We tend to think of changing careers several times in our lives as being a relatively modern invention, believing that previous generations tended to stick to one occupation for the duration of their working lives. Indeed my paternal grandfather was born on his father’s farm in Aberdeenshire, worked on the family farm as he grew up, then inherited the farm himself.
And I remember when I was young, visiting my maternal grandfather at work before he retired, where he always wore a suit and tie and had his own office, managing a large city garage. His own car was kept immaculate, and he was always good at fixing mechanical things. He had a neat and tidy workshop at home with every tool in its place. Mum remembers them all travelling down from Aberdeen as a family to watch the racing at Silverstone in Northamptonshire, so cars were obviously a driving passion in his life.
But it’s quite clear from earlier photographs that my grandfather had enjoyed at least two previous careers before cars became his livelihood…
As a young man he was in the Royal Horse Artillary, looking relaxed in his open-necked shirt and apron, and very smart in his formal uniform. And at some point afterwards, but before he married – apparently he and my grandmother met in London – he was in the Metropolitan Police. During that time he was also presumably involved in some special training relating to potential chemical attack, as in spite of the full face-mask and space-age suit, he’s quite recognisable as the figure at the back looking straight at the camera – we’d know the jaunty swing of his shoulder anywhere.
It makes me wonder, though, why his early life took the particular path it did, and more importantly why it never occurred to me to ask those questions while both he and my grandmother were alive. I know there were family problems rarely spoken about – his own father’s alcoholism and gambling leading to the family business becoming bankrupt – but it never ceases to amaze me that the quiet unassuming man I knew and loved so well in his older years could have led such an interesting early life long before returning home to his native Scotland to marry and raise his family 🙂