Terry O'Connor

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Here is a bit of a potted biography, in case anyone should wonder how I came to be this way.

My parents on the beach at Westbrook

My parents on the beach at Westbrook

Having no choice in the matter, I was born in Margate, the youngest of three children. My parents were as ordinary and remarkable as anyone else’s. My father, Pat, was a carpenter’s joiner who also worked in photography and printing. He was a small Irishman with little formal education but a fierce appetite for books and learning. My mother, Lily, would have gone to grammar school, having won a scholarship, but had to leave school at 15 to work when her father died. Both of them could be described, like so many of their generation, as ‘intelligent but not educated’. And that probably explains my commitment to education.

School consisted of a primary school a short bus-ride away, then the state grammar school in the next town. There were plenty at both schools who would have seemed more likely to have an academic career, as I coasted somewhat. Despite that, adequate A-levels took me to London University to read Archaeology in 1973. By three years later, I had married Sonia and graduated, in that order, and successfully applied for a studentship to pursue PhD studies.


Jamie, Laurie and Sonia: Christmas Day 1992

Subsequent jobs and research took us from London to Cardiff, to our first house in a pit village near Pontypridd, then to York in April 1981. Sonia settled in to work in the Conservation Labs of York Archaeological Trust, and I held a Research Fellowship at York University. Somewhere along the way, we acquired two sons, I moved to a post at Bradford University, we moved to Wharfedale, Sonia moved to work at Bradford, I moved back to York University … and retired early in 2015. That’s the career in a nutshell.


We live in a post-war semi in a quiet road on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, not far from Ilkley. Sonia continues to work more or less full-time, often as a consultant to museums and galleries. My ‘retirement’ is as busy as expected, with research papers to finish off, reviews to write, a book to research, the garden to get back under control, and the obvious need to get out more and to make the most of where we live.


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