The KPA, the Oar Ceremony and other postgraduate tales

The Keele Postgraduate Association celebrated its putative fiftieth anniversary in 2013-2014, having been originally founded as the Keele Research Association. An unusual ceremony to hand over the KPA Chair or Presidency has occasionally surfaced and there are some interesting heirlooms in the Clubhouse.

kpa-oar-ceremony-2009 "The KPA Oar sits above the clubhouse trophy cabinet and is inscribed with names. Of whom I am not sure, though they may be related to the old raft races on the lakes. The Oar is a bit fragile but that did not stop committees from undertaking a traditional ceremony. The outgoing committee would hoist the Oar onto their shoulders and walk with it down to the Sneyd pub in the village where the new committee would await. The Oar would be ceremonially passed through the window or door, from the old to the new committee, and the new committee would carry it to back to the clubhouse - after a few beers! As time went by, committees took the Oar to various other locations around campus. Unfortunately, the tradition died out and attempts to resurrect it have not yet materialised."

Tim Hinchcliffe (2009, KPA Chair 2010-2011)

Photo above: Lyndsey O'Connell with the 2009 Oar Procession

"The Oar belonged to R B Henderson ("Henders") who was 'bagged' by Lord Lindsay to teach at Keele in the very early days and dates back to his college rowing exploits in the early 1900s. It was originally on loan to us from his family and hung over the bar at the KPA which was named "Henders Bar" when we opened at our present location in 1994. It now hangs on the opposite wall above our trophy cabinet close to a photo of Henders himself and has been permanently donated to the KPA. The handing over of the Oar ceremony has taken place sadly on just a few occasions but there are plenty of photos still available."

Michael "Spike" Crossley (1993, KPA Clubhouse Manager)

"I was the KRA Chair who moved the bar from Keele Hall to Horwood."

Matthew Hocking (1990, KRA Chair 1993-1995)

"The story of the Oar is a great one indeed. I'm glad Tim remembered it but it's worth mentioning that the tradition was indeed resurrected by myself as Chair for the change of committee 2009. We had a great day and the owner of the Snyed Arms was so good to oblige us. It's a pity that later committees didn't keep it going. Maybe they will, in time."

Lyndsey O'Connell (2011, KPA Chair 2009-2010)


kpa-oar-2009-group Photo left: 2009 Ceremony:
Incoming Chair Lyndsey O'Connell
Incoming Treasurer: Natalie Zadurin
Incoming Sports and Recreation Officer: Tim Millington
Incoming Secretary: Adam Simcock



kpa-oar-dublon-sneyd "I have an archived version of the current part of the old KPA website and that contained a lot of nice stuff. I put a lot of it back up during my time as chair and was sad to see it all go when the site went to a WordPress blog. Whilst I lack information from the pre-1994 KRA, I do have information, mostly around the tumultuous times of the Clubhouse facing full closure due to horrific debts and redevelopment closure etc. In spite of this, we did brilliantly in 2006/07, remaining independent, returning the clubhouse to a tiny profit whilst retaining all the staff, keeping a decent block grant whilst maintaining the KPA chair post, and of course, we gained planning permission for my revised plans whilst never closing in the meantime. We upgraded the kitchen first and simply stopped serving food temporarily. I have lots of photos of the redevelopment taken by Spike, my hand-drawn versions of the existing clubhouse redevelopment (believe it or not the architect who drew up the first redevelopment plans that were submitted in 2005 had never visited the clubhouse building prior to my inviting him), lots of reports where we discussed why we have a KPA and why we had a sabbatical post, many old photos from 1994 to 2007. To fill in the gaps as to who was who, I think it might be worth adding the committee next to the chair. I had a brilliant secretary in the form of Joycelyn Thompson (2004) and an excellent treasurer Dan Wyatt (2005). To add to Tim Hinchcliffe's Oar tale: The Oar ceremony was actually carried out rather more recently. It was resurrected by the fantastically charismatic Lyndsey O'Connell (the fourth sabbatical chair) to much fanfare and booze and kind participation from the Sneyd Arms."

