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Modern day students at Keele University seem to enjoy a luxurious array of well-equipped and comfortable accommodation choices. By comparison, student accommodation in the early days might appear more rudimentary, but Keele’s Pioneers loved their “Huts”….
How did the campus look when the University opened in 1950? After years of neglect the estate was in a poor state and occupation by military forces from 1940 to 1948 had an even more damaging impact. Little of permanence existed beyond Keele Hall and the Clock House. A sprawl of 80 temporary buildings and 60 dilapidated huts (with wooden walls and asbestos compound roofs) clung together for warmth on the barren wind-swept scrubland which formed a transit camp for military personnel and postwar refugees. These huts provided accommodation for Keele students and even some of the staff late into the 1960s. The pride and glory were the two large semi-circular Nissen-style huts which housed the original Students’ Union and Chapel until the early 1960s.
“The huts were certainly warm and well appointed. When any Oxbridge students came to visit, they immediately remarked on how warm and comfortable we were by contrast to their chilly and apparently Spartan existence. We had Dunlopillo mattresses. And the main drawer in the desk where one would expect to find pencils and suchlike was fitted with a mirror. We understood that the desk was thus classed as a dressing-table and avoided purchase tax. Coming to Keele straight from Army life, it was interesting to find in hut life something of the barrack-room camaraderie and learning of tolerance, although the relative privacy of individual rooms and a maximum of seven occupants per hut was luxury. One student whose name I have forgotten built a small properly-mortared brick wall as a divider and bedside facility in his room.” Martin Tunnicliffe (1956)
"There was no lack of heating in 1963 - quite the reverse! And it was a privilege to live in the huts. I was in hut 11. It was comfortable, warm, fun, friendly, the cleaners were great, the cooking facilities - well, facility (!) - was adequate. One toilet shared, one bathroom shared, only the end room shared and that was usually between freshers. It was an infinitely preferable experience to Harrowby House, which is where I spent my foundation year. And it was possible to move the furniture round the room, which we did, very creatively, to make private areas - not visible from the door, to create a bed space separate from a living space. We all had record players, three of us in hut 11 played the guitar . Life was not quiet. You could get in and out - of the front door and the windows of the rooms at any time of night. It was the best time." Penny Jones (Blackmore) (1966)
"I, Len Woodford and Mike Fox were all in the same hut in the very fruist semester in 1950. I think No 11 adjacent to the Warden Rayne family home. Other occupants were two considerably older men also sharing a room, as we all had to. One, who had dropped at Arnhem as a conscientious objector medic, eventually became an Oxford academic. Peter C Robinson, who left at end of first year, shared the large end room in the hut with Mike Fox and another. The furniture provided for us was new and of a very high standard. However, the large chest of drawers in each room did not contain a mirror in the top opening lid. This was explained eventually when every room had the missing mirror fitted. Apparently this was not an oversight rectified but a sensible economy. The cost of late fitting was easily covered and money saved by the ruse of not having to pay purchase tax on the whole item, if it had a mirror." Bill Lighton (1954)
"For Hawthorners, Meals were provided in the Refectory at Keele Hall except on Sundays when bread, butter, eggs and sometimes beans were given out. Sunday evening meals were cooked in the kitchen and were at times fairly exotic and sumptuous. Julian Hooper once cooked a whole pig’s head in the gas oven and dropped it when taking it out of the oven, producing a skating rink of fat all over the floor. Many people cooked pork or lamb chops after which they repaired to the lounge to listen to a serial called the “Red Planet” and a popular dance music programme on the radio (Jack Jackson’s Roundup). All meals except for Sunday evening were provided by the Keele Hall Refectory run by a lady called Miss Rolfe and were self-service. Because everyone had to attend Foundation Year lectures at 9 a.m., not all Hawthorners managed breakfast because of the long walk to the refectory and the walk back to the Chemistry block for the first lecture." John Groom (1956)
Left: A Keele party of the 1950s. "The photo is mine. I am sitting in the front with a large smile and looking sideways at Elizabeth Copeland-Watts. The chap sitting in the front on the far left looking forward is Peter Bannister (1955). George Broadhead (1957) is on the far right" Martin Tunnicliffe (1956)
"The huts - each was an active little community. I shared in one with a guy of completely different background and personality of my own - quite an education. I remember James Egan being lured from his shower outside the hut on one occasion, naked but for a towel, and then locked out - he ran round the building incoherent with rage, thundering on the windows and door, until we had mercy and let him back in. Not all hut memories are good. I remember the thick red mud in spring - glutinous and virtually impossible to get off shoes and boots. I recall the tin-roofed Nissan Hut union building - always smoky and lino- floored, as I recall, with a bar. T’was said of the festive evenings: "Does no-one seem to know just what keeps the ceiling up, and the rotting wooden floor from falling through? It's the thick tobacco clouds that are tingeing it light blue, and the liquor fumes a-hanging round the door." Tony Powell (1959)
