Guest Post: Goldsmiths in the mid-60s

Recollections of Goldsmiths in the mid-60s

I arrived, almost by chance at Goldsmiths

On 10 October 1963, I arrived at Goldsmiths without having had an interview. When I left for Fiji on VSO in August 1962, I had a place to go to Nottingham Teachers Training College, but my science teacher arranged for me to take an external BSc (Gen) in Botany, Zoology & Chemistry at Goldsmiths. In those days Goldsmiths was part of London University, but not an internal college. Over half of the students took teacher training courses, with an increasing number doing external degrees. Whether it was because I found it difficult to settle down, being in digs, or the wrong course, I failed my Part 1 in Botany & Zoology. Fortunately, I was allowed to come back in September 1964 to do a three-year secondary science teaching course.

I stayed on B Floor of Raymont Hall for the next two years and made lifelong friends. The difference between being in Hall to being a “Homer & Digger” was immense. It was not only the social life and comradery but the support we gave each other. After a cooked breakfast in Hall, we would walk down Wickham Road a couple of miles into College most mornings, or if pushed catch a bus from Brockley.

The first week of term started with all teacher training students sitting down in the Great Hall to write an essay, in effect an “English Test”, which I again failed the first time. The rest was “Fresher’s Week” with all the society stalls set out in the concourse, and visits for us to all the girls’ Halls. On Saturday, it was “The Fresher’s Ball” in the Great Hall, DJs and all if you had one. The entrance to the College was the right side entrance with the main and left entrance seldom used. The left corridor was still more frequented by the girls or was it the toilets?

In my first year, I also opened a bank account at the New Cross branch of the Midland Bank (HSBC) and paid in my £400 means-tested maintenance grant for the year. I and many students had to work on the post at Christmas and during the summer holidays and with the support of my working-class parents, I was never really short of money. My father also bought me an old A30 for £100 in my second year on the savings he made from giving up smoking, but I was the exception to having a car. Our accommodation and keep were paid for by the local authority. I fear for the debt of my grandchildren when they go to University.

The teacher training science subjects were undemanding after the work degrees and neither we nor the lecturers felt challenged. One course on “Dinosaurs”, however, was new and well before its time and we enjoyed trips to the Natural History Museum, London Zoo and Kew to see our older and wiser descendants. During 1964, the Science faculties moved from the main building into the “new block” overlooking what was then called the back playing field. One cryptic tutor told me that if I spent more time drawing animal skulls than running around the field rugby training, I might do better!

The Education Department was another matter. We were grounded in psychology and philosophy and in teaching methodology, which served me well as I did two teaching practices in East London schools. There were lecturers such as Silverman, Pinker, Davies, and Charity James also working in the College at the time, but I only became aware of them in my later studies. On Friday afternoon from 3.30pm, we would all descend on the Refectory for free “Soc Tea”, to socialise with fellow students and brave tutors.

What I did seem to do well at was Health Education, having written a good project on the outdoor toilets at my teaching practice school and a “Child Study”, for which I managed a distinction and have still got.

Rugby, rowing and all the things you can do at Goldsmiths

Playing rugby for Smiths was a welcome distraction. On some Wednesday afternoons, we would play a division of the Metropolitan Police knowing we would win, get beaten up on the field and have a free drink in the Club House. When I asked an Inspector why they laid into us he replied that it was better the police took it out on students than the general public.

One evening I was brought back to Raymont in a police car having injured my leg and the Head of Hall thought I had finally got my come up pence. Home games at Loring were also a bit of an expedition and we would go down and back on the student coach or come back by train to New Cross. The students who lived at Loring were considered a different clan. We played rugby against most of the other universities and training colleges and travelled all over London, mainly by train and tube.