Ian Dublon (2003, KPA Chair 2006-2007)

Photo above right: Matthew Hocking's Oar procession reaches the Sneyd Arms, 1994

kpa-oar-dublon-kpa "There is a board in the clubhouse that lists quite a few of the past chairs/presidents. It is still there but wasn't put back up after redecoration. My predecessor was Tim Murithi (1998) - his father was a Kenyan UN diplomat and Tim went in the same direction I think. My successor was Matt Woods - he went off to work in the City and now lives in new York. The secretary during my tenure was Vicki Weise (1999). It was Matt who succumbed to the blandishments of Janet Finch to change the name to KPA. She maintained that the change from KRA to KPA would result in more engagement from part-time Adult Education and Postgraduate Medical School students (mainly midwives, no onsite medics). It made no discernable difference as I had always maintained (she was miffed that I would not subscribe to the Bright Idea). Henders Oar, amazingly, belonged to a chap called Henders who was a retired Keele tutor and lived in Keele village. You might pick him out on some of the old 1950s photos in the clubhouse. He had used it for its obvious purpose during his time at Cambridge. I suspect that it was an idea of Bob Rankin's sometime after we had moved from Keele Hall around 1994-95. Bob used to drink in the Sneyd and probably provided a home for an embarrassingly large ornament around 1995. The 'oat tradition' had only happened once or twice when we didn't bother in 1996/97. I don't know if anyone else resurrected this 'ancient tradition'. Matthew Hocking was heavily involved in the resurrection of the KRA after we were homeless for a year or two before moving into what had been David Batty's resident tutor's house."

Terry O'Neill (1975, KRA Chair 1997-1998)

Photo above: The Matthew Hocking Oar Procession leaves the new brand new KPA Clubhouse, 1994


"I wish I had known about the Oar Ceremony while I was there as I would have definitely rekindled it. Under my tenure, we had a very active committee with a busy welfare secretary and we started a monthly publication which may or may not still exist. Lunchtime food and BBQs also started the year I was Chair. On a lighter note, a few of the committee (myself included) would regularly dress up on a Friday night. I read that one of the Keelites of the Month a few months ago recalled the craziness but she wrongly remembers girls dressing up. It was actually mainly guys but occasionally the fairer sex would join in."

Matt Woods (1996, KPA Chair 1998-2000)



"On the outside wall of the public bar of the Sneyd Arms can be found a copy of the ore (Oar) ceremony. You should try and get a copy of it. Although I wrote it with contributions from Matthew Hocking it was supposed to be an annual event. The elected officers are supposed to annually carry it on their shoulders from the Sneyd to the KPA."

Bob Rankin

"During the KRA's tenure of Keele Hall, it was the only licensed premises in Staffordshire allowed to stay open after regulation closing time. All because the local "bobbies" used to end their night-time at the KRA for a swift dink befiore heading for home at 2 am (allegedly)."

John Easom (1981)

Photo above right: Plans of KPA Clubhouse Ground Floor supplied by Ian Dublon

clubhouse-opening-1995 Photo left: The KPA Clubhouse is opened by Lord Stafford in January 1995. From left to right: Lord Stafford, Paul Usher (Treasurer), Matthew Hocking (Chair) and Robert Rankin (Treasurer).

"The plaque is still hanging up in the Clubhouse in the same place now."

Ieuan Smith (2016, KPA President 2017-2018)


"This was the saving of the KPA. John Williams Fifty years ago, as a very new member of staff, I landed in a deserted residential block in a Campus without even street lighting in the darkest vacation. But in the basement of Keele Hall was a flickering light and a wooden cask on a counter with a bowl for voluntary contributions. Thye KRA. I've never forgotten who it was that welcomed me."

