Recollections and reflections

Jeff Teagle is a trustee of Dr Williams’s Library.

My reflective project for coronavirus lockdown

A few years ago, my daughter gave me a rather nice leather-bound notebook with unlined pages. I decided to use it to summarise each year of my life on a double page and I made a start. However, with life’s usual daily distractions, this did not progress very far and the notebook languished in a drawer.With the onset of lockdown at the end of March 2020 I made a decision to re-energise the project. I dug out all my diaries and worked steadily for the next two months.

The earliest diary was 1954 and contained mostly the drawings and sketches of a ten/eleven-year-old schoolboy. By 1960 the diaries were becoming more informative. The late 1960s and 1970s record the explosion of experience as I progressed into marriage, parenthood, career and overseas residence. The 1980s track the youth of my children, my wife’s career development, the intensity of my business life and reengagement with the national Unitarian movement. The 1990s saw me leave industry and become the Unitarian General Secretary and charted the profound gear-change implicit on such a change of career. My children married and the first of five grandchildren arrived. During the new century I become a Dr Williams’s trustee and my work continued apace until retirement in 2007, but I was immediately snapped up to become the Company Secretary of the International Association for Religious Freedom for the next seven years. Since retirement, my voluntary engagement in the infra-structure of the Unitarian movement has kept me engaged with a network of dear friends and colleagues.

What has this project meant? There are several layers of answer to this. It has enabled me to recall the wide range of people with whom I have interacted – family, personal friends, educators, colleagues, business associates and people in public life. Then again, there are the technical, social and political changes that have occurred during my lifespan. Aged 15, I set out on my bicycle, alone, to go from Cheshire to Wiltshire and Oxfordshire to visit relatives with just two pounds ten shillings in my pocket. Would that be a safe thing to do today? How I enjoyed listening to drama on steam radio. How lucky I was to enjoy an excellent grammar school and then sound vocational education.

The exercise has made me feel tremendous gratitude for the love of family and friends and for the benefits of the stable environment that has nurtured me. It has also caused me to recognise my shortcomings and limitations. The project is not complete, so I had better start summarising 2020.

Jeff Teagle