'A little talent very thinly spread' Mike Rouse, in his own words
- Credit: Family
Before he died, actor, teacher, historian, councillor and photographer Michael (Mike) Rouse, penned an autobiography. Here’s an extract.
I was born in EIy on the 12th March 1940 to Ernest Rouse, an insurance agent, the son of Henry Rouse a blacksmith and farrier of Soham, and Joan Onion, daughter of Henry and Ata Onion of Prickwillow Road, Ely.
My father had enlisted in the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of the war and soon he was called away.
Mother and I went to live with her mother and father at Roswell on Prickwillow Road opposite the family woodworking business.
I had a very happy childhood. Grandfather Onion, soon to be changed to Unwin, was a good provider. The house was always fun.
The 11 plus and a scholarship took me as a day boy to King's Ely- a small, boys only, minor public school, struggling to recover from the war.
I always felt I was an outsider; I didn't distinguish myself academically but I took part in plays and sport, being awarded colours for cricket, rugby and running.
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I left King's with one A Level and after two years finally trained as a teacher at Kesteven College of Education.
I joined the staff at Soham Village College where I stayed for 35 years.
It was at Soham that I met my wife, Maxine and we married in 1990 when I was 50.
We then had Ben, Lauren, Lee and Cassie; by far my greatest achievement.
Much of my life was involved in politics.
Like my father before me I was involved in parish and district councils.
I was elected to the Ely Urban District Council in 1970 and became very active with the Ely Society in saving the Waterside area of Ely from clearance and then regenerating it and improving the Riverside.
In 1973 I was elected to the newly formed East Cambridgeshire District Council.
I continued to serve on the City of Ely Council being elected to the office of mayor from 1976-77.
I was chairman of the organising committee for the Queen's Silver Jubilee Celebrations which saw over 25 street parties in the city.
My period of service of 50 years on the city council was the longest continuous period since the council was formed.
I was active in the campaign to save Ely's RAF hospital from closure and saw its successful conversion to the Princess of Wales Hospital.
During my period of office, I had the honour of hosting a lunch for Her Majesty the Queen after the Royal Maundy Service in Ely cathedral.
After leaving the council in 1990, I returned in 2007 and I was a member of the Ely Masterplan working party responsible for planning the future growth of Ely.
A major achievement was the establishing and development of the Blue Flag award winning country park at Ely on the site of the former rubbish dump.
I was also one of the leading campaigners to acquire the historic redundant magistrates court for the City of Ely.
In 2012 I was elected to Cambridgeshire County Council and campaigned for the southern bypass.
I retired from the county council in 2016 having been diagnosed with heart failure.
In 2019 I was not returned to the district council but continued as a city councillor having been elected mayor in 2018 and then serving a second term.
I had a life outside politics and, in my twenties and thirties was a keen amateur actor with Ely Amateur Dramatic Society and Soham College Players and acted in and directed shows for the Campaign Amateur Theatre in Ely raising money for clarity.
I continued my involvement in the theatre as a photographer for Viva Youth Theatre, where I also did some acting, coaching and directed shows.
I was a founder member of the Ely Society and Ely Museum and have been a trustee of Ely Museum since its formation n 1974.
A recognised authority on the evacuation of Jewish children to Ely in 1939 I have worked with the Anne Frank Trust and other organisations to promote better understanding of that period of Jewish history.
I am the author of some fifty books including Talking Pictures, the story of Ely’s cinemas and A City Celebrates, the story of the 1973 celebrations and The Story of Ely published by the History Press.
For several years I edited the City Ely Guide and I have written a biography of Oliver Cromwell and books including How to Speak Fen.
I was always interested in photography and liked to illustrate my books with my own photographs where I could.
Over the last few years, I contributed news photographs to the Ely Standard presenting the positive side of community life.
I kept moving, a moving target being harder to hit and to be quite honest spread a little talent very thinly.
Let me be remembered as someone who did his best as a father, for Ely and lived a full life.