What brought you to Manchester, and what was it like to live and study here?
I grew up in Blackpool. Manchester was the nearest large city with a very good academic reputation.
I opted for a Hall of Residence. I ended up at a Catholic one operated by the Order Opus Dei, well before it evoked international attention. Later I moved to the Moberly Tower on the campus, where the conditions were not so good.
Regarding the course, what is interesting was the social ordering of the relationships, which probably applied to all tuition. In those days, everyone was called ‘Mr.’ or by an academic honorific title. The formality was matched by a certain deference in style and attitude. At the time, some change began, with new and younger staff. This group had a tone of left wing intellect about it. There was a predominant belief that society was heading the socialist way, with a lot of concentration on Marxist ideology and socialist practice in general.
The 1960s is known as a time of student protest throughout the world; did this impact the students at Manchester at the time?
There was none! It was just before this became manifest. There was no trouble in this essentially deferential society. It was still between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP. One was just becoming aware of the breakout that was to come in popular music. There were no drugs that I was aware of, little indication of sex, and no sign of student discontent.
Having graduated with a double honours degree in Politics and Modern History (PMH), what part of the course did you prefer and why?
I started off wanting to do a pure History degree. In some places one could not do that without ‘O’ level Latin, a subject I had failed two years before. PMH did not require this so I moved my interest to that course. Both parts of the course interested me, though there were modules I found I didn’t like and wasn’t good at, e.g. empirical philosophy.
What career did you pursue after your degree?
Thereafter, having no further academic opening available to me, I sought a job. Eventually I got a series of jobs in private sector business up to 1974. After an agonising re-appraisal I applied for social work training and thereafter spent the subsequent 30 years in this field. Having said this, I retained my close interest in both history and the political process.
What did you take from your student experience at Manchester?
I had some good social times in the city and remain friendly with three of my contemporaries. Generally Manchester was a depressing place in terms of the environment, perhaps in the Lowry sense. How different it now is when I have occasionally seen it!
The Student Union was largely a social organisation, rather than having a political rationale. There were formal debates, but not necessarily about the political situation. The only one I recall, and that was very radical for its day, was whether the gents toilets should be equipped with a contraceptive-vending machine, which all the numerically significant Christian groups fought to oppose happening. I think the proposal was defeated but could not swear to that!