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AUTO BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY MICHAEL JOHN HIPPISLEY BORN 18TH, JULY 1934

There are early accounts of the Hippisley family in Burke’s Commoners and the Baronetages (of the early nineteenth century) that nearly all refer to a Richard Hippisley. He is stated to have been born in the 14th. Year of Edward lll (Circa 1340).

The Hippisleys bought Ston Easton in 1554, Cameley in 1561, and Hinton Bluet in 1565.

The name as it is now known can be traced back to parish registers of the mid sixteenth centaury and before, but in by-gone days spelling was not an exact science and in various old documents and records over 50 variations of spelling have been noted. It would seem that there are many ways in which the name may have been derived. One such derivation could have been from a presumed old English personal name – Ip(p)a, which had a strong form - Ippe, hence Ippe’s leah. Also the old English word ‘hips’ means fruit of the wild rose, whilst ley or leigh is another name for pasture. The combined words would be field of the wild rose or the wild rose field. Also the name may have been formed from the Saxon words Hiope – a hip berry or wood rose, and ley, a field. Our first ancestor may have resided in such a spot?

My Grandfather was Richard John Bayntun Hippisley who was the eldest son of John (Ivan) Hippisley and Christine Boodé. He was born July 4th. 1865. He was educated at Rugby School (1880) and Farady House London. He was JP and DL for Somerset, and he was also the High Sheriff 1907. In 1913 he was made a member of the Parliamentary Commission on Wireless for the Army, and in 1917 was elected a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers.

He joined the North Somerset Yeomanry, being gazetted 3rd lieut. 1888 July 28th. Hon. Lt-Col. 1908. He retired in 1913 having been awarded the TD. In the first World War he was appointed Commander RNVR for service with the Naval Intelligence Division in connection with wireless installations. For his services he was awarded the OBE (Mil), June 3rd. 1918. He was involved with Marconi in wireless telegraphy at the “Hippisley Hut” near Hunstanton in Norfolk – now National Trust.

He was an original member of the R Automobile Club and a founder member of the R Aeronautical Club. In 1931 he was elected a County Alderman for Somerset (retired 1949), and appointed Traffic Commissioner for the Western Counties. He was awarded the CBE (Civil) in 1937.

He married, at Tiverton, Jan 4th. 1905, Constance Amy, Daughter of Augustus L Francis, Headmaster of Blundell’s School. She died at Bath Jan 9th. 1955 age 79. He died at Ston Easton 27th. March 1956 age 90.
He had two sons and a daughter.

His eldest son, my Father, was born October 19th. 1905, educated at Charterhouse, and worked as an engineer with the LNER. He married 24th June 1930, Sybil Barbra daughter of Ernest Edward Gorham Gee, of Leicester. The family business in Leicester was shoes – Stead and Simpsons.

I was born 18th. July 1934 and my brother, Anthony, was born 9th. May 1938.

As a family we lived in a then very modern block of flats on the edge of Hampstead Heath. For the first few years after war was declared in 1939 we were evacuated to relatives and friends in different parts of the country. This meant that I went to many schools and suffered set backs in education. By the time I was 18 I had been to 8 different schools and returned a second time to some. My Prep School was called Mowden and I first joined it during the latter part of the war in its evacuated location of Oxendon near Market Harborough.

Holidays were spent in dodging bombs, doodle bugs and rockets whilst living in and out of London. All rather scary. After the war in 1944 Mowden school returned to its original location at Preston Park, Brighton. There was an indoor swimming pool and a Sergeant Major who ran the pool and gym. I remember being frightened of learning to swim. I also remember that to help boys to learn to swim the Sergeant Major had a pole with a body strap attached so the trainee could be supported over the deep end of the pool. My fear was well founded because the time came for it to be my turn and, of course, the strap broke when I was over the deep end, and I sunk like a stone until I was fished out. Not a good way to overcome fear! I was not much of a success at this school as I did not like sports, cricket, football and least of all rugby. I just scraped through my Common Entrance Examinations for Stowe Public School.

