The 1970s In Your Words: campus life as remembered by alumni

Image sent in by David Wakeling, Chemistry, 1974

For many of us, our days studying at university represent some of the best days of our lives, but as the years pass and times change, it becomes ever more important to record these memories and remember what life used to be like. This is why we are starting an ‘in you words’ series of articles, in which alumni remember what life was like at University at different times. We’ll be following up with special features on other decades, so please do look out for those.

We would also like to thank the archivists at the Hull History Centre for kindly giving us permission to use some of their images from their archives in this article. Unless otherwise stated, the images come from the archive.

If you have an interest in digging deeper and finding out more about life at the University of Hull in the 1970s, you may wish to explore these further articles:

‘When I wore a younger man’s shoes’ – David Brammer remembers the Hull concerts of 1976-1980 >>

Class of 79/80 – Thwaite Hall Reunion: “Voices, looks, mannerisms …. All instantly recognisable!” >>

Carol Tullo: From campus in the 1970s to the 2016 Law School Annual Alumni Lecture >>

Calling all Drama graduates from 1974 to 1978! >>

The story of the University of Hull really is the story of the people who live, work and studied here with us. If reading this article brings back great memories, remember that you can still play a part on campus today by supporting our staff, students and our wider community. If you would like to make a donation to support our work, then please click this link to find out more >>

We would love to hear your memories of the 1970s or other decades – if you would like to contribute to an article then please email alumni@hull.ac.uk and share your memories or photographs with us.

Image courtesy of the University of Hull Archive at the Hull History Centre

Away from Home

My first time away from home. On the train, unknowing what was ahead of me! We were greeted and picked up at Paragon station by the welcome team. Taken to Cranbrook Avenue (No. 77 I think?). I was a clearing student so no Hall of Residence. All I had were the clothes on my back-my trunk had not arrived. I eventually found it in some storage yard down Beverley Road and managed to get it back to the house next day. Freshers weekend and the Union bar, again all new but managed to get a few drinks with my room-mate Dave Booth (Chemistry). I had to survive on £90 per term, £30 for the rent and £5 per week to live on. It was a Friday lunch time visit to the bank to cash a cheque for £5. We managed, even with regular Union bar visits. Even had a joint house roast dinner on a Sunday-about 10 of us sharing a leg of lamb from Jackson’s the butcher. I joined the basketball team and attended regular training, travelling to UAU matches on a Wednesday. Stuart Atwell (post grad History) was captain, and Bill Palmer (Maths) supported him. Also joined ten-pin bowling team after being coerced by the captain (Alan Young-Maths) who lived in our house. There was a girl’s house next door at 79, so much late-night coffee communication and partner searching was the norm.

It was a big step change from home, school life, and an incredible broadening experience.

I will never forget one of our residents had his record player in the lounge and would play his Leonard Cohen album all the time, it drove us mad.
– Bob Hill, Maths, 1970

We had to get used not only to University life but to Hull, the Land of Green Ginger”, where the telephone boxes were white not red as elsewhere in the country, women were not allowed into the bar of certain pubs and the monuments, Queen Victoria in front of City Hall and King William [Billy} before Holy Trinity Church sported great Victorian public toilets beneath them.  No City of Culture but then there was the smell. The language could be difficult for southerners too. I recall presenting my Sunday chicken and veg to the kindly lady at The Lawns servery to be asked “do ya want stuffin luv? 

I was often hungry, missing Mum`s cooking. Cooking in Grant Hall The Lawns was possible, we cooked a pheasant once, but lugging the potatoes etc from Jackson`s supermarket in Cottingham was a killer. The West Refectory in the Student Union Building, University House when I was last in Hull, used to serve a meat pie known to me at least as a “gelatine pie” as there were no appreciable chunks of meat in it. Occasionally my girlfriend and I would go to the George[?] inThe Land of Green Ginger for a three course businessman`s lunch. It had white table cloths, china and was served to you. I didn’t mind I was out of place among the smart professionals of Hull. It was not expensive at all and filled you up. 
– John Kilbey, Law, 1973

I was at Hull from 1975 to 1978, three wonderful years with many happy memories.

I spent all 3 years in student houses in Cottingham – Newholme in my first year and Chestnuts in my second and third years. They were next door to each other on Thwaite Street – I can still hear the warning bell and picture the  railway crossing just outside both houses. Thwaite Street at that time was awash with student residences – Holtby and Green Wickets are two other student houses I recall (I’ve a feeling there was at least one more?), plus the two Halls of Residence Thwaite and Cleminson.

For the University 5-a-side football competition we formed a joint houses team, called NewNuts (of course), and we were proud winners in 1978. 

