Clip from oral history interview with Irene Crishall (SA 47/1/1/4/1)
"Messerschmitt Bubble Car" [CC-BY-2.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Extract of an oral history interview conducted with Mrs Irene Cranwell from the village of Chrishall in Essex (SA 47/1/1/4/1). In this extract, she describes her somewhat unusual driving test in Cambridge. Although the story took place over the border, the recording itself was made in Essex and offers an example of an accent of someone from north-west Essex. It also demonstrates how much driving tests have changed in Britain!
This recording highlights the principal joy of working with oral history. That is, the fact that it is about people. Everybody has a story to tell, but some tell them better than others. Mrs Cranwell falls into the category of characters whose personality bursts out of the recorded interview. Irene Cranwell died in 2010 at the age of 99, having become a local celebrity through regular contributions to a BBC Cambridgeshire radio show. She had been a teacher at Chrishall village school and later worked at Barkway First School and Icknield Walk First School in Royston. She also, apparently, had an impressive knowledge of local history and started a museum in Chrishall based on her own collection.
When listening to oral history interviews we should not forget the contribution of the interviewer who, in this case, has created a relaxed and congenial atmosphere, allowing the interviewee to express herself in a free and uninhibited manner.