Bruce Etherington died in Colombo in the October prior to Ivor’s birth and his mother returned to England with her other two children before Ivor was born. She remarried in 1913, her second husband Edwin Duncombe de Rusett also being a Baptist minister. He was a widower with three children and the second marriage produced another two sons. Ivor was thus part of a large family of eight children, of which he was the sixth. Later the family increased by one when an orphaned cousin came to live with them.
These early years were happy ones and Ivor recalled them with great warmth. Life in a large family of lively intelligent people formed the grounding of Ivor’s education. Before joining the ministry, his stepfather had been a naval engineer and he maintained his interest in matters practical after joining the Church. Their house was full of gadgets which stimulated infectious curiosity. When he was seven, Ivor invented a meccano-based contraption for sending the cruets round the dining table. Unfortunately it was not allowed to be used until after lunch on Sundays! He showed early signs of his lifelong interest in mathematics when he entertained himself during his stepfather’s sermons by factorising the hymn numbers.