Belfast Telegraph

75 and with seven degrees - Norman can't put the books down

Inspirational pensioner 2

By Allan Preston

Leaving school with no qualifications at 14, Ballymena man Norman Wilson thought he'd put away the books for good.

Now aged 75, he has just completed his seventh degree - a PhD in theology from Durham University - and already hopes to start another doctorate in law at Queen's University.

"There's nothing as joyful as learning. It's like a passion for football, how can you explain it?" he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"My passion for learning started from needing a job to look after my family."

Married at 21 to Margaret, Norman first worked in construction and sales and had three daughters - Ruth, Esther and Joanna - before the education bug really bit.

After completing a distance learning course for his A-levels, he obtained his first degree at Queen's in history and political science in 1973.

A diploma in education followed, leading to a new career as a teacher at Ballymena Academy.

"Once he got started there was no stopping him, he just had that interest for more and more information," Margaret said.

"He keeps telling me I should do a veterinary degree, but I tell him someone has to cook the food and wash the dishes!"

In 1977 Norman became a bachelor of divinity at London University - his third degree.

With the responsibility of raising three daughters, he delayed the expense of his fourth degree until 1991, when he earned a masters in education from Queen's.

Retiring early from teaching at the age of 54, he then spent 10 years working as a photographer.

However, in 2004 he started his toughest course yet, a bachelors in law at Queen's. He earned a first class honours in 2007 after three years of study.

This gave him the opportunity to apply for degree number six, and he was accepted by both Oxford and Cambridge at the age of 66.

He opted to study civil law at Oxford, and was one of only 40 out of 900 candidates who were accepted.

"I lived in Oxford for a year during term time while the wife looked after the grandchildren.

"She was very happy to do so, and that was the greatest experience of my life," he said.

"I thought it would be lovely to study there, I never thought it would ever happen, but in 2008 I was in Oxford. It was the highpoint of my life."

After a breather for a few years, his most recent success was this year with his PhD from Durham.

He now hopes to complete another at Queen's.

Belfast Telegraph

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