Chestnuts student parties gained quite a reputation on the University circuit. We managed to find a very good local DJ (anyone remember the Alan Ford Roadshow?) who played several parties for us between 1976 and 1978. He played such great music that got everybody dancing. The beer flowed too; I’m sure there would’ve been some Theakstons Old Peculiar, one that I was first introduced to at Nellies in Beverley.

Although the Uni was about 3 miles from Cottingham, getting there wasn’t a problem by bike. A good ride down Inglemire Lane to enter the Uni by the back entrance, near the Sports Hall.

And Cottingham centre was so good for every day needs. An easy walk from the student house, using a cut-through past Cottingham rail station, and a grocery shop at Grandways for your self catering needs. I much preferred the independence of a student house to a Hall of Residence. Cottingham pubs? The Railway Arms was the closest, but the King Billy and Duke of Cumberland also spring to mind (though I seem to recall students were banned from the Duke – can’t imagine why).
– David Reynolds, Classical Studies, 1978

I remember getting the daily special buses from the Lawns to University with the special season ticket (about £36)

I remember the Saturday night Lawns discos with Stones bitter at 33p a pint and the Space Invaders machine in the corner. The Lawns Saturday night parties and summer tennis and football

I remember the University Senate attempted occupation in protest at the increased fees for overseas students. How appalled we would have been if we had known that 40 years later, the next generation of politicians would be charging students £9,250 a year to go to university!
– Paul Ives, Geography, 1982

Classes and Academics

I took a BA in Politics at Hull in 1974-7 after ten years with the City Libraries in my home city of Sheffield, during which time I went to college in Liverpool and became a Chartered Librarian. I lived in Cranbrook Avenue in my first and third years and Ferens in my second. I remember it as a very happy time.

My supervisor was Bob Berki, a brilliant man who died sadly young. The head of the department was Clement Dodd, and there was Paul Sutton, Jack Hayward, Howard Machin, Steve Kirby, Victor Funnell, John Major (not the later Prime Minister!), OEY Hong Lee (who gave his name like that to try to convey that Oey was his surname, but who nonetheless appeared as Dr. O.H. Lee!) and others whose names I have forgotten. And in my first year I took a course in American history taught by an American, Dustin Mirick.
– Ray Ward, Politics, 1977

We used to have Maths tutorials in Newlands Park. Vivid recollections of Tim Poston as a Pure Maths tutor. He was a light year beyond us in intelligence. It may have been a rumour but someone created a Tim Poston Appreciation Society, they managed to get a grant from the Union-immediately folded the society and had a wild party with the funds received.

In my first year we went to Hull Fair, stayed up all night and then walked down to the fish docks, somehow avoiding the officials. Students were very well treated and they were happy to see us in those days.

I somehow managed to get into the top Maths stream, so from about 100 original students altogether, this elite group was formed with about 20. A name I recall was a local Hull lad Steve Nicholson, always came to lectures in a tie and jacket-he got a 1st. Another was Steve Mitchell who did the same options as me. I was trying to be a conscientious student with a schedule of lectures every morning at 9 a.m., library studying, playing basketball, ten-pin bowling and the usual binge in the upstairs lounge bar in the Union on a Friday night. 
– Bob Hill, Maths, 1970

I read the e-mails from the Alumni Relations Department of academic achievement, discussion of important subjects and campaigns by the University to tackle the social and moral issues of the day. Very proper for a great university of today which is Hull but I regret to say it seems a little removed from my experiences as an undergraduate of the early seventies.

I was an undistinguished if diligent student whose academic contacts were the lecturers and tutors of my chosen course of study but not much beyond.  Philip Larkin was in his library tower but my forays into poetry when I needed a break from study, consisted of playing an LP recording of TS Elliot on the library record player and Larkin was the man responsible for the fines imposed when books were returned to the Library late.
– John Kilbey, Law, 1973

Life Changing Events

In my third year, one of the ladies on the Maths course (Jackie Thomas) actually asked me to accompany her to a President’s Ball at Ferens Hall (I never did find out how many others were asked!). She was President of Cleminson Hall, so some free nosh and booze, no debate really!! I somehow found a suit and looked dapper. Never did I think that this was going to be a major milestone in my life (and hers). The ‘date’ lead onto a life long relationship 50+ years later, 2 kids and 3 grand kids.