Photo Right: John Myatt (1957) photographed his room in Hut 1 in 1956
"1950: start of autumn term delayed and all huts occupied with two to a room (three in the larger - maybe). Central heating was limited (the boilers were somehow in KIEL, was the widespread belief) so Valor paraffin stoves were issued in a real winter cold spell. Health & Safety! Furniture was of good design but lacking mirrors - later fitted as a way of evading Purchase Tax. Wartime rationing was in force and rations of tea and sugar were issued weekly for communal hut use. Cream tins had green lids. My hut (14) about a year later was graced with a serving USAAF junior officer pursuing a further degree in Economics. Our Sunday breakfast rota was joined by him providing for each room a bacon and egg fry up. For his first session he had gone to the PX at Burtonwood American base and purchased a brand new frying pan as he he thought our well-matured black relic was a health risk. His first servings met with general disgust. One recipient threw his through the window. Ed thought that the liberal coating of grease applied to the ironware for its transatlantic journey was just American efficiency in preparing the utensil for immediate use. It was darkly rumoured in this Cold War period that he was sent to the red hotbed of Keele to keep an eye on things… and Socialist Lord Lindsay! Medical cover was somewhat like a ship's doctor system. There was a resident nurse with a weekly visit by a local GP. Ed Spenser was heard to decry British youth for its susceptibility to flu and such like. He was promptly told that British youth had spent a considerable portion of its childhood in damp air raid shelters. No further comments were heard." Bill Lighton (1954)
“For me the huts were downright luxurious and I loved living in them. I was in Hut 3 in 1954/55 where my room-mate was Cliff Jones, my first single room was in Hut 8 (next door to Brian - I thought of him as the Bearded Philosopher) and then to the Hawthorns - one of the four ‘new’ real houses for my final year. That was absolute luxury.” John Dean (1958)
"One thing we weren't allowed was electric fires of the sort that were common way back then - a tight coil of wire like a large version of an incandescent light-bulb filament, but wound round a ceramic core. In use it glowed red and had a polished reflector behind. But one of our year figured that the filament itself, unwound and strung between the roof beams which were open across the room, would not get red-hot but would still give out the same total heat energy, and nobody would recognise what it was. So he tried it, and it worked, until he walked into the low end of it, got a nasty shock and a sinuous burn mark across his forehead which was difficult to explain to the medical staff!" Tony Budd (1963)
“The heated bedrooms impressed me at Keele, never having had such a thing at home. Children were supposed to benefit from sleeping in cold rooms, I suppose. Also the ban on electric fires, extra blankets and so on at Keele was overcome by Kumbi Akiwume, who was allowed a two bar fire and an extra blanket since she came from Africa. The hot baths at any time of day or night was a real luxury for me too, since our hot water system at home never supplied hot water first thing in the morning. It appeared after the fire had been lit for a few hours, sometime in the middle of the day. There was some lovely snow while we were at Keele, and very little traffic on campus to mar it.” Mary Mainwaring (1963)
Photo left: Late 1950s style - Pals in the room of Ticker Hayhurst (1960)
"I have happy memories of the huts where I lived during my first two years at UCNS (1958-60) before moving to Unit B. As a fresher I shared a room with Dave Haslam in the first room along the corridor, and somehow we were also in the same hut in the end room (much larger) during second year. That must have been the year we set a world record (held for one day) for the largest number of people in a telephone box. I think we had 16 in the box. I was near the top as I was much lighter in those days! Dave and I thought we would try for the record of how many students we could fit into one of the hut loos. We encouraged all members of the hut to participate, and there were a few visitors as well. I remember we had Clive Borst and John Grundy in the hut and I believe we had packed about 14 into the loo when Dave and I managed to get the door closed and tied a rope around the handle so that no one could get out. The yells from inside got louder and louder! I don't think we were very popular for a while after that! I also remember another hut that I lived in for a while. It was Mary Glover's hut behind the library. Mary had a spare room that she would rent out to research students, and she had strict rules about her residents’ behaviour! I have one abiding memory of that hut and that is of the hedgehogs snuffling outside the window each night. For the first few nights I couldn't make out what on earth was making the noise but a flashlight brought the answer." Colin James (1962)
Photo Right: John Myatt (1957) photographed the interior corridor of Hut 1.
