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2008 Mark Collins


A short biography.....

As a result of my interest in genealogy, I am writing a book about the history of the Collins family, although whether it will ever be fit for publication is quite another matter! For now this will have to do.

I was born on 17th May 1959 in Pembury Hospital, Kent, son of Roger Collins & Ann Butler.  My brother, Lance, was born on 21st October 1960.

Here is a picture of me as a toddler at Truggers Farm, playing in the mud in my wellies.  The picture was taken by my father's brother Philip.  For many years my grandfather ran a milk round for the surrounding villages, which was very unprofitable and was eventually wound up.  I remember piles of broken milk bottles heaped behind the dairy.

On the day of my grandmother Hallett's funeral in 1963 I, just four years old, was being looked after by my aunt Margaret at Truggers.  I managed to fall while playing and gash my knee open on the said broken bottles, and can remember to this day sitting in the huge butler's sink in the farmhouse kitchen watching my blood running down and Margaret trying to stem the flow!  I carry the large scar to this day.

Mark Collins playing at Truggers Farm
Truggers Farmhouse, Chiddingston Hoath 1968 RCCMy grandfather was the tenant of Truggers Farm (picture taken 1968) in the small village of Chiddingstone Hoath in Kent. The farm was mixed; as a young child I can remember the cows, chickens and pigs.  I know also that crops were grown such as corn, potatoes and swedes. I remember being fascinated by all the weird (and somewhat ancient) machinery stored in the barn.

My father worked for many years on the farm, but eventually found his own way in the building trade where he became a skilled joiner. Perhaps it is from here I inherited the interest and skills in DIY and building projects.

There is a larger picture of the farm complex here in my photo album, together with some pictures taken of the farm in the 1940s by my uncle, Philip.

Lance and Mark Collins in 1966 - RCC

I attended the  nearby Church of England Primary School  at Chiddingstone, famous for its medieval street and 'Chiding Stone', with a brief spell in Hildenborough as a result of a house move.

I returned to Chiddingstone School when my parents moved to Bough Beech in Kent, now famous for the reservoir which was built during our time there and now has a flourishing Sailing Club. 

Here I am with my brother Lance in 1966 in our small terrace house.

The house was a tiny "2 up, 2 down" cottage next to Chequers Garage (shown here in 1966) and I have many happy memories of our time here.

The Pocock family lived in the garage, John & Kath with Geraldine and Michael their children. We became good friends and had hours of fun building camps and tree-houses in the grounds of the garage and playing in the wrecked cars stored at the back.  We also ran a little shop in a greenhouse behind the garage for a while - we hardly ever sold any of the largely junk we had in stock, but it amused us and kept us out of trouble on the whole!

We sometimes cooked vegetable stews over an open fire, and we took great delight in inviting our parents to share the revolting fare!

Chequers Garage, Bough Beech RCC
4 Chequers Cottages, Bough Beech, Kent - 6th July 2003This is the cottage where we lived, 4 Chequers Cottages, Bough Beech.  I took this photograph when showing Alan & his mother, Vera, my childhood haunts on July 6th 2003.

As youngsters we trailed far on wide on foot, and later on bicycle.  We did some pretty dangerous things looking back - sliding on frozen ponds in winter, floating on large blocks of polystyrene found near the river and climbing trees.   We, of course, suffered the occasional graze or bump, but nothing serious ever happened.

Here Lance (left) and me (centre) are enjoying a soapy bath with our neighbours' children Philip, Linda and Sally Littler.  This family is also shown on my genealogy pages as they are now related, by marriage, to one of my cousins!

Us kids in the tin bath! RCC
Me at SkinnersI passed my 11+ and attended The Skinners' School in Tunbridge Wells. I have to confess that I didn't enjoy the rather stuffy culture there too much, not being a great fan of team sports and Latin (and SHORT trousers in the first year!). However the disciplined approach to learning did ensure I got the exam results needed to go on to University. This is me in my school uniform.

My parents inherited a small sum of money when I was about 11  and were able to buy a rather dilapidated semi-detached Victorian cottage in the village of Groombridge on the Kent and Sussex borders. It was had at a 'snip' of a price, hence its change of name to 'Snippets'!

While we lived in Groombridge my brother, Lance, joined me at Skinners. After a few years Mum & Dad started looking around for a house with a garden (Snippets had none), and found a house to their liking in the small village of Ashurst, Kent.  Here my mother still lives. She was on the committee for the new village hall which helped Ashurst, the smallest village in Kent, to be the 2001 Village of the year.

Ashurst Church, Kent
View of Stag Hill Court of Residence, Surrey University, Guildford.  Cathedral behind.  June 1979. MTCAfter managing to obtain the necessary grades, I left home in 1978 to attend Surrey University, shown here in June 1979.  At first living alone and  looking after myself was difficult, but eventually I found the launderette and grocery shop and got myself organised!
Roger and Mark Collins, Graduation, Surrey UniversityGraduation day, Sandy Agnew, Mark Collins, Adrian Roberts, Susan Lunn - 1981I thoroughly enjoyed my time at University, the hectic social life, lots of new clubs and societies to try out, oh, and of course, lectures.   I was very involved with the Christian Union at University, and probably became rather intense and dogmatic about my beliefs.  I am still in contact with some good friends from these days.

Graduation year finally dawned, 1981, and I had managed to get an honours degree in Electronic & Electrical Engineering.  Here are a couple of pictures taken on the day.

To celebrate I, with a group of my friends, embarked on a month long camping tour of Europe.  Here I am on the crater of Vesuvius looking very much the part of carefree student!

We kept a humorous diary of this holiday, which was only marred near the end when our minibus was broken into and many belongings stolen.

There are a few pictures of this trip in the Photo Album. Luckily I had been storing my exposed rolls of film in the food 'cool box', which the thief didn't take.

Mark Collins, Vesuvius Crater, Italy, 1981
MSc Degree ceremony with Mum & DadAfter my graduation I joined BT, working in the field of satellite communications, specialising in earth station Antenna Development. 

I was fortunate to be sponsored to do my MSc by my company and here I am with Mum & Dad on my the day I received my Masters, again at Surrey University. 

To be continued........