I reflect similarly on what many other alumni have said in that it was the most character forming period of my life. We just managed with little funds to get by, played and worked hard, made really good friends and enjoyed immensely the experience. It is only after years of working life that you reflect even more fondly on the student life. We never really ventured much into town since there was always something on at the Union, and within our budgets. The telly room in the Union was always full on a Thursday at 7:30 p.m. for Top of the Pops.
– Bob Hill, Maths, 1970

What did Hull do for me then? Well, no academic brilliance or celebrity but it enabled me to transform from schoolboy to something approaching an adult, introduced me to my wife, another Hull graduate and lifetime partner, and set me on the path to a not undistinguished career in the law and a reasonable retirement. I loved the place, some great memories and I am very grateful to the University.  Lampada Ferens.
– John Kilbey, Law, 1973

Rag week, sent in by Dr Alan Sissons, Biochemistry, 1979

Live Music

David Appleyard was very interested in music and saw a lot of live bands (most of the bands who performed in Hull during his time as a student between 1972 and 1975). Are they any missing from the list below? Who else was at the gigs?

Fumble

Jess Roden

Stackridge

Curly 

Sophie Strangelove

Devils Wedge

Steeleye Span 

Vincent St John

Savoy Brown

John Renbourne

Jackie Mcshee 

Lloyd Watson

Roy Young

Bret Marvin

Danny Thompson

Backdoor

Jack the Lad 

Geordie 

Brinsley Schwartz 

Ducks de Luxe

Sutherland Brother and Quiver

John Verrity Band

Pilot

Camel

John Hisemans Tempest

Adge Cutler and the Wurzels

Pretty Things

Claire Hammil

Dana Gillespie 

Champion Jack Dupree

Vinegar Joe

Head Hands and Feet

Osibisa 

Incredible String Band

Rare Bird and Al Mathews

Bob Kers Whopee band

Natural Acoustic Band

Fat Grapple

Hookfoot

Principle Edwards Magic Theatre 

Sweet 

Genesis

ELO

Traffic 

KC Sunshine Band

Steam Hammer 

Hare Krishna

Quintessence

Kilburn and the Highroads 

Ralph McTell

John Martyn 

Robin Trower

Climax Chicargo Blues band

Troggs 

Kinks

Beast

Fairport Convention

Argent

Colin Blunstone 

Daryl Ways Wolf

Grimms 

Silverhead 

Richie Havens

Man

Procul Harum 

Bob Marley

Refugee

10cc 

Leo Sayer
– David Appleyard, Geology, 1975

University Challenge

I had a good general knowledge, and even before going to Hull I had been on two television quizzes. One of the first things I did there was ask if Hull entered University Challenge, and someone said: “There’s something in the Info Sheet”. Hull alumni of that era will remember the Info Sheet: typed and duplicated in the Union office every weekday, headed “INFO” in red (each letter in a different style of type!), distributed around the University and stuck on notice boards, and containing announcements of many kinds, it now sounds incredibly low-tech! No doubt such things are now online.

Hull had been invited to enter a team; responsibility was handed to the Union, which passed it to Rag, who got the £100 per game played which Granada paid. We played seven, so Rag got £700, boosted to over £1,000 by sponsorship, for its charitable works. Auditions were held with starter questions from Granada – I actually remembered some from the programme! I got onto the team, off we went to the studios in Manchester, and we beat Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, the New University of Ulster, and Imperial College (where my then girlfriend was a student – she came to the recording and said she didn’t know who to root for!). In the semi-final we beat Merton College, Cambridge 345 to 90! The final, against Keble College, Oxford, was best-of-three: we won the first match, and they won the second and the decider. We went to their celebratory dinner in Oxford.

I still have some souvenirs, including a photo of the team from Granada, the “HULL” scoreboard sign, signed by both teams and members of the production team, including Bamber Gascoigne, and a pewter tankard engraved “Ray” and “HULL UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE TEAM 1975”, one of four similar items presented to the team by the Union. It turned out to have been made in Sheffield, like me, so I took it home!

Recordings of our first two programmes were put in the Brynmor Jones Library, and I recall seeing their entries in the catalogue, but when I enquired about them a few years ago I was told they had no trace of them!
The Vice-Chancellor invited three members of the team (the fourth was abroad) to a reception attended by some University high-ups and the Union President, and gave us all book tokens. I’d like to say I spent mine on academic works, but truth is mighty and shall prevail, and one of the books I bought was The Day of the Jackal!

I got onto the Union Council (mainly, no doubt, because I was known from University Challenge), and being an experienced qualified librarian helped me become a member of the Library Users’ Sub-Committee, where I met Philip Larkin, in whose life and work I became very interested. I am now a member of the Philip Larkin Society and was at the unveiling of the plaque to him in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey in 2016. It was freezing!
– Ray Ward, Politics, 1977

Politics

Of course we had issues that concerned students, mainly that of apartheid in South Africa. We were enjoined not to pay our grants into a certain Bank in protest against their connections with that country. It was the tail end of nationwide University “sit ins” and we had one occupation of the Admin Block I recall but I couldn`t tell you what it was at about. A future Labour minister, Jack Straw was President of the National Union of Students and the President of the Hull Union of Students was a Mr? Carr soon to be replaced at a student meeting  by a Mr? Morris with the natty slogan “Exchange your Carr for a Morris”.

