"TV historians are making history interesting and ghost stories do bring history back to life," says a man who has been teaching people about the past for most of his life.

Norman Radley spent 45 years imparting knowledge on young people before turning his hand to heritage walks. "I live for researching, meeting people and opening doors," he says.

"I had a good history teacher at school and whether children like a topic or not depends on the teacher at school. I found him a brilliant teacher which is why I think I went into teaching," explains the 83-year-old. "Although the school was populated with intelligent staff they weren't all good at teaching because they couldn't communicate."

Born in West Riding, Yorkshire, Norman trained as a teacher before joining the Air Force and serving during the Second World War.

He scored 98 per cent on his RAF entrance exam but confesses: "I didn't tell them the test was that year's 11 Plus exam and I had just been teaching it to the kids."

This outstanding score meant he could choose his role in the Air Force and, unable to fly planes because he is blind in one eye, Norman became a quarter master of stores.

In 1946 Norman left the air force and returned to Richmond, where he had done his teaching practice, with the hope of becoming gainfully employed.

But with teachers returning from the war the then director of education Freddy Grey could not offer Norman a job.

Having married his childhood sweetheart in 1945, Norman knew he couldn't just sit around so he applied for a teaching job in Blackburn.

"About a year later I got a letter from Mr Grey saying he had a vacancy," but with his first child on the way Norman didn't think he could make the move and it wasn't until 1953 that he returned to the borough and to Gainsborough School, where he had completed his teaching practice, as a history and drama teacher.

But why that combination?

"History because it was my favourite subject and drama because it was a thing I liked doing.

"I enjoyed life there," says Norman, who remained at the school until it closed in 1977. "I think the most interesting things I did were educational visits abroad. In my time there I did 26 visits abroad to places including France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Belgium."

When the school closed Norman moved to Shene International as deputy head and by the time he retired in 1986 he was acting head.

"It is the reaction I get from the kids which I find very gratifying," says Norman passionately. "A couple of years ago I was sitting in the White Cross (Richmond) and a young man came up and said: Hello sir, nice to see you. Care for a drink? Red wine isn't it?' He then said what all teachers want to hear. You know, sir, you taught me something When you started to smile it was time to leave!' "We were strict in those days," continues Norman. "We would be sacked now."

Norman's teaching career was not only based in the classroom. Keen to get the best from the ruling party of the time he became involved with the union, at one point leading a march through Twickenham.

As teaching has changed over the years so too has Norman.

"It is not hard to adapt to changes when you have been at it a long time," says the man whose strict reputation always preceded him.

"A thing I have never had in my life is a headache," he says. "I find it hard to understand how you can have a pain in a chunk of bone. Children never had headaches in my lessons."

Norman has lived in his house in River Meads Avenue, Twickenham, for over 50 years and raised his two daughters there. So how has it changed?

"There are obviously more buildings in the area. We have seen a lot of houses go up. I think it is a good thing for the area. Our particular road is a dead end but a really international corner.

"I don't think there have been negative changes to the borough. The bus service has got better but parking is obviously a problem."

Although he loves to travel the world, taking regular holidays with his wife, Norman is also passionate about spending time in the borough.

"Richmond Hill is one of my favourite places. I like the area, I enjoy the history and of course I enjoy the walks. When I retired it meant I had to do something," said Norman.

Since passing a course for heritage walks run by Diana Howard, the then deputy borough librarian, in 1987, Norman has been writing about and walking people through the borough's past.

Themes for his walks include ghosts, on which he has also written a book, public houses and his latest project - theatres in the borough.

"This one brings together all the parts of my life," he says with a smile.

But why does he enjoy it so much?

"I am still imparting my knowledge. Once I start writing I cannot stop until I finish the project."

Of vital importance to Norman is the borough's local studies room where, with the help of Jane Baxtor, he carries out his research. He has also found the work of historian John Cloake of vital importance.

"I am amazed at how many people have lived in the borough for 40 or 50 years and don't even know some of the sites they can see," he says with a hint of frustration.

"I could stand and talk purely on history all day."

Determined to keep his mind active in 1995 Norman took up the chairmanship of the Richmond Local History Society, standing down in 2003 to allow someone younger to take over.

He currently chairs the Richmond upon Thames Heritage Walks which he found went hand in hand with the History Society.

With a clear passion for local history I wondered whether Norman was ever able to impart his knowledge onto his charges at school?

"In schools we fought a battle for years to get social history and local history accepted on the timetable rather than politics," he explains.

But since that time Norman believes teaching standards in the borough have improved.

"I think primary education in the borough is excellent, the best in the country really. Parents want the best for their children and are prepared to help out schools to get it.

"Secondary schools are improving their standards. They are better now than they were and that is due to investment."

It wasn't just teaching that drew Norman to Twickenham. "I am very fond of rugby which is another reason living in Twickenham was quite attractive. I find that unlike football when all they are doing is kicking an inanimate ball around the place, in rugby you have got human contact and can have a go at other humans."

And so with a determination not to slow down, despite his increasing years, Norman reflects with a wry smile: "The first people I taught are grandparents now."