John Williams (written in 2017)

"I was poking about on the Keele site a while back and noticed that the year of the KRA founding was listed as 1963. That is in error. I was a founding member and the first KRA President and I left Keele in January of 1963. I was president for a year and quit the position early in 1962 in order to focus on finishing my thesis. My successor was still in office when I left Keele in 1963. Hence, the KRA was formed early in 1961, although I don't remember the exact date. The main reason for the formation of the KRA was to obtain accommodations on campus for those graduate students seeking them; there were zero rooms at the time. A subsidiary issue was the allocation of a Common Room to graduate students. The then situation was: students = Students Union, staff = staff common room, graduate students = nada. Early overtures to College authorities were stiff-armed. Nothing really got done until I made the equivalent of a protocol rugby tackle on the Chancellor, HRH Princess Margaret. Her subsequent role in rapidly getting the KRA what it wanted was eventually confirmed to me by one who routinely moved in the dizzying heights of North Staffordshire society and of the College praesidium, and who would have had ready access to such information. The first campus accommodations were a block in Hawthorns and the first dedicated Common Room was on the second floor of Keele Hall. As I look at Keele today, I am, as they say, mind-blown. I have the same reaction when reading about the KRA/KPA. Back in the early sixties, there were less than 40 graduate students of all stripes on campus. The majority were in Chemistry (my field) and Physics. These two, alone, contributed more than half the total. Of that, I am supremely confident, as we played soccer against each other with full eleven sides! All this brings a sound measure of heartfelt meaning to the expression: From little acorns, great oaks grow."

Christopher Panton (1963)

In June 2017, the first Bob Beattie Postgraduate Student of the Year Award was presented to Gemma Scott.

bob-beattie-kpa Bob Beattie is immortalised in a tribute to the KPA (right) at the spot where he sat year in, year out, both as a lecturer and in retirement. A former lecturer in Psychology, he was a member of the former Keele Society Committee and an integral part of Keele, and particularly the KPA.

"Our postgraduate community is excellent intellectually, socially and collegially and this award rightly celebrates that broad-ranging excellence This is an annual award, recognising the overall excellence of a member of the postgraduate community at Keele University. The award recognises a student's excellent pursuits - not just in their academic work but also in their work within the postgraduate community, encouraging its members to strive for excellence. Bob Beattie was a mainstay of the KPA Clubhouse, offering informal advice and counselling to many students, up until his passing in 2015. This award has been created by the KPA to be a fitting tribute to Bob."


In 2016, Ieuan "Joe" Smith (2015), Deputy President of the KPA, was rummaging out and discovered a big black metal trunk full of Christmas decorations in the KPA Clubhouse.

In neat lettering in gold on the top it says:

The Principal College of North Staffordshire

It looks authentic. It is not clear which Principal it belonged to - presumably all of them, including our great founder Lord A D Lindsay. It is certainly an heirloom originating from our earliest days. It is not clear either how it got to the KPA Clubhouse but our supposition is that it travelled accidentally when the KPA moved from the Gun Room in Keele Hall to its present location. It is now displayed as a memento above the KPA Oar on the Clubhouse wall. According to Bob Rankin, it was his gown box. If you look carefully at the photo (below), you may see a ghostly figure in blue reflected in the shiny back point. Is it Lord Lindsay? No, it's Ieuan Smith trying to get a photograph!

ucns-principals-trunk-close-up "When we set up the clubhouse for the then-new KRA (Keele Research Association) back in 95', we were inundated with Keele Memorabilia. Hender's Oar comes to mind, many photos (such as Princess Margaret as Chancellor) and the Principal's gown box. In the 50s and 60s gowns for staff and students was the order of the day."

Bob Rankin.

"2011 year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Sneyd Arms' famous victory against KRA in the final of the Cygnet Cup. But does the Cygnet Cup still exist? Indeed, does Final Fling still take place? If not, let me explain. Final Fling was exactly as the name implies; a series of events - social and sporting - organised by finalists in the weeks between the end of finals and the graduation ceremony at the end of term. The Cygnet Cup was a knock-out 11-a-side football competition, in which about sixteen teams battled for the honour of winning and subsequently consuming a 7 gallon barrel of Joules Best Bitter. The Sneyd Arms team (so called with landlord Geoff's permission because that's where we spent most of our time) was particularly strong with every player either a member of the football club, including Club Captain Terry Gorman (1971) or a regular in one of the 5-a-side leagues. I remember goalkeeper Bill Saunders (1971) transporting the barrel with supreme care in the back of his white sports car to Flat A4 Z Block, but other details of the event I'm afraid are lost in the distance of time, or possibly the haze of the after-match celebration.

cygnet-cup-1971 The team photo shows (back row from L to R): Dave Young, Jim Gould, Bob Llewellyn, Barry Boggild, Terry Gorman (Captain), Zpigniev Matusak ("Toosh"), Bill Saunders. (Front Row): Kevin McCourt, Roy Mantle, Keith Gregory, Pat Durkin, Trevor Bannister."

