Andre Francis

About me

All background images on this page are from our Nottingham garden

Early years

I was born in a nursing home in Crosby, near Liverpool, because my mother was unmarried and needed my birth ‘out of the public eye’. She left me with my father after 3 days and, after around two years, my father and I moved in with his then partner Mary Fisher and her family at Coltart Road, Toxteth. Although the popup photo was taken around 1900, the houses had not changed and ours was approximately 14 houses down on the right side, at number 81.

The primary schools I attended were:

  • Tiber Street in Liverpool (about 2 years, aged 6-8), This school was demolished in 1999 and the land redeveloped as part of a larger project, Tiber Park, part of which replaced my old house in Coltart Road, which was demolished in the aftermath of the Toxteth Riots of 1981.
  • Fairlea School (mainly boarding) in Southport (1.5 years, aged around 8-9 yrs). I cannot currently find any trace of this school, either physically or on-line, but I am still trying.
  • St Mary Abbots in Kensington, London (1 year) … and it is still going strong.

I passed the 11-plus and went for interview to Westminster School, which I spectacularly failed (It was a disaster - I was lacking in self-confidence, had a stutter, a heavy ’scouse’ accent and accompanied by my cafe-owning Greek-Cypriot uncle). 

The secondary schools I attended were:

Sloane Grammar in Chelsea, My form and geography teacher was H A Balkham (see school roll), who I met later as the Principal of Orpington College at the successful interview for my first teaching role. I have recently joined the Old Cheyneans and Friends, the Sloane ‘old boys’ website.

Quarry Bank Grammar (2 years). John Lennon was there too but he was two years older and I never met him, but I briefly saw the Beatles performing at Litherland Town Hall (LTH) in 1960 … they were very loud and I left early. On the way out, I looked up at the stage and saw (I think) five (but it may have been four) black leather-jacketed individuals. The ‘Beatles Bible’ (Not quite as popular as Jesus) website has an excellent and enlightening article on this landmark LTH performance and I have reproduced the poster for it on the right.

Hillfoot Hey High School (2 years), School Lane, Woolton, Liverpool. The school was demolished after only 25 years to make way for a self-build housing project area. 

My first job, about nine months, was a Shipping Clerk (runner mainly) at Benjamin Ackerley, based at Pier Head, Liverpool in 1961.

Litherland Town Hall, Beatles breakthrough concert

Click to enlarge

Royal Air Force

Copyright ©   Andre Francis

I joined the RAF as a Direct Entry at 17 (not National Service) and served from 1962-68. 

I was stationed at the following units:

  • RAF Bridgnorth, Shropshire (8 wks basic training), in April 1962, followed by 
  • RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey for 6 weeks trade training as a statistical clerk.
  • HQ 24 Gp, RAF Rudloe Manor, near Corsham, Wilts in August 1962. My work involved setting up course training analyses and graphs (all done manually) in the Chart Room for inspection by senior officers. The camp and its environs is now a top-secret MOD establishment (and very scary). In 2000, we were stopped by an MP for simply driving past and looking! I believe it is now referred to as the UK Area 51 and has many underground tunnels stretching over the local area. There is a detailed article here.
  • HQMEC, RAF Steamer Point in Aden. I was stationed here from late 1963 to late 1965. In mid-1964, Nick Glenton and I formed a band, 'The King Bees', with Steve Hutchinson, Dave Gratton and Johnny Fry. Nick was repatriated after about 6 months and replaced by Ron Lamberton for the last 12 months of my 2-year tour. I have since set up a website ... www.kingbeesinaden.co.uk ... which has recently been redeveloped.  The website has plenty of pictures from the final year and (very basic and not-so-good quality) audio recordings from our last concert. Aden is now the Yemen Republic and immensely scary … but if it ever settled down, I would love to revisit.
  • HQFTC, RAF Shinfield Park near Reading. I was here from late 1965 to March 1968, three months before the camp was closed. For most of us who served here, including those that went on to other stations, it was the best camp we had experienced and a lot of lifetime friends were made. Our reunions began on the 40-year anniversary of the camp closure in 2008 and have continued annually. I have set up another website www.rafshinfieldpark.com which brings together personnel who were stationed at the camp. Those two-and-a-half years were my best RAF times, meeting friends there I have to this day. I married Pat Collier, the C in C’s secretary, in 1967 at Harrogate.