We didn`t have to cope with a pandemic but  it was a troubled time as the Government battled with the trade unions, especially the NUM. Power cuts were frequent. My abiding memory of that was descending into darkness in The Lawns Refectory as the diners “walked off” with candles so thoughtfully provided by the University to light their meal.
– John Kilbey, Law, 1973

One of the last activities Jackie and I got involved in was the General Election in 1970-we managed to get jobs as vote counters in a town centre hall for about £10 each. Snooty constituency reps kept looking over our shoulders to make sure we had put the votes on the right heap. Waited for the announcement and it must have been a Labour victory. Not sure if Prezza was around at that time.
– Bob Hill, Maths, 1970

Accomodation

Graduation

Disaster

It was at the top of the library that I experienced the devastating explosion that was the Flixborough accident across the Humber. So massive was it that the library shook and the windows rattled. I immediately looked down at the Chemistry department building to see how badly damaged it was and then had to raise my horizon to the city itself and then out to beyond at which point I saw smoke arising from the south Bank of the Humber. N-hexane had escaped and a lethal mixture of air and this volatile and very combustable compound had become trapped in a building, on site, until a worker lit a fag…the rest is history ! worth looking up I should think. Six poor souls died that day.
– Dave Wakeling, Chemistry, 1974

The Humber Bridge

And I watched the Humber Bridge being built. When I went to Hull for an interview with Bob Berki early in 1974 the north tower was already up (the railway line into Hull passes under the cables between the tower and the anchor), but it was on land; the south tower was in the water and took far longer, and the bridge still was unfinished when I left in 1977. It opened in 1981, and in 1982, on a tourist boat in New York Bay, the commentator said as the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge between the upper and lower bays came into view that it had been the longest suspension bridge in the world, but he thought there was now a longer one in England called the Humber Bridge. YESSS!!!
– Ray Ward, Politics, 1977

Various Print Materials

Return visits to campus

I have been to numerous alumni events in London, many organised by Hull’s distinguished alumnus, the journalist and broadcaster Jane Bennett-Powell, including those at the House of Lords and another Lord’s – the cricket ground! At one such event, addressed by another noted Hull graduate, the former hostage John McCarthy, I got raffle tickets 1-3 (I’m always among the first to arrive anywhere!), 1 and 3 came out, and I got a University tie and scarf. (I had a scarf, with the then pattern of dark blue with two double yellow lines, but lost it. I bought another, but of a different design, so I was delighted that the one I won was back to the original pattern!) I also have a University badge, my Union card, the degree conferment programme, a piece of my Union scarf (kept after it wore out), other memorabilia, documents, and, of course, my degree certificate, received from the Chancellor, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead – who died very soon afterwards!

I have been back to Hull a few times since graduating, mostly for Philip Larkin Society events, but my longest visit was in 2014 (when it was the City of Culture), when the Mastermind Club (open to anyone who has been on Mastermind) had its annual weekend function there, based at the Station Hotel, about which Larkin wrote a poem, and whose statue now stands outside the rear entrance, on the station forecourt. There was some doubt about meeting in Hull, but afterwards people said they enjoyed it very much. I went back to the University, which has changed and expanded a lot. The library doesn’t look very different from the outside, but is now unrecognisable inside. I wonder what Larkin would think of it. And I was glad to see the Union building (opened in my second year), which had an idiotic entrance which involved going up to Reception, then down or up again to most of the facilities, now has a ground level entrance – with a supermarket!

After graduation I returned to library work in government, public, academic, technical and special libraries in London and environs, back in Sheffield, South Wales, Bristol, Leeds, Hastings, Brighton and even, briefly, Saudi Arabia. I finally retired in 2010 and now live in south London.

My girlfriend at Hull (after I split up with the Imperial College one!) remarked that Hull alumni do seem to recall it with great affection. I most certainly do!
– Ray Ward, Politics, 1977

We made a reunion visit back to Hull in 2019 with Jackie’s old Clem colleagues and (Hull uni) partners for a weekend. Incredible changes identified in town. However, we went to a familiar bar in Silver Street-Ye Olde White Hart where women had to drink upstairs originally. We also ventured to Nellies bar in Beverley. Very sad not to see the two old ladies delivering the beer to us in the room with the gas mantle lamps!