Trevor Bannister (1971)

"I started the Cygnet Cup in about 1965 and I hadn’t realised it had carried on so long! The “cup” itself was originally a faux antique posthorn though I can’t remember where it came from. There were epic battles in early years between Hawthorns Unit 3 and The Huts, as I recall."

Simon Sweetman (1966)

rb-henderson-1954 Henderson - or "Henders" - was an associate of Lord Lindsay one of the original academic staff when the University College of North Staffordshire was founded in 1950. "He had been a mathematics scholar, a Lieutenant-Colonel, a headmaster, and then Reader in Religious Education at Oxford." At Keele, he lectured in historical theology.

The traditional Keele Grace for formal dinners and other special occasions was penned by Henders: "May Grace be given to us to thank God for all", drawing on the Sneyd family motto of "Thanke God for All". This phrase has also formed part of the opening invocation at Graduation Ceremonies.

Photo left: Henders (centre) at the first UCNS Graduation Ceremony, 1954


"I recall Henders as being a "character" without knowing quite why, or really knowing anything about him. I am sure he was one of Lord Lindsay's original team, and, yes, he drove a large black car from his staff house on the hill top to Keele Hall and back at a funereal pace, but I thought it was one of those large razor-edge Triumph cars. He always seemed to me to have been remarkably old, but that of course is from the perspective of a 20-year-old. I dare say he was a good deal younger than I am now!"

Martin Tunnicliffe (1956)

"Prof Henderson was one of the original staff from 1950. I arrived in 1952 and he was still teaching Classics and took the Classics lectures in the Foundation Year course. He also played the double bass in the orchestra which was formed particularly for Gilbert & Sullivan operas, the first of which was 'Trial by Jury'."

Keith Clement (1956)

"Thank you for reminders of Henderson; The following sounds better sung and have forgotten the first line but it then went:

Henderson's old hearse
It never goes above a walking speed
If he tries to overtake
Who's got her foot upon the brake
But the dear departed ghost of Lady Sneyd

He had also been a teacher at Alleyn's School, Dulwich"

Pauline Hanna (1959) and Bill Hanna (1957)

"The missing part of the Hannas' quote was: "She put her curse on..." R B Henderson was still a member of the Senate and Lecturer in Historical Theology in 1953 according to the UCNS Prospectus for 1953-54. However, my recollection is that he also gave some foundation lectures in 1950 on The Ancient World. He, together with his car, was one of the many characters in those early years."

David Jeakins (1954)

"I remember "Henders" very well - and with great affection. I attended a course that he gave in the 1953 Foundation Year on 'Comparative Religion' that actually helped to turn me into an atheist. He was one of the kindest men that I have ever met and I don't think that I ever saw him without his gown. He was frequently to be seen driving his enormous black Daimler around the campus, very slowly, and I must add that he would have been a gift to any cartoonist because of his pronounced stoop and his polished, hairless head. He was an excellent teacher and I hold him in the greatest respect. I am very pleased to hear that he still features in the traditional history of Keele."

Ron Maddison (1957)

"Regarding Henders. I can remember him lecturing on Religion as part of the Foundation Year. I still have a volume of my notes from the Foundation Year, he may have lectured on the following 'Scholastic Philosophy St Thomas Aquinas'. He was much older than the majority of our teachers."

Derek Evans (1957)

"There is a connection between his Daimler car and his double bass; the front passenger seat was removed so that he could transport his instrument!"

Harry Heaney (1957)

"By the time the 1954 intake arrived at Keele, Henders had retired as Lecturer in Religious Studies. He still lived on campus, however, and was frequently to be seen driving at a snail's pace in a huge black Daimler. Also seen driving the same car was Mrs Flora I Morgan, the Deputy Domestic Bursar, who seemed to be caring for Henders. He certainly appeared to be an increasingly frail old man, but was known as a 'character'".