“Incidentally, I don't think anyone else has commented on the special relationship we had with our hut cleaner. She was so proud of "her boys" and looked after us splendidly. When we left, she gave us all little presents. I still have the glass pint tankard she gave me nearly fifty-two years ago.” John Sutton (1958)
Photo left: This photo of the Nissen huts with cars of the day was taken by Ron Decker (1954), an American exchange student to Keele from Swarthmore, 1953-1954
“One of the best memories of my four years at Keele was our delightful cleaner named Annie, who lived (I think in Silverdale) and looked after us like her own family. Her unforgettable mantra was "now boys – wash up after a meal and not before." During the holidays, and when I was in Germany Annie tended my little cactus named "Sputnik Two and a Half". During the summer, when perhaps our rooms were used by visitors Annie ensured that nothing (especially the beer mats) was disturbed and when we returned the room was exactly as we had left it. Let's hear it for Annie.” John Pearson (1958)
"My first feeling on entering Keele was one of freedom and opportunity. The second thing I greatly appreciated was that the accommodation was so very comfortable. Talk of ‘pioneers’ and ‘huts’ give the impression of rugged discomfort. Far from it! At home, there had been ice on the inside of my windows on a winter’s morning and I had had to put my clothes in my bed to get them warm and kill the damp. Here at Keele we luxuriated in the delight of Central Heating - then very rare – and unlimited supplies of hot water so that you could have a bath every day! The huts were long rectangular buildings with two large spaces at each end and four smaller rooms along the adjoining corridor. One end space formed the bathroom(s) and kitchen. Of the other rooms, two were double bedsits occupied by Freshers or PI students, the other three were single rooms for P2 and P3s. The object of this – which was triumphantly achieved - was to ensure a mix between years and subjects. I spent my first three years in the huts. In my final year, I was promoted to the newly constructed U-shaped Horwood Hall block across the road from the RAF hut near Keele Hall. I lived on the second floor left with mates like Peter ‘Tub’ Read, Kit Peck, Leo Lawrence, Dave Pollitt, John Hughes, Tony Fineman and the musically and romantically talented George Hurdley." Brian Vale (1960)
“Hut life was a very communal, and the “old-hands” helped the new guys integrate into the system, including entertaining wide circles of friends from other huts, and more particularly the Women’s residence over long Coffee mornings and/or afternoons. There was a curfew on women in the men’s residence after some early hour like 6 pm, and this was amazingly adhered to most of the time. People shared their considerably different backgrounds, their experiences at Keele, their books and documentation on courses, and some guidance on what particular lecturers might want to see in an assignment, but never did I witness a case of plagiarism – it was every man for himself, and it was high praise indeed when hut colleagues performed well in tests or exams. The most revered member of the hut group was always the one facing finals, and if he demanded silence after some specific hour, it was good manners to respect his wishes.” Alan Jones (1961)
“Keele was the place to be at that time, except for occasional mud-baths after torrential rains. Even the Nissen-hut Union was a comforting resource. The huts were well-heated, the food was acceptable, and even the Hawthorns (where I spent a year) was little short of luxurious. The campus seemed idyllic to me, and I'm sure the walk (or even the run) from the 'thorns to breakfast kept many of us in good shape.” Unnamed
Photo Right: A "medley" of scenes from Hut life by Sue Barr (Sweeney) 1964.