Many holidays were spent at Ston Easton with Grand Parents and it was during this time the Country Life magazine did a 5 page feature of the house and family. A while later my Grand Parents received a letter from Clarence House asking if Queen Mary (plus her retinue), could be invited for tea to visit the house. Queen Mary had a reputation for collecting things. If she liked a particular object in someone’s home it would be tacitly understood that the owners would offer any such item to Her Majesty as a gift. At Ston Easton certain items including silver were hastily hidden away by my Grand Father. During the ‘tea’ Queen Mary observed the long flat spoons with a hook that were used for the tall honey jars, and needless to say she asked for a set of these as they had the same jars at Clarence House, and always ended up with ‘sticky fingers’. What was not related was that the silver metal that was used by Commander Hippisley to make the spoons was acquired from melted down two and six penny pieces. – Defacing coins of the Realm!

The head master of Stowe was the School’s founder – J F Roxborough. He was a misogynist, but a really kind person, who would always wish you happy returns on your birthday if he saw you. We were boys only in those days and there were about 700 of us, all in separately named ‘houses’. I was in Wallpole. The setting at Stowe was magical with lakes, ancient temples, monuments, waterfalls and rolling countryside. For anyone interested in Stowe or who would like a really good laugh, may I commend David Niven’s Book – The Moon is a Balloon. He was a student there before me.

Looking back I can now see that I was a very nervous individual. Although I was learning how to stand on my feet I was not learning ‘lessons’ or any of the sporting games – cricket, football, hockey, tennis. During my second year at Stowe I started to get serious Hay Fever and I started to sneeze and was unable to stop. (Years later I was told that it was psycho somatic and the same as a nervous breakdown). However the school couldn’t cope with me and my parents took me back to London still sneezing. For some months the newspapers of the time and in particular the Daily Express covered a story of “The Sneezing Boy”. We received hundreds of letters – some addressed, The Sneezing Boy, England.

They came from all over and although most were kind and offered solutions I remember one that said, “Put him in a cold bath and spank him”. They tried Christian science, cold storage, Osteo manipulation, (where I met Danny Kay who had hurt himself at the Palladium) and many other remedies. At the end I was put in a small private psychiatric clinic in Hampstead (where I met Joyce Grenfell) to shut me away from all the media attention. At the time my father did not think that I had much intelligence and I was given an IQ test which showed that I was just 3 points below a Mensa. To give him his due he came to see me and apologized. The sneezing eventually stopped, but my Grandmother from Leicester suggested that I should continue my education in a clear air environment, and as a result schools in Switzerland were approached.

A very new school was being started by an ex master from Gordonston, Scotland, along the lines of Kurt Hahn but without the cruelties – cold showers every morning whatever the weather. The Swiss school was called Aiglon College and is set at 4,000 feet in the French Swiss alps at a place called Villars. I spent 3 super years at Aiglon. There were very few students and not a lot of work was done but plenty of skiing and own initiative expeditions. Occasionally the sneezing started again for short spells, but the founder, John Corlette, noticed this only happened when I was under pressure and he helped me through. What I really did learn at Aiglon was how to stand on my feet, and I am indebted to the head master and the school’s visions and values for doing this. I took 4, O level School Certificate exams which I passed. French was one of these, and was easy as we had to speak French at the school at certain times of each week.

Both Beatrice and Eugene, the Royals, had been going to go to the school, but there was a hick-up just before they were due to attend. John Corlette is long since dead, but the school now thrives with a hundred or so boys and girls. As skiing was part of the curriculum I have always enjoyed this sport as a hobby. Since I left I have been class secretary looking after the first ten years of the school’s alumni. I relinquished this job in (2004).

I left Aiglon at the age of 18 and received my National Service Orders to join the RASC at Blenhim Barracks, Aldershot. Within 24 hours the sneezing had re-started and I was shunted off to Netley which is the Army’s large psychiatric Hospital. After two or three months I was invalided out of the army and more or less instructed to undergo a Psycho Analysis. This I did for 40 minutes per day for the next 3 years and at the same time held down my first job which was being the post boy at an Insurance Broking company in the city of London called Price Forbes.

