I, Harold Wilson, hereby declare … Installation November 1966

After the signing of the Royal Charter that created the University of Bradford, the next step in making a University was the installation of the Chancellor, on 5 November 1966.  The Chancellor-Designate was the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson.

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Installation of the Chancellor, 5 November 1966

Why Wilson?  His aspirations for education matched those of the University:as is clear from his famous “white heat”speech of October 1963, Wilson believed Britain needed much more scientific and technological expertise and “a tremendous building programme of new universities”. He supported the transformation of Bradford Institute of Technology into the University of Bradford: “There is another thing we have got to do in the field of higher education, and this is to put an end to snobbery.  Why should not the colleges of advanced technology award degrees?”  He was also a Yorkshireman, which helped!

Harold Wilson was announced as Chancellor-Designate on 16 October 1964 at a press conference beginning at precisely 9.01 pm.  It was the night of a general election in which Wilson as Labour Party leader became the Prime Minister.  The odd timing of the conference meant it fitted into the short gap between the closing of the polling stations and the announcement of the election results.  Thus Bradford’s decision could neither have an impact on the election campaign nor appear that the University was appointing the Prime Minister, rather than the man, to the role.

Two years on, the installation ceremonies began with a grand dinner on 4 November at the Midland Hotel.  The Vice-Chancellors of the other Yorkshire universities gave the University of Bradford its ceremonial silver Mace, which is rich in symbolism and reflects the futuristic style of the period.

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Yorkshire roses in steel.  The University of Bradford ceremonial mace

Ted Edwards, the Vice-Chancellor, observed the slight awkwardness of accepting a gift from potential rivals, remarking “Timeo danaos et dona ferentes” (I fear the Greeks even when bearing gifts).  Harold Wilson in his speech later that evening jokingly rebuked Ted Edwards for using Latin in a modern technological university.  In practice, the University  eschewed Latin in its ceremonial identity, choosing a motto in English, “Give invention light”.

The installation ceremonial featured a service in Bradford Cathedral, then a procession across the city to St Georges Hall, designed to make sure many people got to see the parade.  The event was definitely for the City as well as the University.  As Harold Wilson said in his speech later on, the two would always be closely linked, with the University being,

“A new seat of learning and research and application, with the life of a region, drawing its strength from the life and vitality of that region and in turn making its own contribution to the future intellectual richness, industrial advance and social development of the region”.

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The procession through Bradford: Ted Edwards, Lord Morris, Harold Wilson

The procession was huge, including the Lord Mayor of Bradford, civic leaders, representatives from other universities, academic staff, and the honorary graduands who would receive their degrees at the ceremony.  One was the then minister of transport, Barbara Castle, who had grown up in Bradford.

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Harold Wilson giving Barbara Castle her honorary degree

In St George’s Hall, the Vice-Chancellor formally installed the Chancellor, who declared that he would fulfil the office. It was proclaimed that the University had a Chancellor; the band of the Royal Corps of Signals played a fanfare.  Bradford had its university at last!

The event received extra attention because the Chancellor was also the Prime Minister.  Demonstrators mounted a peaceful protest as the procession went by: apparently Harold Wilson congratulated a demonstrator on his poster “Come back Guy Fawkes, all is forgiven!”.  Unfortunately government duties meant Wilson could not enjoy the event to the full.  He was informed of a major crisis looming in Rhodesia and had to leave early.

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Harold Wilson in his robes as Chancellor, circa 1976.

Despite the demands of his role, Wilson was a great friend to the University of Bradford throughout his time as Chancellor (1966-1985).  His legacy to the University will be kept alive via a new series of annual lectures.  The first, delivered on the 3 November by Alan Johnson MP, got the series off to an entertaining and thought-provoking start.  Johnson argued that Wilson was not the devious opportunist he is so often presented as, but an astute and pragmatic statesman – with core beliefs to which he remained steadfast, notably the importance of education for everyone.

“Education is not only one of our greatest national assets, it is also our hope for the future”, speech given at degree congregation, July 1985.

Credits and sources

This account is based on Chapter 2 of Robert McKinlay’s The University of Bradford: the early years.  It also draws on his The University of Bradford: origins and development, and on various Wilson biographies and memoirs.  Archival sources: UNI X0375 (installation speech) X1283 (1985 degree congregation).

Happy 50th Birthday! Fancy some cake?

Tuesday 18 October 2016 is the University of Bradford’s 50th Birthday!  It was on that day in 1966 that Queen Elizabeth II granted the University its Charter.  Staff and students are invited to celebrate the event in the Richmond Atrium between 1.30 and 2.30pm.    There will be a last chance to look at the 25th Anniversary Time Capsule, and a glimpse of the objects chosen for the 50th Anniversary Time Capsule before both are locked away until 2041!  And yes, there will be a birthday cake.  We look forward to seeing lots of friends and colleagues there for a very special day.

Here’s one we made earlier: our 40th anniversary cake.