“Living at Keele in the late 50s was the lap of luxury: never-before-experienced warmth and central heating; hot baths at any time of the day or night. Huge English (later also Continental) breakfasts and ample meals provided free twice a day in the refectories (except Sundays when we were compensated by heaps of tins of baked beans, tomatoes, ham etc.), and all lectures and on-campus activities within walking distance. The associations of the word 'Pioneer' with rugged hardship, sturdy individualism and self sacrifice are quite inappropriate to the cushy reality. Derek Evans reminds me: the luxurious location of my life of plenty and ease during the first half of 1957 was Hut 8, happy home for 4 Freshers and 3 senior citizens. Myself and Alan Matten were one end; Malcolm Kerr and Mike Pullen (both of Harrow Weald Grammar School who raised the tone by wearing smart Keele blazers with badges, ties and grey flannels 24/7) at the other; and, sandwiched between, 3 (to us) incredibly old and experienced finalists who referred to themselves - and were known to us - as Teddies II, III and IV. The world knew them as Dick Perkins (who got a First by working all night and sleeping all day), John Pierson (who spent much time in gentle domesticity with a nice, quite girl from Lindsay Hall (whom I will not name lest this reach Wikileaks) and Derek Evans. Dark, broad, bespectacled and cheerful, Derek was the Alpha male of the hut whose daily haul of after lunch female students (many coming back for more) never ceased to amaze us former schoolboys. It was for the purpose of academic revision he said; a wholly credible explanation which we innocents never doubted until we peeped in his window one fine afternoon. He had two timeless LPs, 'Pal Joey' and 'Carmen Jones' both of which I grew to love, and still do. Life was wonderful and ended with a fine summer, exams, the voice of John Arlott commentating on England versus the West Indies and those little friends of mine, Ramadin and Valentine. It is embedded in the memory but was (as Burns had it) like a snowflake in the river, a moment glimpsed then gone forever. Whatever did happen to those golden Teddies?” Brian Vale (1960)
"Life in the huts was great for us in those days. One lived almost as a family and the mix of years helped us newcomers to quickly settle in. I started out in Hut 8 where I shared the end room with a chap called Fred. There were two other freshers in one of the other rooms. It was really amazing how & what we cooked up baked beans, potatoes & veg which we collected from the Hall, get there early or you are just left the spuds. I started an interest in photography & once a month or so took over the bathroom to use it as a dark room. At one point you got to know who your friends were. Somewhere in about 1960 I went home to Birmingham for the weekend. That was when there was a case of confirmed smallpox. Fred and I went over to the sick bay to get a vaccination as a precaution. When Jim had finished he said as a throwaway line, “You have both had the vaccine before”. "Yes," said I, but Fred said "No". Jim went a little pale and later that night Fred’s arm went bright red! Moral, if you are going to have the scratch have it in your childhood. I forget which year it was but once a well endowed lass came to our hut during the day. We were talking about which hut who was in. Someone asked if she was 36 (meaning are you in Hut 36), "No, I'm a 38!" Being taller than the average bear I got an extra long bed and subsequently it went with me to Hut 3 and then into D block. That was smarter than the huts but there was not as much camaraderie." Alf Kendall (1962)
Photo below: The "Admin Hut" Horwood 1957 by Chris & Marina Oliver.
