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The First Seventy Years: 17 - My Mentor's Plan

...On 15 June, 1953, resplendent in a new suit, I walked up to the reception desk at Mellors, Basden & Mellors: Chartered Accountants. My first real taste of the world of work was about to begin...

Eric Biddulph joins the world of work.

To read earlier chapters of Eric's autobiography please click on The First Seventy Years in the menu on this page.

I left Miller's Business College in March 1953. My first job was as a clerk at the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute accounting centre on Bridlesmith Gate in Nottingham. I was employed in the filing department at a salary of £3 a week. A few years later I was to be a beneficiary of NAAFI services whilst in the Royal Air Force.

I never viewed it as anything other than a temporary position. I began looking for something better almost as soon as I arrived in the job. Perhaps because of my relatively better performance with figures compared with writing I applied for posts in bookkeeping or accounting.

One application was made for the position of junior audit clerk with a premier Nottingham firm of chartered accountants, Mellors, Basden & Mellors, which by an odd coincidence was situated in adjoining premises to the NAAFI. Much to my surprise I was called for an interview conducted by Mr Scothorne, a senior partner and a brilliant accountant as evidenced by his achievement as a major prizewinner for his performance in the 1938 examinations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

He told me that I would never achieve a high position within the profession because of my total lack of educational qualifications. Furthermore, I would not be an acceptable candidate to become articled to a chartered accountant. His candour was refreshing and not wholly unexpected. I immediately identified with him as my mentor, despite our radically different backgrounds. He mapped out a plan that would, after several years of lengthy study, mainly in my own time, enable me to qualify as an accountant.

In the 1950s there were several accountancy bodies. A chartered accountant held the accolade of top dog. There were two other bodies, neither of which required expensive articles, which in any case, my parents would not have been able to afford. The Incorporated Society of Accountants and Auditors was the favoured second best.

The Association of Certified and Corporate Accountants was the qualification I was advised to pursue. Mr Scothorne's reasoning was as logical as it was simple. I would be able to commence studying phase one towards the qualification without having to satisfy the Association of my educational attainment. When I reached the age of 21, I could apply for exemption from this requirement on the grounds of age and experience. It was anticipated that by then I would be sufficiently experienced to be permitted to enter the first phase examinations.

Mr Scothorne invited my father to a separate interview to discuss my future should I join the firm. Looking back over more than fifty years I realise what an unusual series of events had occurred. I have never ever heard of an employer inviting a parent of a potential employee to an interview. What was particularly bizarre was the wide gulf in social position which existed between Mr Scothorne and my father. "I liked the look of the boy. I decided to give him a chance," Mr Scothorne told my father.

On 15 June, 1953, resplendent in a new suit, I walked up to the reception desk at Mellors, Basden & Mellors: Chartered Accountants. My first real taste of the world of work was about to begin.


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