This was in 1954 and my first salary was £180 per year with an annual rise of £20 plus a bonus of £5. I learned quite a bit about insurance in their American Contract department and then sought another job with a Broking Company called H J Symons. This was in 1956 and I had now picked myself up so-to-speak. I spent a few years with Symons in their Reinsurance Department and then moved to Lloyd’s itself as an Underwriting assistant on a ‘box’- as your workplace at Lloyd's is called. I worked for some years with a syndicate called F L P Secretan on the Non Marine side of their business.

My Father and Mother helped me financially to become a “Name” at Lloyd’s on the syndicate for which I was working. There were just four of us on this Non Marine box and the work was very exacting. Brokers from all the big companies would ask us to ‘underwrite’ their ‘slips’. A 'slip' gives brief details of that which was being insured, and as we were a small syndicate we were only approached for small percentages. All very complicated, and rather boring. Both my parents, by this time, had split up, my Father remained at the flat we had near Hampstead Heath and my Mother moved in with Dr. Alan Watson, (Father, Sir Bertram Watson) and stayed in Hampstead Village.

At about this time I was married to Caroline Fairfax-Cholmeley, 29th. July 1961. Her Father was Chairman of Barclays Bank France and lived in Paris. Courting was great fun – part in Paris and part in Scotland. Caroline’s Mother was nee Ogilvie-Wedderburn and hailed from Scotland. My in laws eventually lived at Ballandoch near Alyth, but at this point in time they rented the Manse in Glen Prosen for the long Summer holidays, and lived at the Avenue Des Challets in Paris. I have many happy memories of this time.

While I was still at Lloyd’s Caroline and I lived in Letherhead in Surrey.
We had two children, Fiona and Catherine. One Sunday morning at six AM I received a telephone call from my Mother in Austria were she and Alan were on holiday to say that Alan had died during the night from a massive heart attack.. “Please help”, she said. Within six hours I had managed to arrive at Igles near Innsbruck to help support my Mother and deal with the aftermath of Alan's sudden death.

Caroline and I both became fed up with living in the ‘rat race’ in Surrey. Working at Lloyd’s meant that four and a half hours a day were spent in traveling and this was not on. We considered our options – moving to France, America, Australia, Scotland etc.

Needless to say the plus points for Scotland were at the top of the list so I started to look for a position with an Insurance Broker in Scotland. I wrote to different firms operating in the East of Scotland but with very little success. There was one firm, Matthews Wrightson, that as well as their London base, had an office in Dundee and I considered this to be very promising, but I was having no answer to my requests for an interview. I found out who the Managing Director was and telephoned him privately to explain the situation. He was impressed, I think, with my initiative and I was interviewed by him that morning. At the end of the interview he said, “OK, you’ve got the job, but now please tell me your real reason for wanting to go to Scotland. Is it the Golf?”

At first Caroline, the two children and I rented Berryhill farm outside Dundee for my six months of probation with Matthews Wrightson. This was in 1965 and my remit with the firm in Dundee, which had just three staff, was to increase the size of the business portfolio. There were some doubts from my boss as to how I would get on with my “English” accent with potential clients such as couthy Scottish farmers. After a while I was given a completely free hand in the work that I was doing. Exactly 25 years later I retired at the age of 58, and there were then over 40 staff to handle the increased business portfolio. I thanked Aiglon College for the grounding I had had and knew that if one was honest and worked hard success would follow. I had no degrees and very few exam successes, but I had learnt how to get on with people.

There was one incident that I shall never forget. I had a completely free hand to come and go as I liked. There was one particular day that was very sunny and warm. As I loved lying in the sun I decided to drive to Lumley Den near Dundee where I could do a bit of secretive sunbathing. Armed with sandwiches, coke and a good book I left the car near the road and I found a suitable spot in a clearing in the woods to sunbathe – all day. Unbeknown to me the local Police had seen my car early in the morning and again later in the afternoon. They became suspicious and traced the number back to the firm who were duly informed. My boss guessed at once what I had been doing, so next day I was duly summoned to account for the work I had done the day before. As if my face wasn’t red enough from the sun it certainly become so, and all the staff had a very good laugh at my acute discomfort.