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These forthcoming 50th anniversary lectures are going to be very interesting.  Both are free, but do register, as they are likely to be popular!

Harold Wilson: statesman and visionary.  Lecture by the Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP.  3 November.

Vice-Chancellor’s 50th Anniversary lecture with writer and educationalist Will Hutton (best known perhaps for his book The State We’re In).  26 October, 6pm, the Norcroft Centre.

Taming the Hydra: the Adam Curle Symposium

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Join us at a Symposium at the University of Bradford which will bring together academics and activists from across the world to discuss peacemaking in the 21st century.  The event is on 5-6 September and organised by our colleagues in Peace Studies.  It celebrates the centenary of Professor Adam Curle, the first Chair of Peace Studies at the University.

Adam Curle came to Bradford with a distinguished academic career (across disciplines including psychology and education) and considerable experience of mediation efforts in conflicts across the world.  These, combined with the influence of Buddhist and Quaker ideas, led him to distinctive and important conclusions about peace studies.

At the time of his arrival in Bradford, he had realised that negotiation was not enough.  The negotiator might “ease a particular situation, but the circumstances, the rivalries, the oppression, the scarcity of resources – which had given rise to it – remained”. Peace studies should therefore be about more than “preventing or terminating wars”: those working in the discipline should identify and analyse relationships between people, groups or nations and then “use this information in order to devise means of changing unpeaceful into peaceful relationships”.  Not easy – Adam Curle likened the multiple and complex challenges of addressing violence to taming the mythological multi-headed hydra.

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In 2016 people still face war, injustice and inequality … can Adam’s ideas help us as individuals and groups bring about more peaceful relationships?

The packed Symposium programme features talks, workshops, exhibitions, film showings, and the launch of a new book from Hawthorn Press, Adam Curle: radical peacemaker, by Tom Woodhouse and John Paul Lederach.  Above all, it is a chance to learn and share ideas with interesting and committed people.  Everyone is welcome and the charge for attendance is only £10.

“There were no men left …” Bradford and the Somme

1 July 1916 was the first day of the Somme Offensive, which became known as the most terrible battle of the First World War, the battle of the Somme.

Two battalions of Bradford ‘Pals’ were among the troops of 93 Brigade crossing No-Man’s-Land at Serre, towards barbed wire and machine guns that were not supposed to be there: artillery had been bombarding the German lines for seven days, but in Serre bad weather had hampered efforts.  The advance went ahead anyway: ‘The Corps Commander was extremely optimistic, telling everybody that the wire had been blown away (we could see it standing strong and well), there were no German trenches and all we had to do was walk into Serre.’ Colonel Howard (93 Brigade Major).

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1st Bradford Pals battalion button-hole badge, IWM (full credit below).

The men did not stand a chance: among the shocking casualty figures of that first day alone, the worst day in the history of the British Army, we see that of 2000 Bradford men advancing at Serre, only 223 survived.

The Pals battalions had been set up during the early stages of the war, before conscription was introduced in 1916.  Allowing men to sign up and serve alongside their family, friends, colleagues etc made them more likely to join, and many such battalions formed around the country. The 1st Bradford Pals, (16th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment), began recruiting in September 1914, enthusiastic patriotism ensuring that the battalion reached full strength within the month.  Recruitment for the 2nd Bradford Pals (18th (Service) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment), which began in February 2015, was much slower as the first fervour gave way to the reality of industrial stalemate trench warfare.

The story of the Pals is particularly heart-breaking because the losses struck whole communities at once: the men joined together, fought together, and died together, leaving cities in mourning.  We should not forget of course that many other Bradford men served (and died) in other battalions participating in the Somme Offensive and throughout the war.

One such was Jack Priestley, the Bradford lad who would become J.B. the famous author, though he survived the war, escaping the Somme by a lucky chance.  He had joined up soon after war was declared, alone, travelling to Halifax on a tram, to sign up for the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment.  His friends joined Bradford’s Pals battalions en masse a little later on. One beautiful morning in June 1916, he was sorting out rations for his men in a small dugout which was hit by a massive trench mortar.  Jack spent the Somme summer convalescing in a country house in Rutland, not returning to the front line until 1918.

Jack (JB) Priestley with concert party at Hambleton Hall convalescent home, Summer 1916 (ref PRI/2/6)

Priestley (second from left) and concert party at Hambleton Hall convalescent home, 1916 (reference PRI/2/6)

Together with the impact of the war on the German community which had contributed so much to the city’s industrial growth, the loss of a generation of young men seriously diminished Bradford’s economy, culture and society.  Much later Jack Priestley bore witness to what he had seen, and who and what had been lost:

“… I should not be writing this book now if thousands of better men had not been killed; and if they had been alive still, it is certain that I should have been writing, if at all, about another and better England.  I have had playmates, I have had companions, but all, all are gone; and they were killed by greed and muddle and monstrous cross-purposes, by old men gobbling and roaring in clubs, by diplomats working underground like monocled moles, by journalists wanting a good story …”. English Journey.

