John Andrew Hall 1943 – 2015
The following is an autobiography written by my father in January 2014 for Penny, his granddaughter / my niece, who had to write a school project about a family member.
I was born on the 12th of May 1943 in the middle of the Second World War. My parents were Herbert and Audrey Hall, and I was their second son. My brother, Ron was fourteen years older than I and went into the army when he was eighteen, so I was virtually an only child. We lived in a pleasant four bedroom house in a suburb of Birmingham with my mother’s parents. My childhood was quiet and uneventful except for the deaths of my grandfather and grandmother. I cannot remember much of the former but I was very fond of my grandmother. In 1953 when I was ten, we purchased a television set in order to watch the Queen’s coronation. It was a 9 inch black and white set but it changed everyone’s lives.
I was a studious boy and spent hours reading anything I could get my hands on. I attended the local grammar school and was an all rounder. I became Head Boy of the 600 pupil school which was all male. My exam results were good and I played in the first teams for football, cricket, tennis and basketball. I was fortunate enough to be admitted to Oxford University and I left home at the age of nineteen to start a new life, having lived in the same house until then. Oxford was a wonderful experience for me. I loved the ancient atmosphere of the place and the cameraderie bred from living in close proximity with others of the same age, though many with very different backgrounds. As at school, my college was all male and female company was to be found only at weekend parties and summer balls. I met Pat Hughes, who was a nurse, at a college party in my final year and she was later to become my wife. At the university I studied English literature which was a pleasure, though the final exams were a nightmare! Anyone who was at Oxford will testify to the ordeal of two weeks of these exams with three hours in the mornings and three hours in the afternoons with questions spanning all the work done over the previous three years. There were no modules or multiple choice questions!
After Oxford I moved to London together with many of my friends and I shared a flat in Kensington with Tony Hawkes, a close college friend. I joined Barclays Bank and Tony joined the Foreign Office. Neither of us earned much money but we enjoyed many genial evenings at our local pub which was conveniently situated opposite our flat! I am not too sure why I chose banking, though I think I fancied the idea of an opulent office and important position. However, I was soon to find out that years of learning tedious tasks were entailed. I also passed the Institute of Bankers exams, though studying in the evenings after a day’s work was not exactly fun.
In London I renewed my relationship with Pat, who had gone on to work at University College Hospital, and we eventually shared a flat just off High Street, Kensington. Soon after, in 1967, Barclays sent me to Canada for 18 months. Pat and I did not want to be parted, so we married that year and she accompanied me to Toronto. We had a good year in Canada and managed to see something of the US also.I was paid well and Pat worked as a nurse for some of the time, so we were able to save money, which meant that we could buy a house and furnish it on our return to England. The house was a pretty two bedroom Elizabethan cottage in a lovely village outside Newbury and we lived there with two dogs, an Old English Sheepdog called Milton and a West Highland terrier called Pooh. It was a happy time, though my commute to London by train was tedious.
I enjoyed my work at Barclays, but I was ambitious and answered a newspaper advert for General Manager of London Scottish Banking Corporation. I was interviewed by the Managing Director, Ron Basher, who became a lifelong friend. I got the job and we moved to Willow Tree Cottage in Long Crendon. While there, we had the wonderful news that Pat was pregnant, which we had been hoping for. However, shortly into the pregnancy Pat was diagnosed with leukemia, which changed our lives for ever.
My daughter, Samantha arrived to our great joy and we tried to put Pat’s illness into the background. At this time also, my father died. I miss him and wish I had spent more time with him.
My new bank funded itself in the wholesale market and made mortgages and personal loans. This worked well until 1974 when a banking crisis hit the country and the inter-bank market dried up. It was clear that I had no future in my job and so I moved to Banque Nationale de Paris. They wanted someone to go to Nigeria and we decided to take the step. We would have servants out there and Pat was getting tired with her illness, so it worked out well. We sold Willow Tree Cotttage and moved to Africa.
Life in Nigeria was good and I prospered in the bank. However, Pat’s tragedy always loomed over us. We were on leave in England in 1977 when she lost her struggle and died. Samantha and I were left alone and I had to decide what to do. I made the decision to return to Nigeria where the domestic help lifted the burden of running a household. We stayed in Africa until 1980. I thought that Samantha needed an English education and we moved to High Street, Long Crendon where I had bought a house. I took some months to settle into English life, but I obviously needed some income. Fortuitously, a friend and ex banking client from Nigeria needed someone to help him establish an office in London. I took the job and it developed into an interesting assignment which involved travel to New York (by Concorde!), Hong Kong, Singapore and Nigeria. At this time I bought Fairoak in Toot Baldon and met Clare who later became my second wife. Unfortunately our marriage did not turn out happily, but it did produce my son, Andrew, who has given me much pleasure.
Clare and I parted in 1987 and I went back to Nigeria with Banque Nationale de Paris. This was an unhappy time of my life because I was parted from Samantha and Andrew and it became difficult for me to see them on my frequent visits home. In Nigeria I was approached by Societe Generale Bank who offered me the position of Chief Executive. I accepted and thoroughly enjoyed the position and responsibility. I also renewed my acquaintance with Vanita Lakhani with whom I had worked in New York. She was to become my third wife. We married in 1991 and my second son, Rowan was born the following year. Nigeria was then no place to raise a young child and we chose to move to Florida. I had previously bought a flat in Oxford and was delighted when Samantha decided to move in there after leaving her finishing school.
I have lived in Florida ever since, and Vanita and I run a property management business. I now have two wonderful grandchildren from Samantha and Andrew is about to bestow me with another. I hope to be able to spend more time in England to see them all, and Vanita and I look forward to their visits.