I also remember that I still had one particular fear and that was to stand up in front of people to lecture or give a talk or whatever. My boss in Dundee said to me, one day after I had been particularly successful in landing a large piece of business, that I would be going to London, as a reward, to stand up in front of all our colleagues to tell them how it was done. So concerned was I that I actually wrote a letter of resignation, which was not accepted, but I did not have to go to London after all.

At about this time I decided to resign my Lloyd’s membership. Before I had left my job at Lloyd’s I had heard some dubious mutterings and as I was now living in Scotland I did not wish to take the risk of being a Lloyd's Member any more. Local wealthy land owners who were considering joining Lloyd’s often asked for my advice and I just told them that I used to be a Member, but now this was not the case. "You must draw your own conclusions."

Caroline and I moved to Tarriebank, near Arbroath. It had 8 acres of land, seven bedrooms and a run down squash court. The cost in 1966 was £20,000. Playing squash was very much in its infancy but I saw the potential and eventually I had built three extra courts, changing rooms, sauna, plunge pool sun beds and a gymnasium. In its ‘heyday’ we had over 600 members and I thought I would be able to retire early. Then the local authorities saw the potential in squash and started to build squash courts everywhere, which meant I lost most of my members. This was because I was charging annual subscriptions commensurate with my investment, whereas the local authority courts just charged minimal rates.

Our squash teams were called “The Prunes” and we excelled ourselves in the local and national leagues that we ourselves had set up in Scotland. We had TV coverage and the South African Knights played on our courts. We set a very high standard and for 15 years nearly everyone in the area had either been a member or knew someone who was a member. Apart from a cleaner I ran and looked after the club on my own plus family help form time to time. We had to close the doors when most of our members had opted to join the local community centres instead of re-joining Tarriebank.

Lucinda and David had been born in the early years at Tarriebank and all the children went to the very good local school at Inverkeilor and then they went on to the Dundee High school.

Tarriebank House was big enough to split into two parts and as Caroline and I had agreed to separate, amicably, we each took one side of the house. We were officially divorced on 24th. January 1985.

I found another all absorbing hobby in sailing. I was a member of the Royal Tay Yacht Club and learnt big boat sailing with Bob Barnet. I was also a member of the Carnoustie Yacht Club where I had two Mirror dinghies. I became the sailing secretary here for two years, during which time we hosted the Osprey Championships.

I became very friendly with one of the better female sailors at Carnoustie who also just happened to be the number one female squash player, at that time, at Tarriebank. Her name was Cornelia Winter, nee Ramsay, and she and I were married on 16th. June 1988.

Within the grounds of Tarriebank I had earlier built a ‘one off’ bungalow for my Mother to live in so that she could be closer to her family. My Brother Anthony was teaching in the Russian Department at St. Andrews University, so was also close by.

My mother, originally Mrs. Hippisley, and then Mrs. Watson decided to marry my Uncle, who was also my God Father and now became my Step Father, and by a quirk of family names my Mother became Mrs. Hippisley again! They both lived in the bungalow – Willowbank. Tarriebank was sold and became an old peoples residence. We built an extension to Willowbank and Connie and I lived in the extension. There was only one kitchen so the situation was not ideal. For example, while our supper would be in the oven keeping warm my Mother would come through thinking the oven had been left on by mistake and turn it off!

Connie and I had both become very involved with Transcendental Meditation. We had been on many courses and finally we both learnt to levitate. We became ‘followers’ of Sai Baba and later of Barry Long. All these things seemed to happen at the right time in our lives and were spiritually very rewarding and uplifting. Barry Long, from Australia, was a teacher or Guru for ‘Western’ people, which made it easier to follow but harder to run away from.

Two years before I was due to retire Connie suggested that I ought to be starting a post retirement occupation, and why not The Samaritans? I underwent their extensive training and became a Samaritan in 1990. Samaritan work in prisons, at this time in England, was that Samaritans would select, train and support prisoners, (Listeners), to become Samaritans on the inside. The Scottish Prison Service had no such schemes and I saw that there was a challenge here. At the highest level, (again), I asked to join the SPS Executive Steering Group, and succeeded.

