50 Years’ Chemistry Reunion – Woohoo!!

What a great weekend!

We finally made it after 50 years.

The weekend started on Friday afternoon when we began assembling at Heaton Mount.

Ron and Helen Armstrong, Ian and Rosemary Hodgson, Dave Tennant, Graham Pollok, Chris Beaumont, Dave Anderson and Peter and Sue Bird. The others would come along on Saturday.

This was the first time many of us had been here and we were delighted with the setting, beautiful meeting rooms and the accommodation.

Curry at Shimla

Curry at Shimla Restaurant in Shipley

Everyone was ready by 6pm and we decided to go for celebratory curry – well you have to when visiting Bradford. We took advantage of the local taxi service recommended by Heaton Mount and went to the recommended Shimla in Shipley. It was large and the menu was quite extensive but the meal was very good, we found out afterwards that it had won awards for its curries.

Taxis were taken back to Heaton Mount where we were able to sit in the beautifully renovated lounge and catch up with life over the last 10 years.

On Saturday 24 June the day started at a leisurely pace as everyone did their own thing in the morning with the arrangement to meet up at reception at the University at 1pm. There the Alumni Office had arranged for us to meet a student ambassador who was to show us round the “interesting” new parts of the University. When we arrived at the University we were very pleased to see that there were lots of new students around and a major display showing what the University had to offer. We thought “they shouldn’t have done all this for us, after all we are only a small reunion”. It soon became clear that it was an open day to inform prospective students. We were to meet our guide but among this throng it may not be so easy. “How would our guide know which group to meet?” I asked Mandy from the Alumni Office who had arranged this. “Don’t worry” she said “It will be easy – you will be the only ones without your parents!” Before the tour we had the good fortune to be joined by Gordon Sinkinson who lightened the whole atmosphere.

Our guide, Hafsa, appeared and asked how we wanted to make the tour. As we had no ideas about the campus we left it to her.

Campus tour

Campus tour

The tour started with a view of some of the older parts of the University – the main hall, where we reminisced about the pop groups we had seen there and of course graduation where we were able to shake the hand of Harold Wilson. Was this to be the beginning of our grasp of politics? There was also the Small Hall where we sat our finals – not all memories are rose tinted. Hafsa then took us round the newer parts. The Chemistry Block – now something else as Chemistry is no longer a taught course and on to the even newer parts.

In the re;centre

In the re:centre

We had a tour of the innovation centre where the University encourages partnerships between students, staff and local industry to develop entrepreneurs. We were told that it was built with innovative materials such as hemp concrete (we felt that it was really difficult to get the Rizlas round the beams so what was the point) and that it had an extremely low carbon footprint. On to the library and the Student Central building (Students’ Union), the facilities made our memories of the student bar and meagre offices look so last century.

We saw the new student accommodation on campus and the University was, quite rightly, very proud of its new green credentials. Were the original student halls still standing? No one seemed to be able to give us an answer. However, Ian reports that he went to the Revis Barber/Dennis Bellamy Halls and that they are still in use. They hadn’t changed much but that they are now surrounded with new low rise accommodation. The all weather pitches behind the halls still look good and the medical centre is still alongside.

Unique Fitness and Lifestyle

Finally we had a look round the sports facilities with its climbing wall, pool etc. The University has certainly grown up in the last 50 years, a wonderful tour, we were all very grateful to Hafsa for taking the time to show us round.

Sadly there were some important buildings missing – The Peel is no more and Daly’s bookshop is now a pizza place.

Things change – we were told that there are now 18,000 students at Bradford Uni compared to the 1350 when we started.


Dinner in the Family Dining Room

Dinner in the Family Dining Room

We made our way back to Heaton Mount where we re-assembled for pre-dinner drinks and a look at all the memorabilia garnered from 50 years ago. There were class lists, photos, exam papers, old equipment and Ian had had some old 8mm cine film put onto video so that we could see how we looked in our prime. Peter had also put together a quiz to test memories and extent of chemical awareness. We were all pleased to see Eddie and Brenda Rogers and also Bryan and Thelma Tidswell who turned up before dinner. Sadly Tony Johnson didn’t make it and we missed Derry Jones, who was still around but we couldn’t contact him in the end. Dinner was served in another superbly restored dining room and we all enjoyed the good food and comradely discussions.

Peter made a few announcements about the graduates who couldn’t make it. Brian Williams was very poorly, Ray Matthews was very ill,  Mo Whitford was not very mobile and so couldn’t make the long journey, Les Wise was undergoing hospital tests which clashed with the weekend, Peter Illingworth was ill and couldn’t make it, Tony Moran was ill, Len Metcalf was undergoing chemo treatment and Alan Sykes had some last minute commitments. We were all very saddened to hear that Mick Iles, Tim Pestell, Russ Murphy, Frank Keeling and Frank Jackson had all passed away.

On a lighter note the answers to the quiz were announced just to see how much we had forgotten and Chris Beaumont had lost the least number of neurons and so won the prize of a bottle of fizz. After dinner we repaired to the lounge where we had more long discussions and reminiscences.

On Sunday we had another super breakfast and then dispersed.

Thanks to all who made it such a great weekend, much appreciated – here’s to the next time.

Dave Tennant took quite a few photos which you can access here. This should give you lots of nostalgic pictures.

Peter Bird, BTech Chemistry, 1967

One Comment

Dr. Peter S Thomas

As a proud Lincolnshire yellow belly born and dragged up in Scunthorpe I spent 9 years as a ‘missionary’ in Yorkshire centered on Bradford based in the University chemistry department. For my contribution to civilization in Yorkshire I was proudly awarded a B Tech in 1973 and a PhD in 1977, I sadly left both the department and the delightful people of Bradford in 1978 to work for Boots.

While on holiday at Craster with friends, three graduates of the university made a pilgrimage to the old city. Sadly I discovered Chemistry was no more and as I arrived on the 4th floor the old organic labs were in the final stages of being gutted and my old lab of 4.17 was now a blank canvas for the future. I left very sad but had a delightful curry in what was the old Italia cafe and was later stunned as to how much of the old city center had been demolished.

Sincere thanks to all involved in this article its brought many fond memories and I will retain all I can of it. I hope all of you have benefited from your studies as I have. I spent my life in chemistry with delightful people but had to retire at 60 after a silent heart attack over five days while making a largish batch of an intermediate for a pharmaceutical candidate. Typical just when it was getting really interesting…

Best wishes to all of you all, everyone else who graduated and all who made the old department what it was.


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