John Sutton (1958)

"Henders was the original lecturer in Historical Theology, which could only be offered at subsidiary level. Yes, he never wore out the top gears of his Bentley as he never exceeded the campus speed limit of 10mph. He retired I think circa 1956, but remained on campus, being replaced by a Welshman who I encountered through the SCM but whose name now escapes me - as many do now, sadly."

Norman Bertram (1958)

ucns-opening-1951 "I don't remember Henders, but the Welshman who succeeded him as lecturer in Historical Theology was Tom Roberts. I did the Comparative Religion course with him during my FY."

John Samuel (1964)

Photo left: Henders addresses HRH Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George VI (later HRH Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) at the opening of the University College of North Staffordshire at Keele, in 1951 - Lord A D Lindsay is on the right

"I remember Henders. During our Foundation Year 1955-1956, we had tutorials each term - each one different per term and Mr Henderson took my tutorial in History. But I probably only saw him that term."

Dot Bell (Pitman) (1959)

"I remember him well, though he was never one of my profs in the 1955-1959 period. He was famous for "Henders' Hearse", as his black Daimler was known. I think that at that time he owned the only visible motor on campus, and it was called his "Hearse" because every morning it travelled from somewhere else to Keele Hall at a speed of 5 miles an hour or less, with great courtesy to student groups encountered on the way."

Tony Powell (1959)

"In his pre UCNS life he was headmaster of Alleyns from 1920-1940. He is remembered in detail here"

Frances Kemble (1966) Click Alleyns Alumni

"He played a double-bass in the Keele orchestra and took out the passenger seat of his Daimler to accommodate it beside him. He was also something of a mountaineer in his youth, and was credited as one of the first to climb one of the routes on the Idwal Slabs on Tryfan."

Hugh Springall (1967 and campus child from 1950, son of founding Professor H D Springall)

"He was Ralph Bushill Henderson, 1880-1958. His death was registered in the Stoke on Trent district late in 1958. In the 1891 census, he was 10 and living at home in Coventry, the son of a Baptist Minister. In the 1911 census, he was 30, married and teaching science and mathematics at Rugby School. He was Headmaster of Alleyn's School 1920-40".

Ian Cameron (1967)

The KPA - known to some as the "Kipper" - was originally known as the Keele Research Association or KRA and had a Clubroom in the former Gun Room of Keele Hall, occupying a cellar space at the corner of the courtyard where the steps lead up to the Italian Gardens.

It is not known for certain when the KRA was renamed the KPA.

"I know for a fact at the end of Matthew Hockings' period it was still called the KRA (there is indeed a photograph of the oar ceremony taken at the end of Hockings period of them standing outside a sign that says Keele Research Association). I'm not sure when the name did change but I know it had by 2005. I swear I read somewhere it was Viae-Chancellor Janet Finch's idea to change the name, but I'm not certain."

Ieuan "Joe" Smith (2015)

The KPA Clubhouse has been in its present location, in the former warden's residence adjacent to Horwood 'A' Block, since September 1994. The KPA Clubhouse opened in 1994 with the name of "Henders' Bar". The aim was to provide an active social and welfare hub for Keele students, staff, alumni and other visitors.

Before 1994 there was usually only liquid sustenance on offer but in 1997 the famous 'KPA Doorstop Sandwich' was born, becoming the 'KPA Doorstop' in 1998. Hot food was soon added for all occasions. KPA Ales have always attracted a great deal of attention and the local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) formally recognised this by awarding its first-ever "Club of the Year" Certificate to the KPA in 2001. The KPA has featured in the "CAMRA Good Beer Guide" since 2008.

The Clubhouse hosts regular events, including annual beer and cider festivals, as well as weekly events such as a quiz night and society events including Keele's Folk Club and Creative Writing Society.

The KPA provides representation and support for all postgraduate students at Keele, represented by the KPA's full-time and part-time elected officers on a number of University committees, including the University Senate, Council and Research Committee.

The Keele Postgraduate Association exists "for the promotion of the general interests of postgraduate students and to afford a recognized channel of communication between postgraduate students and the University authorities". The President is a full-time elected officer and many others work voluntarily to represent postgraduates, offer support and information and to help oversee the clubhouse.