earning small amounts of money from photography whilst
driving taxis in an attempt to keep going. My marriage suffered and eventually ended in an amicable

Eventually, years later, with some good luck, I made a considerable success of a group of small
companies involved in advertising photography, graphic design and stock pictures.

Trading under the name of Bob Stone, (A new name gave me new hope), I became a successful
advertising photographer specialising in studio still- life. Much of my work was ‘ Still- life fashion’. It
sounds ‘quite posh’, but it’s still piles of socks and knickers; (just without the beautiful bodies inside
them). Eventually I specialised in shoe photography. You might not think there are so many shoes in
the world. Wrong. Whether I liked it or not, sometimes I photographed them for 11 months out of
12. (Though it seemed like a punishment, I probably deserved it. I had always liked shoes. My
mother, Maisie, told me that with my first week’s wages I bought a pair of Dolci’s ‘Italian’ shoes. It
seems that I had 10 shillings left, which I lost on the bus ride home.)

As a business group, we flew high. Maybe we flew too near the sun. The recession in the 1980s hit
the design company very hard. It ceased trading and I sold my shares and my controlling interest in
the other companies to my fellow directors. I was 50 years old, going through a second amicable
divorce, and selling my home and everything that I had in order to pay the bank. At the end, I had a
huge old rusty Dutch barge with a hold full of rubbish and nothing else.

All that was 30 years ago. I met Sue and we married 10 years later. I ‘did up’ the barge, and sold it to
a film director. Sue and I bought a house, I administered her consultancy, I rebuilt houses, built
boats, we sailed the Inland waterways of Western Europe, I painted and drew and continued to take
photographs. Last year I wrote a book. It’s called ‘Nearly 79, Laughter and Loss’. It is a combination
of diary and memoir, and in it I acknowledge all the accidents of birth and place which conditioned
my past, as they condition my present and presumably my future.

No man is an island; more like a grain of sand, subject to the winds and the tide.

Bob head shot.jpg
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