"Coming straight from school, I was not certain what to expect of life at Keele. When in the first week my bike was put on to the heating pipes that ran across the front of the huts some 8 to 10 feet above the ground I realised that trickery and mischief were going to be part of everyday life. On one occasion I returned from a football match to find that the rugby lads had been to Leicester and left me a souvenir – a 6x3 foot notice board under my blankets. It read “Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys”. Locked doors never seem to deter jokers. Another time on my return from a match my room was empty except for a loo brush in the corner. All my furniture was neatly set out in the washroom in an exact form. Clearly a team effort! In our first year my fellow Yorkshireman Geoff Dykes and myself usually gave a good account of ourselves in defending our end room from occasional attack by hut mates John “Tex” Cooper, Johnny Chambers and others. We found that cycle pumps could be very effective as water pistols and kept an array of water-filled jam jars in the wardrobe as a precaution. Alan Tipper was another hut mate who was at times on the receiving end. We once removed the nuts and bolts attaching the legs to his bed assuming it would collapse sometime in the middle of the night. It didn’t. It only fell when we tested its stability next day with the slightest of nudges. It’s still a mystery how it stayed up as he slept. I wish I could apologise to Johnny Chambers for twice disrupting his bathroom ablutions. He may well have suspected, of course. On one occasion Geoff and I put a 2d “banger” in the outside drain and blew out the bath plug plus the gunge from the trap – very messy. A variation of the firework trick was to wire a “banger” to the light socket so that when an unsuspecting student came in and switched on the light there would be an almighty flash and bang. Although I never tried this, I did adapt it some years later on several occasions to produce the authentic sound of a gun for a drama group – the bang was on cue every time at the flick of a switch – and further proof if such were needed that Keele prepares its alumni for even the most unusual eventualities!" Neville Flavell (1956)
“The hut now used as the post room was in the 1960s the Men's General Block. There was a large room at one end which we could hire for parties, and also at the other end a couple of guest bedrooms, in one of which I spent a night in December 1960 when I visited Keele for interview.” Phil Gay (1965)
Only two of the original army huts still survive - brick ones with chimneys. The Post Room now occupies one and is located between the Chancellor’s Building and the Science Learning Centre. These particular huts were not used for accommodation but for storage and workshops - and they have a protection order on them. They are usually called the Bungalows nowadays.
In 1958-59, Hut 10 ('Shedex') held eight students including five freshers, Keith Yeomans, Alan Berry, Tony “Tub” Gibson, Brian “Mato” Withington and Jeremy Steele. Alan was especially keen on music and notably Mozart, Tub on cooking (he ran a pub in the Lake District with his mother), Mato was interested in philosophy and anything, Keith had a three-wheeler car, and Jeremy was Australian and had lived in Italy. When we enrolled in 1958 it was compulsory to wear gowns to lectures. Everyone had to own a gown, and my own gown cost, if I remember rightly, £5. In those days this was a substantial sum, about a week's wages. In our year there had been an intake of 200 students. We reasoned that that amounted to quite a bit of potential demand, and that not all students would necessarily want to own a brand-new gown. We also suspected that graduating students might not be anxious to hold onto their undergraduate gowns. So we pooled our meagre resources, and placed a notice on the dining tables, to the effect that Hut 10 would buy old gowns. Well, the sellers duly turned up after breakfast having read the slips of paper on the tables, and for a few shillings each we bought what gowns we could. Some were quite good, while others were battered and torn. And at that stage, all broke, we departed to begin the long vac, and to our vacation employment and holidays and the like. I was sick with anxiety at the amount of money I had invested in the useless gowns, and the others perhaps felt the same. When the 1959 year was about to begin, the Hut 10 entrepreneurs turned up on fresher’s enrolment day, a day ahead of our now second-year contemporaries. We prepared a notice for the breakfast tables in the manner now familiar to us, and while some went down to distribute them, the remainder carried on getting the gown stock ready. We had hung the better gowns on coat hangers from the exposed joists in the rooms on Hut 10. And having done this, we thought