Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor ready to go out, 1984

Table of Contents

Growing up

"I was born in Darlington, 29th July 1931. My father died before I was born, and my mother died two days after I was born, the result being that I was placed in the Quaker homes in Darlington which was Quaker town.

In 1941 I was fostered into Brocklehurst Street in New Cross, and Betty became the first thing I ever knew as a mother.

I asked if I could speak one of the housemasters so I did do. I asked about my own parents what he knew about them, if they were married or anything else because I knew nothing. In fact to this day I don't really know anything. The thing he said to me, stuck with me for the rest of my life. He said, "You weren't wanted then, and you're not wanted now."

"At the age of fourteen and a half, I joined the army. I added 18 months to my age, same as thousands of other done at that time, and finished up with the Seaforth Highlanders.

I suppose it was a bit of rebellion, if I'm honest with you. People today think of the Quaker homes and Barnardo's in a far different light than I remember. Life was very, very, very strict. Looking back over them years, I still got a bit of bitterness. If the same things happened today, as to what happened in the early 1930's, I'm afraid you wouldn't have enough prisons to keep some of the staff in. That's how bad it was!

But Barnardo's, in one sense it conditioned me for the life I wanted to lead. Particularly some of the discipline I had in Barnardo's, it conditioned me that I wanted something for myself. This is why I added 18 months on to my age. I made my age the 31st December 1929, so I could never forget it. Every time they asked me, it was New Year's Eve 1929. It still made me over 16 year old. 16 was the joining up age then. I forged the signature, both Sandy's and Betty's my foster parents."


"I was in the army for twenty-two and a half years. I was medically discharged partly because of malaria. In them days, quinine was given to us, years after they realised that quinine weakened the eardrums. Again I was blown up in Korea.

Gradually over time, my hearing became worse and worse. When I came out of the army, I was discharged from the army. How could I put it? One minute you're sort of God Almighty - a Warrant Officer First Class - and then the next minute, you walk through the gate, and you're Joe Bloggs on the street. You haven't got a job, you're partially deaf, so what do you do with yourself?

To be honest I went on the booze, and I don't think I was sober for about three months. But luckily enough a man called Ian Gulland, he was Quaker, came round to see me. At that particular stage, I couldn't care less if I lived or died. Ian came round, and he spoke to me, and it was through him that I was able to go into Goldsmiths and qualify in Social Work.

I got a job on the council as a dustman. In them days it was work and finished. Invariably we finished by half one, two o'clock which enabled me to go to Goldsmiths College afternoon and evening and that's how I got my qualification in Social Work.

I found working in mental health, I could put a lot into it. I suppose it sounds like a bloody cliché wanting to put something back into life what you got out of it, it's the little tiny things in life that mean so much. People in Cane Hill at the time, everything was communal, they'd been in there donkey's years, everything had been done for them. Some people didn't even know how to make a cup of tea!

One particular patient, I happened to say to him, "If there is one thing in life, or in Cane Hill you would like to change, what would it be?" He looked at the table in front of us and said. "Your cup is blue, only the staff use those cups, these are the patients' cups." And I thought to myself, out of everything you could want in life, to use that blue cup instead of a brown cup! Such a little thing, but it meant so much to that particular individual, that when he came out with it, it hits you like a bloody hammer!."

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