Walked around the campus with many of the buildings as we remember them, library, Maths, Physics and Chemistry buildings. Big shock for me was what had happened to the concrete Sports Hall. It had been converted into a huge gym full of training apparatus, weights etc.-sacrilege. A new spanking area beyond the old sports bar had been constructed hosting big international competitions. A young graduate on the sports centre staff showed us around the new places and was awe struck when I said Jackie and I played for the Netball and Basketball teams over 50 years ago!
– Bob Hill, Maths, 1970

I returned to Cottingham in 2009, my first visit since Graduation day in July 1978. Sadly Newholme was then a b&b and Chestnuts a dentist surgery (or was it doctors?). Either way, the wonderful lawned back garden to Newholme and Chestnuts – where we played many games of football and cricket – was blocked off, with part of it being used as a car park. I’m looking at photos now of a cricket game in progress in the summer of 1976 – and what a summer that was for heat; the lawn is more brown than green.

I’m still in touch with some friends from Hull, and over the years I have kept in contact with one of my old Classics tutors, Dr Tim Ryder. I rang him in the middle of the first lockdown last year and was pleased to be able to chat with him for half an hour.

I know there is much more, but this is just a snapshot of memories reeled off very quickly. I hope there is something here which brings back good memories for others. One other memory that has always stuck with me came from my Graduation Ceremony – unfortunately I can’t remember who the speaker was, but the words were very wise: as a Graduate you are in a strong position in the world of work, but don’t ever think that being a Graduate entitles you to anything. You need to work for it. So true.
– David Reynolds, Classical Studies, 1978

A Poem

THE ROOKIES OF NICHOLSON HALL

We were Nicholson Hall Rookies in Sixty Nine,
Starting Uni at Hull,
What would the future hold for us?
Would it be fun or would it be dull?

There was Martin and Alan and Ray,
And Chopper and Ross and DB,
And wild folk from the north,
And Kenyon and Hilda and Molly.

It all turned out to be rather fun,
With discos and girls and pot,
And water fights and demos,
And study and sports, the lot!

Now, it’s fifty years later,
And our lives have worked out fine,
But how quickly time has fled
For those Rookies of Sixty Nine.
– David Brown, Psychology, 1972

10 thoughts on “The 1970s In Your Words: campus life as remembered by alumni

  1. I relished reading the memories of other alumni and realised that Hull was a great place to be in the 70’s. We all had unique experiences but similar reactions and emotions about Hull Uni. I especially thank Dave McCullough for enthusing Steve Balkwill and I enough to do the Pennine Way after finals, and Wainwright’s book for the “free pint’ at Kirk Yetholm, Scotland !

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  2. The student house in Cottingham which David Reynolds couldn’t remember was Wellington House which also had converted stables – which is where my room mate and I were housed. Not the most salubrious accommodation. I also remember the Flixborough disaster (Dave Wakeling above) – it was a lovely day and the windows in our room were open. There was a feeling of pressure and the curtains blew inwards. We found out later what had caused it. Very sad.

    Still, good days and mostly happy memories

    Eleanor Hardingham (Hubber)

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  3. This is a most timely update as this weekend, 11 of us who were in Needler Hall , graduating in 1975, meet up in Hull for our annual reunion, something we have been doing virtually every year since leaving Hull.
    This maybe something others do but we are a close knit group who still regularly see each other’s in various combinations.
    In the group are Steve Wain, Ian Goulden and Michael Hardy(Law), Pete Pielechaty and Phil Walker( Maths) Pete Fletcher (History),Phil Durban (Social Work) and Brent Higham Andy Goodhall, Rob Terry and myself( Economics).

    Happy days. I wonder if anyone knows of the whereabouts of Denise Jacques and Sue Yelland ….Psychology…..
    Best Hamish Moore

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  4. Like you Hamish I graduated in 1975 with a degree in Economics. I was fortunate to stay in Loten Hall so did not have to go far for lectures. I am still in contact with Brian
    Hamer and Roger Varley who also read economics. Chris Green was also a good friend, and I ended up marrying her friend from Clem (Kathy Hewitt). We are still happily married. Unfortunately Chris passed away a few years ago. At the funeral were Judith Nulands, Ian and Jill Coleman who were also in our economics year. Like many others I loved my time at Hull and have fond memories of it. All the best, Roger Thompson.

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    1. Hi Roger. Good to hear that you and Brian and Roger are still in touch. I’ve recently renewed acquaintance with Vince Greco, also an economics graduate from 1975.
      I married Marian, one of the Endsleigh crowd and are still together after all these years.
      It was great time!
      Richard Lewis

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