1939-1959 - Teenage kicks
John Peel always prided himself on maintaining an anti-establishment attitude and on his ability to back the underdog. He was anti-establishment because he knew how the establishment worked - he'd been part of it and he didn't like it.
Born in Heswall, Cheshire on 30th August 1939, John Robert Parker Ravenscroft was the son of an upper middle-class cotton merchant.
John was sent away from home at 13 to be educated as a boarder at the prestigious Shrewsbury School in Shropshire. He was shy and quiet at boarding school where the head boys bullied him. He preferred to shirk off games of rugby in favour of kicking back with a choice selection of rare vinyl. He also snubbed the class system by becoming an avid Liverpool FC fan. Football was something that was seen to be a very working class passion and certainly not a suitable pursuit for a well-educated boy, but he was adamant he wouldn't fall in with the "Heswall Henrys" of his school.
His housemaster R. H. J. Brooke remembers John well and encouraged his "more wayward pursuits", allowing him to listen to "very noisy records in the study next door to the library." John described Reverend Brooke as "the greatest man I ever met" and Reverend Brooke certainly saw potential of a kind in John's writing, as can be seen on one of his school reports:
"Perhaps it's possible that John can form some kind of nightmarish career out of his enthusiasm for unlistenable records and his delight in writing long and facetious essays."
As soon as John had said goodbye to boarding school, he was bundled off to serve in the military as one of the last National Servicemen. National Service was compulsory for all men aged 18 and over, and it meant John had to serve a three year stint. It has since been abolished.
Ever the non-conformist, John wasn't a fan of the military and recalled of his experience:
"The Army said afterwards, 'At no time has he shown any sign of adapting to the military way of life.' I took it as a compliment."