My discharge from the RAF was purchased in 1968 and Pat and I went to live in Leeds with her mother. I worked as a Costing Clerk for Taylor Atkinson Ltd in a stainless steel works for about 9 months, 1968-69. Although I enjoyed the job and they tried to persuade me to stay, I had my mind set on academia. Pat and I were divorced in 1970, a year after I moved to London.

Academic and professional

From 1969, I followed various studies for 5 years full-time and 3 years part-time at (now) South Bank, City, London and Brunell universities. From 1973 I taught Maths, Stats and Computing (at various times) at Orpington College, Bromley CAT, CBS College and (the now) Nottingham College. While at Orpington College, I competed my first academic text: “Advanced Level Statistics” (pub. Stanley Thornes) as a result of finding no suitable student-centred statistics texts. While at Nottingham (then Clarendon) College, I completed text “Business Mathematics and Statistics” again, as there were no suitable texts catering for business and professional students.

In 1996, I began working as a medical statistician with Jason Gardosi at Nottingham University (Perinatal Research, Audit and Monitoring Unit) and in 1999 we moved to the newly formed Perinatal Institute in Birmingham. Although now I have retired from operational work, I am involved in research and retained as a consultant and non-executive director.

For the academic year 2020/21, I am enrolled as a post-graduate student at the University of Warwick.

Here is my full professional CV.


Family, Home, Garden and Holidays

The family and home

I met Lorna when I was on vacation in Germany in 1972 while playing with a friend’s band (Page One, as a guest singer) at a Sergeant’s Mess Dance. She was Warrant Officer Keith Greatorex’s eldest daughter and I fell for her instantly and we married within two years in 1973. For the early part of our marriage we were living with my uncle in Turnham Green, Chiswick for over a year before buying our own house in New Ash Green, Kent. At this time I was teaching at Orpington College and Lorna was working in retail at John Barker, Kensington. We currently live in New Basford, Nottingham, UK after moving up from Kent in 1977. 

We have a daughter, Imogen, who currently lives and works in Birmingham. She attended Nottingham High School and studied English at Birmingham University and post-graduate Law at Nottingham Trent University. She is a Managing Associate at Shoosmiths website here and is married to Ben Harrold, a financial advisor, website here.

The garden

We are fairly keen gardeners and have had a few Open Garden events for charity, normally held in July.

In 2010, our first, we raised £60 for Cancer Research UK. 

In 2011 we raised about £200 for The British Heart Foundation.

In 2012 we supported the Parkinson's Disease Society with a large Open Garden event, raising £180. We have created a movie of this and also of our Night Garden. See slideshow movies below.

Our last Open Garden was in 2016, but we had a closed event for some family and friends on Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Open Garden, July 2012

Click a movie to play

Night Garden, July 2012

Holidays

Most of our holidays have been taken in the UK, but we had a period of 7-8 years skiing in resorts in the USA and France.

One of our favourite repeat holiday destinations (before we gave up flying) was Lanzarote and we have also visited Italy, Germany and North Africa a number of times. Our favourite UK destination is Portmeirion which we last visited in 2018 (see photos displayed in movie below).

I was presenting to a Barcelona Fetal Growth conference in Sep 2015, and extended it to a 3-day holiday with Imogen. 

Lanzarote, 2002

Barcelona, Sep 2015

Portmeirion, 2018

Click a movie to play

Interests … and Contact

I currently sing in the choir The Saturday Singers (SATB, around 40, mixed repertoire) and a quartet Quorus. Previously a member of the Nottingham Harmonic Chorus (c200, classical repertoire) for 5 years (2003-2008).

Some friends and I set up a quartet called ‘Quorus’ in 2013 as an offshoot from The Saturday Singers. Just recently, after around 5 years with us, our alto, Alison, left us and Wendy replaced her … she has had a lot of work to do! www.quorusquartet.org.uk

A particular ambition I have is to pursue over the coming years is to increase my relatively small presence on the Web, both with respect to music and academic activities.

My general interests are: current affairs, music, singing, walking, animals and their habitat conservation, cooking, science fiction, writing and gardening. 

If you wish to contact me, my email address is andre.francis1@gmail.com.

All background images on this page are from our Nottingham garden