At 75 Maurice Wild is proof that it’s never too late.
The former Purbrook lad, who was expelled from school at 15, has just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and literature in Victoria, Australia.
Maurice grew up in Havant and was both an air and a Royal Marine cadet.
At 12 and weighing eight stone and a flyweight boxer, he reached the finals of the All England Combined Cadet Services Boxing Championships. He travelled to Liverpool by train on his own.
He says: ‘I was keen to get away from home and ran away several times. On one occasion I signed up to join the Royal Navy. I was under age and forged my father’s signature, but after 24 hours I decided the navy was not for me and confessed. Getting out was not so easy.’
On another occasion he got to Cosham and booked into a B&B, only to find his father and the police waiting for him the next morning.
He went to school at Purbrook and Havant and had a short stay at Mile End College, North End. ‘My education came to an abrupt halt in 1952 when I was expelled for putting a parcel containing a dead rat in a girl’s desk.’
Maurice’s father found him a job at Woolworths, in North End, Portsmouth.
One day, while he was messing about on his bike in the basement, he leaned on a red button and blacked-out the store.
Called up for national service at 18 and weighing not much more than his rifle, he later signed on for a further three years in Singapore – a time which saw him riding shotgun on passenger trains that ran from Singapore to Penang, Malaysia.
When he was discharged he bet his mother he could be in Australia by the middle of the year.
‘My Australian-born father had painted such vivid picture of the country that I couldn’t wait to start his next challenge.’
He got a job with Trans Australian Airlines (TAA) and spent the next 16 years working for the company. During this time he studied, met his wife Margaret, built a home, and had two daughters, Jane and Kathryn.
The family moved to London in 1972 and spent the next four years living in Orpington, Kent, while Maurice maintained a jet-setting life as TAA’s chief buyer for the UK and Europe.
Ill health forced his retirement in 2000 and during his recovery he spent the next five years restoring antique furniture.