Local lad, John Pridham (later known as Jack) was born in 1929, the son of Albert James Pridham and his wife Marjorie Iris (nee Symes).
They lived in Thornbury at the house on the corner of Gloucester Road and St John Street, now known as The Georgian House or 6 The Plain. Jack attended the Council School, won a scholarship to the Grammar School and from there went on to read chemistry at Bristol University and stayed there for a PhD. He loved his childhood in Thornbury and even though he moved away and became an internationally renowned plant biochemist he continued a fondness for the town.
In an article on the Internet, Jack described the inspiration behind his success came from three main sources, all connected with Thornbury. He said:
“My father was an expert in many practical subjects, and had a fully equipped workshop that I was free to use from a very early age. He also encouraged me to set up a home laboratory. Chemicals were freely available from the local pharmacy.
Inspiration came from a primary school where, unusually, there was a teacher with extracurricular leanings in year four, supported by a cupboard packed with fascinating scientific equipment.
Finally, there was the grammar school where – despite wartime staffing problems – my earlier interests, particularly in chemistry, were reinforced by an extensive and very varied programme of practical work.
The basic driving force behind all of this was excitement. I became addicted to flashes and bangs, not forgetting unusual odours. I was always wondering what would happen if you added A to B, heated C, or ignited D, preferably in a sealed tube“.
From the time Jack saw what we were doing with the Thornbury Roots website he gave us his full support and was a major contributor with stories about the places and people we were writing about. He became our friend and you will find many snippets of information given us by Jack, often late in the evening when he was enjoying a whisky before retiring to bed.
Jack had already recorded his memories of his childhood and early life in Thornbury in a book about his father which he called ‘The Handiest Man in Gloucestershire’. As a boy Jack had inherited his father’s inquiring mind and practical ability, and he spent a lot of his younger days looking into all aspects of the physical world and undertaking all sorts of, often dangerous, experiments in his home laboratory. He was also very observant of what went on in the Town and what people were like. Fortunately for us Jack also had a good memory and was able to describe what he did and saw in a most amusing way.
We were honoured when he sent us a copy of his draft for this book and he agreed to us extracting bits of information for use on the website. Sadly Jack died in 2012 without actually publishing the book.
Jack’s widow Mary has since agreed to our request to use longer extracts of the book on the website and we are publishing these because they provide a unique, very detailed and clear picture of life in Thornbury during those years including the Second World War. Jack had originally written the book for the interest of his immediate family and he acknowledged that some of his thoughts were not intended for a wider audience. We have therefore made some minor changes to the text knowing that this is what Jack would have wanted.
For the purposes of the website we have also organised Jack’s memories into the subject areas shown in the sidebar on the left. Please click on any heading to read one of Jack’s stories.