Norman Clout was born in May 1914, and at a very young age moved to Glencoe Road, Chatham which was at that time virtually the last road in Chatham and bordered open country. Here he attended Glencoe Road Boys’ School followed by the Senior School. He took the scholarship exam for Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School for Boys (then on Rochester High Street, now just outside Borstal on Maidstone Road) which he initially failed on the oral examination, but retook and passed it the following year. At that time, the school’s football ground was what is now the Riverside Sports Ground at the bottom of Manor Lane in Borstal.
In 1930 he was hospitalised at St. William’s Hospital, Dark Lane, Rochester due to scarlet fever which was then considered such a serious illness that sufferers were placed into isolation. St. William’s was at that time a Fever Hospital, purely for cases of scarlet fever, dyptheria and so on.
Around this time, he and his family moved to Beatty Road, off City Way, which was then little more than a mud track. They moved into a new bungalow with the modern facilities of electricity and a bathroom!
Six months later, he sat for the General Schools Exam and qualified for Matriculation (the equivalent of A Levels). In those days it was almost impossible for working class parents to sustain their children through college and university, so most had to leave school and seek employment. At that time, the Road Traffic Act had just been passed making motor insurance compulsory, and like many of his peers Norman Clout found himself placed with an insurance company, with a salary of 39 per annum, doing a variety of tasks including licking stamps, despatching mail, envelope writing and stoking the boiler!
This income allowed the occasional visit to London on the “workmen’s train” to the Old Vic and Sadlers Wells inn order to experience for the first time the delights of grand opera. Visits to Bournemouth allowed him to go to the new Bournemouth Pavilion where he attended his first orchestral concert given by the municipal orchestra. Having experienced the “Proms” on the radio, in 1933 he decided to attend one of the concerts… travelling by bicycle!
Brought up a Methodist, he attended the Methodist Central Hall in Chatham (now the Central Theatre) where in 1935 he met Muriel, who was to later become his wife, with whom he went on a cycling/youth hostelling tour of Devon the following summer, and the subsequent year up the Rhine valley, six months before Hitler invaded Austria.
Norman and Muriel were married on 2nd September 1939 in the Garrison Methodist Church, the day after the war in Poland was announced. The situation in Europe had ruled out a foreign honeymoon, but with the outbreak of war and the imminent evacuation of schoolchildren from the south east, all private rail travel was halted! Fortunately, they were still able to hold their reception at Navy House in Clover Street, Chatham. From there they travelled by taxi to their newly built house in Manor Lane, Borstal where they had to improvise a “black out” to satisfy the air-raid wardens!
In October 1940, Norman’s daily life was revolutionised when he swapped the office for the land. He became a farm labourer near Cliffe, variously carrying sacks of potatoes, wheat, barley and oats, handling the horse and trolley, loading the trolley. It was in 1941 that his first daughter was born, an event he only learned of twelve hours later due to his day working on the farm! Their second daughter followed in 1946, the year he returned to office life.
In 1960 he was transferred from the Chatham office of the Northern Assurance Co. Ltd. to its head office in Moorgate in the City. While initially a traumatic experience, the fascination of the historic centre of London and the wealth of mid-day music available proved to be compensation.
In 1966, due to the closure of the Central Hall, he became allied to the church of St. Matthew in Borstal, where he was soon installed as organist and later as choirmaster.
1968 saw the “Northern” being taken over by the Commercial Union Group, which inevitably led to the reduction of staff, and many were pensioned off when they reached 55. Too young and active to accept retirement he moved to the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd at Ludgate Hill, from where he eventually retired in 1977.