why not try to do something with the remaining torn gowns and those with paint on them, and the like. So with cotton and thread and a minimum of stitches we closed gaping holes, and with boot polish or similar we re-blacked some of the paint smears and other blemishes, and finally all the gowns — there might have been 25 of them — were all on display, at prices from around ten shillings for the worst ones to three pounds for the best. Before we had finished this preparatory work the first customers arrived, and eagerly took possession of the gowns. So much so that almost before we knew it, every last gown had been sold, even the most audaciously restored ones. And with nothing left to do, and incredulous at the fistfuls of notes in our possession, we took ourselves off to the RAF Hut to join our fellows to tell them the result, before they had finished breakfast themselves, such was the spectacular success of this business venture. This feat was never remotely approached in my subsequent professional career. Jeremy Steele (1962)
(Photo above: Yeomans, Gibson, Steele)
On one occasion Keith Yeomans had been somewhere for the evening and had decided to retire to recuperate. Aware of his deep sleep since he did not wake when we entered his room, we first put a doormat on top of him. When he neither stirred nor woke up we progressively added a bathmat, a holdall, a chair, a Nigerian cap, a toy kangaroo, rubbish bin, lamp, cap, car wheel, fire extinguisher, guitar, and jammed something underneath the mattress, and added who knows what else . With still no result we finally we gave up, took a flash photograph, and left him to it. Several hours later there was an understandably irate roar of rage from his room. Jeremy Steele (1962)
Photo right: "Yeomans sleeps through it... "
We acknowledge the work of students Jess Lukat (2010) and Sam Shephard (2010), who compiled parts of this feature as part of their History studies at Keele.
People Who Made Keele
Harold and Margaret Whieldon
"Harold started working for the University in 1950, at first as one of the University bus drivers. He then transferred to be Caretaker in Horwood Hall for many years with his wife Margaret being a domestic supervisor. They are given a mention (in my view, too brief) in John Kolbert's book. Harold was for many years a Churchwarden at Keele Church. One of his sons, Peter, became a Councillor on Newcastle Borough Council." Malcolm Clarke (1969)
"It is with sadness that I report the death of Harold Whieldon, aged 93. It was before my time, but older pioneers may remember Harold as the original University bus driver in the very early days of UCNS. Later he became the Horwood caretaker and his wife Margaret was a domestic supervisor. Generations of students will remember their kindness and generosity, with their bungalow in Horwood being "open house". They loved students, and it was reciprocated. With no disrespect to the wardens and resident tutors of those days, I think Margaret and Harold dispensed more pastoral care and practical help to students than any of them. Whether you needed help in overcoming a broken relationship, loneliness, exam worries or you just wanted a chat, Margaret and Harold were always there with a cup of tea and a slice of toast (or maybe a pint at the bar in Harold's case), support and good advice, and often a good laugh. Harold lost his job in the early 70s as a tragic by-product of "troubles" and students past and present raised a very
> generous sum as a farewell gift. Margaret sadly died in 1980. The row of trees on the edge of the University grounds opposite Keele church, where Harold was a Church warden, were planted in her memory. Harold re-married and is survived by Mavis, his two sons Tony and Peter, who many of us will remember from the bungalow, and 11 grandchildren and step-grandchildren. He had the rare distinction of having two happy marriages each of over 30 years. Lesley, my wife, and I attended Harold's funeral. We felt we were representing generations of Keele students from the first twenty-plus years of the University, who had reason to be grateful to Harold and would I'm sure be pleased to know that someone was there to say thanks and farewell on their behalf" Malcolm Clarke (1969)
"A generous spirit, of good socialist principles and with a willingness to help whenever he could. Would that the world contained more like him." John Samuel (1964)
"Thank you for letting us know about the death of Harold Whieldon. It was amazing how it touched me to be reminded again of the kindness and helpfulness of Margaret and Harold when they were in their bungalow in Horwood. It speaks volumes when people fondly and respectfully remember those who featured in their lives over 45 years ago. I remember their kindness to me particularly when I missed my graduation ceremony due to an attack of mumps. If I remember rightly, when my husband and I revisited Keele a bit later, we stayed with them and they gave up their own bedroom, at some significant inconvenience to themselves, for us. I'm so glad to feel that former students were represented in some way at Harold's funeral." Hazel Miles (Woolston) (1967)
