John Barrow shares his first interview for a job, and his experience of a ghost in the Tower of London.
Applying for my first job in Malaysia in 1956
I spent 1½ hours waiting in his office for my interview with Colonel Fairclough regarding a trainee/marketing assistant needed with the Anglo Thai Group in Malaya.
The London pubs were open from noon until 3pm and the Colonel had been down there having a long lunch.
He entered the door – walked straight past me with a heavy limp that he had gained from being a prisoner of war at the Thai-Burma Railway during World War II. First he let out a loud burp and then he farted like an elephant – you never heard anything like it and then goes sailing into his office. His secretary followed him in, saying, “Mr. John Barrow has been waiting for over an hour to see you sir.”
“Oh!” He sniffed – and with a snort said, ‘You had better send him in.’
So I walked in and there he was sitting behind a huge desk and me standing there like a dumb prick at a wedding. He had my resume—which said bugger all—I was only just 20 years old. Eventually he woke up that I was there … I swear blind at one point he dozed off .. I imagined from drinking too many pink gins.
He finally turned around and said, ‘Barrow, do you want a job with the Group?’
‘Yes sir, that is why I am here.’ Thinking he could have at least apologized for keeping me waiting so long.
‘I see you’re with the Royal Fusiliers, you’re an infantry man are you?’ – then looking me up and down asked, ‘Are you a good shot? How are you with a Rifle, Sten, Bren and Pistol? I thought, “What the friggin’ hell has this got to do with commercial trading?” So anyway he said, ‘Ever fire a mortar?’ and slowly I replied, ‘Yes Sir.’
‘Are you any good with these weapons?’ to which I replied, ‘Well as a matter of fact I’m a Queen’s Shot.’
‘Oh well’, that’s splendid. When can you start?’
I am thinking bloody hell what’s this? “I can’t start right away!” Abruptly, he asked, ‘When can you start?’
‘Well I have another six weeks before I am demobbed as I have an intake of new recruits, Sir. And I want to make sure I finish the job properly.’
‘Oh splendid, you can shoot; you finish off jobs properly; ‘ and slapping his hand hard on his desk, he said, ‘You’re the stuff this organisation needs.’
‘Come and work here for 1 year and then you’ll be posted to the Far East.’
‘That’ll be all’ and I was dismissed. I had to ask, ‘Excuse me sir, do I get paid for this?’ ‘Oh, yes, yes, yes,’ he said, ‘Will £15 a week suit you?’
I was tickled pink – it was much more than I was getting in the army or working for my father to whom I was articled as a solicitor; mind you, I had no real knowledge of Chin Peng and ‘The Emergency’ that existed in Malaya at the time .
My first encounter with a Ghost
The Tower of London
When I was commissioned into the Tower of London I was getting £1/19/6 (One pound 19 shillings and sixpence) after tax. My mess bill in the Tower was 50 quid a month so I had to get my father to help me out.
There were six of us living in the Tower and I remember my brother officers sitting around the breakfast table at 8.30am one morning and they were discussing THE GHOSTS in the Tower of London. I was only 19 years old then – and I was rubbishing it and saying “Come on, there is no such thing! It is all just a figment of imagination!” John Phipps, who was the adjutant of the Tower said, ‘Is that so! Then I am ordering you to be in my office at 10.45am in the Martin Tower.’ I scoffed, but agreed to be there.
So at 10.45am I turn up to Martin Tower inside the Tower of London not far from the barracks. On the ground floor level you find the Company office and you go up a circular flight of stone stairs, with no hand rail, which is level with the walk ways along the top of the battlements. One door goes to the left and one door to the right. So there I was in the Adjutant’s office and invited to sit down. It was summertime.
An orderly brought us a couple of mugs coffee and I was just asked to wait. John said, ‘When the clock strikes 11am then you will see whether there is ghosts or not.’ I scoffed again and said, “Bollocks!” I am sitting between the doors of the office either side of me – when the clock strikes 11am the door on the left flies open and there is a diminutive little female figure in a pinched waist gown and ruff around her neck and she still had her head on (which was interesting) with a tiny tiara on top of her head. I could not make out her features – she was all white.
Lady Jane Grey with ruff and pinched waist; unknown artist
The smell was shocking – like heavy animal urine – she moved behind me while the door closed gently behind her. Then the opposite door flew open and by this time I believed in ghosts instantly and in fact I was crapping myself and in the market for a new pair of pants. She moved on out the door opposite – and Jonathan calls out, ‘You bloody woman, I tell you everytime, to shut the door after you!’
With that the door slams shut with a jolt and she was gone. Everything in the room turned ice-cold, including our coffee.
From that moment onwards (it sort of ‘opens you up’) I was seeing ghosts all over the joint. Another night a poltergeist got into a brother officer’s room and he was screaming his head off. Hot coals were being hurled around his bedroom and were catching things alight. There was a quick need for action with a fire extinguisher and an exorcist.
Going back to the memory of the little white female ghost, I had a dream about her. It occurred to me it was Jane Grey because she was incarcerated in the Tower of London for 9 days and later beheaded. She used to take her morning constitutional along the battlements every day.
I wondered if she walks there now, because I am related to her in my bloodline on my mother’s side and maybe I was sent there to release her. The name Grey is in my name. It was my first experience with a ghost.
My darling Valli, has just reminded me of a time I had forgotten when I was only 6 or 7 years old. My family had been terribly worried because I was so long coming home one afternoon. When I did arrive home, I explained, “I’ve been walking with grannie down to the shops and we’ve been talking.”
They all went into stunned silence, because they told me Grannie was dead and that she had died about 2 months earlier.
‘This image shows the full dress uniform with BearSkin that John wore on guard duty when marching through the city of London.’