I was the first Samaritan National Co-ordinator for prisons in Scotland and after about 8 years almost all the prisons in Scotland had Listener Schemes up and running. I did a lot of non Samaritan prison work for the SPS and I was nominated for the prestigious Butler Trust Award. I stood down from prison work after eight years and started on a new project.

At this time the Samaritans had their Dundee Samaritan centre at 10 Victoria Chambers, which was not suitable for a number of reasons. It could not be converted for the use by disabled people and its entrance attracted drunks and undesirables. I managed to raise from the Big Lottery over ¼ million pounds and we bought land at 6 Old Glamis Road, Dundee and built a purpose designed new, disabled friendly, building. I also raised £30,000 from other Trusts and Foundations in order to purchase all new equipment. I became the official ‘Fundraising Co-ordinator’ for the branch. At the age of 72, (2006), I mastered my fears of speaking in front of people and I did some of the outside and, in-house, training with the aid of PowerPoint presentations. In the 2014 New Year's honours list I was honoured with an MBE for "Samaritan work in Dundee". The investiture was on July the first at Hollyrood Palace. I was allowed three guests and I took Connie, Lucinda and David. I was allowed to have a few words with the Queen which was very exciting.

During all my life I have been an avid photographer and started with an original box brownie. In those days it was all black and white and I used to do all my own developing and printing. My portrait work sold nicely and I am seldom without a camera near by. Some of my pictures are displayed on this website.

For pets I have always liked cats and have seldom been without one or more. I am able to personalise a cat and I can have a very close relationship with them. No wonder the Egyptians so revered their cats! Strange it is that I now have and love a Cocker Spanial.

One of the reasons that I retired from my broking firm 7 years early was that a computer terminal arrived on my desk and I felt that I was too old for all that new technology. After I had retired, and when my portable electric typewriter broke I took it to a shop in Dundee and explained the situation. They had me type on a keyboard and press ctrl P to see what I had done and then told me that I was working a computer. I was sold, and have never looked back. I now use the most up-to-date PC all the time and find it fascinating, especially because of its enormous potential.

My four children are all grown up and the three girls are married with offspring. I have five Grandchildren, Kirsten, Mairi, Gabriel, Verity and Andrew.

Connie and I moved to Letham Grange, near Arbroath, in 1998. Connie has a part time job at Flair Fashions, a boutique, in Letham Village. My uncle, etc., etc.,Claude Hippisley, died 17th. August 1990. My Mother, having become very arthritic, eventually moved to Tarriebank residential home and spent her latter years in my old bedroom. She died at the age of 93. (2003).

Connie and I enjoy as many holidays as we can afford and have been to Africa – Safari, Austria, Germany, France, all cycling. Maldives 2005, many cruises – USA, Bermuda, Caribbean, Baltic Capitals, North Cape, the Med and Thailand. We had two weeks time share for some years, but we have now sold this. A three month world cruise on P&O Arora took place in January, Febraury, March 07, and we spent six weeks in New Zealand over Christmas and New Year 07 - 08

In June 09 we went to Jersey and enjoyed some strenuous cycling. Jersy is NOT flat and the hills took their toll as I had a heart attack and ended up in Jersey General Hospital.
A small three seater air ambulance 'plane was organised for my return to Dundee. Some tranquilisers were in order and there was a female pilot too. I was most impressed as we flew at 22,000 feet - well above the dreaded turbulance. Within two hours we were back into Dundee and I was quickly ambulanced to Ninewells and packed off to a windowside bed that afforded a super view of the Tay and airstrip. Yes, I was able to see my wife's ordinary 'plane land just 20 minutes after my arrival.

Connie has a son, Donald, who was a HGV driver and golf caddy.

Connie’s hobbies have included golf, curling, needlework and beading; she also plays the Clarsach. And now she has taken up outdoor bowling.

In 2013 Connie and I moved back to Letham village and have a delightful bungalow with an ideally small garden. No mowing grass!

  End, for the time being.......

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