"Thank you for letting us know of the Harold's demise and for representing us and our generation and year at his funeral. We remember him well from the combined undergraduate time we spent at Keele (1950-1955), although we had no contact with him after our return from distant lands in 1967; to us as undergraduates he was unique and quietly invaluable in those difficult early days; he will stay with us and our memories, to be sure." Ed Derbyshire (1954) and Maryon Derbyshire (Lloyd) (1955)
"I also was deeply fond of Harold, Margaret, and the family. I knew them from Keele Parish Church as well, where I used to sing in the choir, and sometimes served for the old priest. I always stop by Margaret's grave when I go to visit Donald and Dorothy Nicholl's grave. I am so glad you will be representing me and so many other people at Harold's funeral" Daniel Joseph (1971)
"Well done, Malcolm, for sharing this sad news and for representing past students. i remember Harold and Margaret well - and as you say, they were kindness itself." David Shufflebotham (1963)
"I remember Harold and Margaret well. Thank you to you and Lesley for being there for all of us at his funeral." Tessa Harding (Phillips) (1966)
"My parents were living in the USA for most of my time at Keele Margaret and Harold had an ever open door for me and I remember them both with great fondness" Sue Gil (Devons) (1963)
"I too remember Margaret and Harold well. They were kindness itself, even to the extent of looking after and indeed putting up my mother the night of the ball. My mother never forgot that, nor did I." Lily M Segerman-Peck (1965)
“There were so many acts of kindness by Harold and Margaret. I can remember Margaret buying a pair of wellies for me when I was caught out by the sudden onset of my first Keele winter. On the night before the Graduation in 1969 Harold and Margaret welcomed my Mother and myself into their home to stay. Later on, a colleague in Devon remembered someone I clearly identified as Harold guiding him to his accommodation on a dark night when he was attending a conference. Harold was so proud of Keele. They were a wonderful couple.” Margaret Peat (1969)
The redoubtable Miss Rolfe
"Miss Rolfe was one of the earliest Domestic Bursars at Keele. She came in for a lot of criticism about the standard of the food provided and was supposed to have said "I am doing my best ' which became a call Miss Rolfe is doing her best". To be fair, it must have been a very difficult time, rationing was hardly over and there was very little variation in the food. In 1955/6 the complaints grew louder, the Students Union was involved, and John Hodgkinson, the Registrar, took time to set up the Refectory Liaison Committee. It included Miss Rolfe, and the Vice-President of the SU. It was a lesson to sit on this committee and see how peace and harmony could be effected by the gentle but clever drawing out of people, watching J F N H chair a meeting was a joy, the craft of getting agreement between warring groups and leaving all feeling that they had been heard was well demonstrated. A comments and suggestions box appeared." Pauline Hanna (Jones) (1959)
"I wasn't a student at Keele although my husband was back in the 60's. I worked as a secretary to Miss Eileen Rolfe who was the Domestic Bursar and lived in Keele Hall. We organised all the conferences that came to Keele during the vacations. Summer vac was particularly hectic with up to 60 conferences coming and going. I had to organise rooms, meals, conference halls etc. and I really enjoyed the job. It was like being in control of a huge hotel but with much nicer surroundings. Our offices were in Lindsay together with the Catering Department. I think there were only about 1200 students when Don attended. We made lifelong friends even if a few students took a while to accept me - I was "establishment" which I thought was utterly ridiculous. I still consider my job with Miss Rolfe as my favourite. I had my qualifications but working for her was like doing an apprenticeship - she liked perfection and it served me well throughout my working life. Most people were rather afraid or in awe of her but she was so kind to me. For my first Ball and for all subsequent Balls she lent me her pearls. When I left she bought me a beautiful pearl necklace. When Don and I got engaged in 1966 (P1 year) she held a sherry party for us in Keele Hall. She also attended our wedding which was the Saturday following Don's graduation. We were mad - Don had never worked but we didn't want to wait any longer. I was presented to the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret when the new Chapel was opened. Our offices were at that time in a hut opposite the Chapel site. Miss Rolfe organised all the Royal visits and I was in charge of the guest rooms in Keele Hall. I have nothing but the greatest of memories of our time at Keele. Lesley Smith and Don Smith (1968)
