I was born on Friday January 6, 1933.

I come from an old Datchet family who arrived on Datchet Common in the eighteenth century and worked in agriculture and craft jobs which have changed with the advent of technology.

Education was almost non-existent; life was hard, simple but people helped each other and ‘you knew your place’.

My parents were married in 1930 in Datchet and moved to Slough where they rented part of a small house in Hencroft Street. Earlier, Mother, who left Datchet School at fourteen, went into service for a Barrister in London.

She was very impressed by this educated family whose lifestyle she absorbed.

She was ‘adopted’ by the family and would go home at weekends with a large basket of food and took on the domestic ways of her employers. One significant part of the family’s life they called ‘Education’.

The children went away to school and studied subjects unknown to my mother. In a nutshell she was overwhelmed by a way of life that she wasn’t familiar with and knew she could never aspire to.

She did not know exactly what education was but if she ever had children, she knew she wanted them to have ‘Education’. Without my mother’s experience I would have had a different future and worked in Billy Hill’s corner shop.

I make no comment as to whether this was better or worse, but she was a very influential person.

My father also left school at fourteen and did a range of jobs in the village until he was sixteen, when he moved to a wood yard in Langley. He had a disastrous accident when most of his hand was severed off by a wood cutting machine.

He was taken by horse and cart to Old Windsor Hospital where he was treated by a surgeon who had just returned from the war in France.

The stump of his hand was reshaped but the accident made him unemployable.

He lived at home with his Victorian mother and was paid two hundred pounds compensation. His mother used the money to buy her two other children, still living at home, a piano - what an irony!

At that time a lot of working men joined an organisation called the Buffaloes. They would meet in the evening at the Plough for a drink and a chat. This is where my father met my mother’s father Jack, who liked a beer.

They lived very near to one another, and my father would help Jack, who could be a bit tottery, safely home; it was not long before my parents were ‘walking out’.

They were married at the height of the Depression and on the day, I was born, my father was cycling around the Slough Trading Estate looking for work.

By chance he met the director of a company called Optical Measuring Tools; Mr Hayley could see my father’s plight and offered him a job in the stores. He became a family friend and would visit our home and bring us food.

He clearly had a humble start himself and was proud of his achievements.

He would take me around his factory to meet his skilled employees and would say to me ‘One day you could have my job if you worked hard and studied – that’s why I am a star’.

The doctor who delivered me said “What a time to bring a child into the world!” and gave my mother a bill for seven shillings and sixpence.

I was seen as an inquisitive, thoughtful little boy and with my mother’s encouragement wanted to know more about the world around me as the Second World War then started.

My primary school education was very intermittent, spending time in the shelters and having two teachers, one was the greengrocer’s wife, Mrs Smith and the other a missionary, Mrs Swanborough.

At the age of eleven I took an examination called the Eleven-Plus. We had no idea what it was and so most of us failed it.

The few children who passed could apply to go to the Grammar school but could not afford the uniform. I failed the exam but there was another possible route for some of us. My school was traditionally associated with Eton College who offered two bursaries a year to our school.

As the senior choir boy at St Laurence Church, I was a offered a place to join Eton as a chorister. When my mother heard the news, her immediate reply was ‘People like us do not go to Eton’.

So my mother rejected the offer and I continued my education at the Slough and Eton Secondary School.

Having failed the Eleven-Plus, and knowing my social position was the bottom of the pile, I concluded that I was average and socially unacceptable!

However I was not disappointed because I had no idea of the implications and that being average could be a cosy place to be.

This is summarised in the poem called - ‘I’m a good Average’:

I don’t cause too much trouble,

My grades have been OK,

I listen in my classes,

And I’m in school every day,

My parents think I’m average,

My teachers think so too,

I wish I didn’t know that,

‘Cause there’s lots I’d like to do.

I’d like to build a rocket,

I’ve a book that shows me how,

Or make my own invention,

Well, no use trying now,

‘Cause now I know I’m average

I’m just smart enough you see,

To know there’s nothing special

I should expect from me

I’m part of that majority,

who have done fairly well,

Who spend their lives unnoticed

In an average kind of hell.

I would quote this poem later in life when I began a lecture on Educational Potential. The teachers would cringe and be angry.

I am sure that many Observer readers over eighty can relate their own experience to mine.

Ron Lewin is a member of the Lewin family that has lived in Datchet and Slough since the 18th Century. He attended the Sir William Herschel Grammar School and then studied chemistry while working at the Fulmer Research Institute in Stoke Poges.