Sources: these stories are richly documented online and in print, and I have drawn on much sources in writing this short account.

The title is from the report of Sergeant-Major Cussins in the ‘1st Pals’ War Diary of 1 July 1916, quoted on the Bradford Pals website.

Colonel Howard’s quotation is taken from the Western Front Association’s page about Serre.

The information about recruitment is from Bradford: remembering 1914-18 by Kathryn Hughes.

Priestley on the First World War: English Journey, Margin Released, key writings collected in Priestley’s Wars, and in my chapter in Bradford in the First World War (contact me if you can’t get hold of a copy).

Credit: badge copyright IWM, full details on this page.  Shared here under IWM non-commercial licence.

 

Mini Masterpieces

J.B. Priestley was a superlative and prolific essay writer.  Getting started as a professional author after the First World War, he produced hundreds of pieces for newspapers and periodicals.  These were often in a belles-lettristic style which was even then falling out of fashion: “personal in tone but elaborately composed”,  whimsical, mannered, self-deprecating.   But the demands and restrictions of such writing helped Priestley learn his craft.   Gradually he found his natural voice, a style which appears personal, even chatty, but which is really carefully thought out and precise.

By the end of the 1920s, as Susan Cooper observed, Priestley was “writing as well in [essay] form as any man alive and a great many dead”.  His journalism, his broadcasts, and much of his non-fiction – in fact, many of his finest works – have the same mix of precision and personality as his essays.  Priestley wrote in essay form to share what delighted him; to reflect on society, culture and politics; to publicise his opinions – and sometimes to have a good grumble.

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It is therefore a joy to report that a new collection of Priestley’s essays is about to appear in print, under the excellent title, Grumbling at Large.  The volume should be a Delight to own and to read, as its publisher, Notting Hill Editions, specialises in essays and pays great attention to design, typography etc.  I love their typographic covers!

But how to condense a lifetime of miniature gems into one slim volume?  The editor, Valerie Grove, has had a difficult task.  I’ll be keen to see if my favourites (“Gin and Tonic” and “Quietly Malicious Chairmanship“) have made it in!

Quotations from Margin Released and J.B. Priestley: portrait of an author.

The Time Capsule is Open!

12 April 1991. As part of the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the University of Bradford, a time capsule was sealed into the foyer of Richmond Building.  University staff had been asked to suggest “sensible but imaginative objects” (the winners received bottles of sparkling wine) which were put into the capsule before it was locked by Vice Chancellor David Johns and Chair of Council Roger Suddards.

12 April 2016. As part of the celebrations of the University’s 50th anniversary, the time capsule was opened at a special event for staff and students.  Watch the event, including a “show and tell” by Alison Cullingford the Special Collections Librarian (me!), on this Youtube video:

We were delighted that Professor Peter Excell was able to attend: his talk covered his choice of object (the super-conductor) and his memories of 1991.   A large and lively crowd clearly enjoyed finding out more about the objects and the story of the University: thanks to all involved in organising or participating: it was fun!

You can see photographs of the objects on the Time Capsule’s webpage. The media then (and now) were most interested in those representing University Chancellors.  Our Chancellor at the time, industrialist and TV personality Sir John Harvey-Jones, contributed this huge tie: he often wore such a tie when he visited the University.  Sir Harold Wilson, the first Chancellor (1966-1986), was by then too frail to attend, but sent one of his iconic pipes.  It still has the faintest trace of tobacco.

Other favourites included:

  • Menu from the University refectory, featuring a sponge pudding for 30p;
  • Calculator – which still worked when we switched it on.  Impressive!
  • Score of Jubilate, a piece written by the then Fellow in Music Graham Coatman and performed as part of the celebrations;
  • Disposable surgical retractor, developed by David Sharpe of the Burns Research Unit.  This innovative design was awarded the Prince of Wales award for best invention in 1988;
  • and lots lots more (the capsule was as full as it could be.  Clearly staff then, as now, were inspired by the capsule idea).

The objects are now part of the University Archive in Special Collections; everyone is welcome to arrange a visit to see them.  Colleagues at the University, please contact me (Alison)  if you would like a mini-opening in your own department.

 

Opening the Time Capsule

In 1991 the University of Bradford celebrated its 25th anniversary.  As part of the celebrations a time capsule was locked away in one of our buildings.  For the 50th anniversary, we are going to open the box!

Staff and students of the University are welcome to come along to enjoy this unique event and see what their 90s counterparts thought we might find interesting.  Tuesday 12 April 2016, 1.30 till 2.30 in Richmond Atrium.

I don’t seem to have an image showing the locking of the capsule, so I thought you might like this prospectus which has a very 1991 flavour to it.

Mathematics and statistics undergraduate courses and research prospectus 1991

Mathematics and statistics undergraduate courses and research prospectus 1991

What do you think might be in the capsule?  And what would you put in a 2016 version?