A Docker Legend
“There were other older students at Keele who had gained entry from adult education colleges especially from Birmingham. I seem to remember also a former docker?” Martin Tunnicliffe (1956)
“Was that the docker Dennis Delay? He graduated in 1959 to a roar of applause and still lives in London.” Anon
Photo below: Denis Delay outside a Keele "Hut" by Ticker Hayhurst
“Dennis Delay (1959) was a great character during his time at Keele. I knew him because we belonged to the UNSA (United Nations Student Association). Some confusion occurred because Dennis decided that the title was not sufficiently dynamic to attract members; he wanted 'something powerful like Strontium'! So Strontium it became. Unfortunately this was when the embryo CND movement was hoping to recruit University members and I, as secretary, received many communications. I duly placed them in prominent places on the notice board, and wrote to CND explaining the confusion. There were no takers for CND for a long time which perhaps explains why Keele was rather late in forming a group. Dennis had many cuttings from newspapers decorating his room 'Delay for the Queen Mother' - 'Delay causes chaos at London Airport', were two that I remember. Our Strontium Society won the rag float competition in 1958 with Glenda Lubelsky and Oliver painted blue, dressed scantily in sacks as ancient Britons. C V Wedgewood judged the competition and was perhaps biased by our historical theme. I can remember returning something I had borrowed from Mary Wilson afterwards, forgetting that my face was painted bright blue. She appeared with her niece's two year old in her arms; he promptly screamed and went into convulsions. Dennis and I also hitch hiked in the Christmas holidays in snow along the A5 to Libby Trevelyan's cottage near Machynlleth. Dennis had never hitched before and decided that the best way was to give the drivers a determined look. As he had just shaved his head and was quite a fearsome sight, we had no success so I had to ask him to hide in a hedge until I got the lift, and then to produce him when someone stopped. Many miles of this journey were done on the open back of a truck, looking at the frozen countryside.” Sheila Everard (1961)
“I too remember Dennis with considerable affection - he is a great character. Sometime in the early 60s a group of us including Dennis Delay, Ticker Hayhurst (1960) and Tony Powell (1959) were somehow 'invited' to a party in the Dorchester suite of Feisal al-Mazidi (1959). Dennis (like most of us) was fascinated by the bell-pushes in the bathroom: one was marked 'chambermaid'! Guess who wanted to push it to see what happened? Dennis had a great world view: brains were good as long as they thought appropriately (i.e. socialist). I'm afraid he thought me irredeemably Tory but we were for many years good friends. That was Keele of course: I was once called a Fascist swine after a SU debate on South Africa and the question of scholarships: it took me some time and several pints to work out that this was actually a compliment to the consistency of my views.” Brian 'Ned' Lusher (1960)
“Ned, I think you may be wrong about that party in the Dorchester. As I remember it, Harry Wynn who did the bell pushing while lying fully clothed in the bath. Harry was about 7ft tall but the bath was twice his size. Denis wasn't a National Serviceman, he was called up towards the end of the War and was sent to occupied Germany. He was in the Ack Ack or Home Guard from the age of 16, right in the thick of the blitz.” Ticker Hayhurst (1960)
RAG Photo: Ticker Hayhurst furthest left, Denis Delay third from left.
“Dennis Delay brought so much colour and originality to our lives at Keele. I also remember the famous party in Feisal's suite at the Dorchester and Dennis and Harry were there together with a substantial part of the Keele population. I think I probably went with Joanna Jellinek (1961), Joan Squires and Dawn Meadows.” Eden Davies (Bird) (1961)
"Joscelyn Williams passed away in 2013 aged 89. She lived in the lodge half way down the road to Keele Village with her husband who was one of the good maintenance men who looked after, amongst other things, the boilers that kept the huts heated. They brought up a family there who went on to University. Many may remember their kindness. Neither academic staff or undergraduate, they were as much a part of the Keele community as any." Pauline Hanna
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