Wynne Godley interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 16th May 2008

0:09:07 Born in Paddington in 1926; my great-great grandfather married an heiress with a great deal of land in a very poor part of Ireland; he made a beautiful place with beech and oak woods overlooking lakes and a modest mansion house; house called Killegar near Kilbracken; he had a lot of children of whom the most distinguished was John Robert Godley who founded the province of Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1848; on his return became Permanent Secretary to the War Office and was much admired by Gladstone; during all that time he was ill; when my grandfather was twelve he went into his room and he told him that he was going to die; he died that same day; my grandfather, Arthur Godley, became very close to Gladstone and was his second Private Secretary in 1872 and actually lived in 10 Downing Street; he was Principal Private Secretary in 1884 and immediately after that became Permanent Secretary for India which he was for twenty-six years; he was a man of extraordinary ability and knowledge; he never went to India as he didn't think it necessary; his literary interest was Dante; he has been the positive inspiration of my life; he had such authority and was good with children whom he could entertain endlessly; he would get his chauffeur and we would go to the nearest station and take a train and the chauffeur would be waiting at the other end to pick us up; I loved him and I think about him more and more; my grandmother died in 1920 and very little is known about her; her maiden name was James; my grandfather became Lord Kilbracken on his retirement; he had two first cousins who were distinguished - Alfred D. Godley, a classical scholar, known mainly now for his comic verse including "What is this that roareth thus? Can it be a Motor Bus? …", and another who was a General who commanded the ANZACs at Gallipoli and Passchendaele where nearly 4,000 people were killed in one day under his command; my grandfather sold all the agricultural land in Ireland in the 1890's and just preserved the demesne; my grandfather did not like the house and never went there after his childhood; the house was let to a cousin of my grandfather's until 1936

11:32:06 My father was a severe alcoholic who fell in love with someone other than my mother so my parents separated about the time that I was born; I never really saw them together; they had a house that adjoined my grandfather's property in Sussex so I saw a lot of him in my early life; there was great enmity between my parents; I couldn't detect drunkenness so didn't know what was happening; my mother was fey and wrote children's poems; my father was a lawyer, a man of great personal charm; I had two older siblings and a half-sister who was mentally ill; the home was not populated so I was lonely, not properly educated, and ill; when I was seven my father had us all made Wards of Court and I went to see a Judge in chambers who said I was fit to go to school; at that age I couldn't even dress myself but went through the "chamber of horrors" of a British Prep school; it was called Ashdown House in Sussex; there was a terrifying man called Mr Bather; I was at school for about a year and a half and then went to Sandroyd which was favoured by rich businessmen, in Cobham, Surrey; remember an awful lot of beating though the teaching was excellent; among the masters was a man called John Graves, the brother of Robert Graves, who taught Latin, and a good maths master who encouraged me; the only thing that I really enjoyed was English; my father offered me £5 if I could learn the whole of the 'Ancient Mariner' by Christmas; I got to verse 135 but then the Headmaster stopped me; won the golf and chess championship there but was never good at regular games

22:43:01 At thirteen I went to Rugby which I still think was a good school; I was beginning to get very keen on music and I had two people in my life from about 1939 who were enormously influential; one was the music master who was called Kenneth Stubbs, a bachelor, who was a piano teacher of genius; he was a friend of Donald Tovey, a distinguished musicologist; during my time at Rugby he trained up six boys who played difficult music to a high standard; I spent a great deal of time in his house; I was learning the oboe; the second musical influence was William Glock, an extraordinary man, a very fine pianist, a pupil of Schnabel, but a bit of a rogue; he came on the scene as my mother's lover when I was about twelve; so I felt with Rugby that I was never really there as I was playing the oboe and later the piano; I had a good classics master and I learnt a lot of English from him, but I was really only interested in music

28:05:17 I went to Oxford and did Modern Greats; of the War, my brother was in the Fleet Air Arm, but it began just before I went to Rugby; it was never a serious phenomena for me; I was allowed to go with my father to Ireland during the holidays where there was plenty of food and no blackout; I went to Oxford at the end of 1943 and was there for three and a half years; I had lovely rooms in New College with my mother's Steinway grand; had wonderful teachers and Senior Common Room who were very indulgent to me; to begin with I was taught by P.W.S. Andrews who had heterodox views and I learnt about manufacturing industries from him; there was a lively musical life with Thomas Armstrong, the organist at Christ Church, who was in charge of the Orchestral Society; we got through huge repertories at a reasonable standard; great friend, physicist Christopher Longuet-Higgins, also a brilliant musician who ran his own orchestra in which I used to play; Isaiah Berlin taught me Kant and logic; did no economics; Berlin at that time had none of the grandness that came to him in later life; I found him a witty man; my attempts to judge what he wanted me to write then learning to think for myself; Lord David Cecil; Agnes Headland-Morley taught me modern history; Isaiah Berlin's lectures, humour; persona did change with fame; I got a  first

40:14:20 Kept up with Longuet-Higgins when I went to Paris; went for three years immediately after Oxford; another friend in Oxford was Hugh Leach, a medieval historian, who had had tremendous success as a decoder at Bletchley; I was only twenty when I graduated and thought I would go and study music; I had the misconception to believe that I could learn to play the oboe well enough to earn my living by it and still have time to write novels; I was taught by the Professor at the Conservatoire whom I now think was a very bad teacher; for the first year I lived with a family where the father was a director of the French railways, a well-to-do middle class family with ten children, living in a huge flat in the 6th arrondisement; Nancy Mitford and husband, Peter Rodd; through her I met the Duff Coopers and spent a lot of time with Diana Cooper who had known my father; Duff Cooper had been Ambassador; loved Paris which was cheap and run-down; I got a scholarship from Alexander Korda which gave me enough money to live there for two years; though I was studying music I didn't hear much; my musical friends were all Americans, musicians and composers; at first public concert, one of them, Sarah Cunningham, had written a piece for violin and oboe, which I played with her; I had never been so frightened in my life, but it went quite well; if I did play in an orchestra it was in a conducting class; had the luck to be asked to substitute for as second oboe player in the New London Orchestra which was conducted by Alex Sherman; as I had no orchestral experience and asked for an audition and he liked me; the piece we played was Mozart's great C minor concerto which has incredibly difficult wind parts; the concert went well and afterwards, to my astonishment, I was fixed up for four more concerts; became the official second oboe in the orchestra and played all over London; I also got a job in a ballet orchestra; then became principal in the BBC Welsh Orchestra in 1951 where we had five live concerts a week; afterwards went with the Boyd Neel Orchestra on a tour of the United States and Canada; all this time I was getting ill from performance nerves and remember thinking that I couldn't continue

55:52:06 There was a counterpoint to the happy time in Paris because my father disintegrated mentally with drink; he was estranged from his second wife whom I was fond of; she shot herself at the beginning of my second year in Paris; my father died in 1950 just about the time I was coming back from Paris; he was living at Killegar; as a lawyer and a skilled draftsman he had become Parliamentary Council to the Treasury; he drafted A.P. Herbert's divorce Bill; he got an official job in the House of Lords  but was sacked; as his child I couldn't distance myself from what was going on