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Irene Clarkson interview: Background

What is your name, date and place of birth?

My name is Irene Clarkson. I was born on 27 April 1921 in Queensland, Australia.

So when did you come to England?

Probably 1925 at four years old on board the ship. 

So you came by ship with your parents? 

With my mother. 

Did you come to live straight in Wimbledon?

No, to Whitby. To my grandmother, my father’s mother.

Were you English originally or Australian?

English

So how did you come to be In Australia and how did you come to live in Whitby?

My father married a woman he met in Queensland after the First World War. 

Your father was from England?

Yes, from Yorkshire. Whitby for generations.

What were your parents’ names, your father’s name?

Thomas Wilfred [Clarkson]. My mother was a Scot from Glasgow, I think, originally. A lot of young people were in Australia then. 

So why did you come to England?

My parents broke up. I went to Whitby to live with my grandmother. My parents had broken up and then my grandmother died. Her daughter, my father’s sister, came to live in London to look after a single brother who was in digs. He was working in the City in a shipping firm and this house belonged to her, she bought it. Her brother came to live with her and she looked after me and then he died suddenly. He had been a prisoner of war in the First World War. So she was here looking after me and I was brought up here and went to the local school. 

How old were you when you came to live in this house?

Five. 

So you have lived in this house for 87 years?

Yes. Some people move house a lot don’t they. My aunt used to say that people just dirtied the house out and then moved. 

So it was just the two of you living here?

No, she used to have paying guests. A lodger lives separately but a paying guest lives as a guest. You have your meals together and use the same rooms. The first one was a friend of friends. A lot of them we knew. During the war we had a Polish officer staying, for instance, and we had the Polish Army staying here in Wimbledon Park. I was only in my teens but there were quite a few of them. Members of the Polish Government who had got out. Most of them were middle aged men and they were all in uniform. They used to go up to town every [day].