Invariably on Saturday nights, we made our way back to the “Yacht Pub” in Greenwich or sometimes go under the Thames through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to the “Watermans Arms” and the “Prospect of Whitby”. Some Sunday mornings we also rowed on the Thames from the London Transport clubhouse next to the Yacht and thought we had done well if we kept the boat off the Naval College against the tide. In addition to competing in “The head of the River Race”, our trip to the Peterborough Regatta in our third year was worthy of note. I took half of a “Four” on the top of my A30, with other cars taking the rest of the boat and oars, and 120miles later we assembled the boat by the river, only to be disqualified because our coax questioned the parentage of the boatman. Not to be outdone we had a great night in Peterborough and I got to know my girlfriend better.

At the end of my first teaching practice in 1964, we went down to the Laurie Grove Baths that had been boarded over for a little group called “The Who” to perform and where I met my first real girlfriend. The Balls in the Great Hall were also memorable events with the Temperance Seven, Bonzo Dog, John Cleese and many others from the London scene.

Other than drink, I never came across drugs. Much to other’s surprise, I was also a member of the national executive of the Student Christian Movement and read quite a lot of theology. In our third year we invited the Archbishop of Canterbury to Goldsmiths and two incidents stand out where I was asked to see the College Warden twice in my four years:

  1. The first was when I was asked to explain why a friend had written the Lord’s Prayer at the end of his exam paper and worse still left the line “And lead us not into temptation” out!
  2. The second time I was invited into Dr Chesterman’s study and offered a cup of coffee. I thought I was really in for it. When the Warden asked me why I had not invited him and his Registrar to the Archbishop’s lecture, and would Dr Ramsey like to use his cloakroom; I was relieved but learnt a valuable lesson.

There were streams of other celebrities that also came to the College including Chris Chaterway and Patrick Moore who was a frequent visitor to the Science Society. To this end, I had to go to an Evening Class to use one of the College’s projector for the Society. I also spent many happy hours in a darkroom behind the balcony in the Great Hall printing black and white photographs.

One of the ironies was that as science students we were made to attend a literature appreciate course and both the poor tutor and ourselves got off to a bad start. We were expected to read novels and analyse their content. In the end, we became so keen that we organised trips to the theatre to see plays at a galaxy of London Theatres. When I suggested to another friend that he should go to the Royal Court to see Chekhov’s “Spring Awakening”, he never spoke to me again because his girlfriend thought it was too risqué. Far from being deterred, I became a regular to theatres and many open-air concerts in Holland Park and other venues. One of my friends did a lunchtime recital of “Jesus’s Joy of Man’s Desire” in the Great Hall on his oboe and the Warden’s only comment was that he should stop smoking because he appeared to be short of breath. Dick had never smoked in his life and went on to play minor county cricket for Surrey.

We went on many demonstrations, the most memorable being in “Traffi” Square when Joan Baez sang “We Shall Overcome”. We missed the Grosvenor Square battle in 1968, which changed attitudes to student protests; but feelings about the Vietnam War was very real. Perhaps more foolish was when a group of us from Raymont closed Tower Bridge one night as a prank dressed as workman using traffic cones. What would have happened if we had been caught, I shudder to think.

The final year and beyond Goldsmiths

In our last year, five of us rented a house in Catford. Two of us had failed our first year Part 1, one passed his degree and another had failed his finals because his mother had died a month before his exams and was allowed to return to do a one-year teaching certificate. The worker was in his first year of teaching in Newham. In between, there was a procession of other friends we put up, but we all settled down to redeem ourselves.

When I left Goldsmith in 1967 with a Grade B Secondary Science Teachers Certificate, I felt I had underachieved and was unsure of the impact the four years had on me. How wrong I was. It was the totality of the experience that enabled me to go on to do further studies leading to an MSc in Educational Management and a secondary headship.

When a Dr of Ecology from Cambridge once asked me “What had I read at University?”, I replied without hesitation “As little as possible”, but that was far from the truth.

I now just say I went to Goldsmiths.

TEBBUTT-33 (1)Roy Tebbutt (Teaching Certificate in Science and Biology, 1967)

Following Goldsmiths, Roy did an L.I.Biol in Ecology & Behaviour (1970) and an MSc Educational Management in Sheffield (1977) and taught for 33 years, 11 of which as a Head of a High School in Luton.

On retirement in 2000, he took a gap year to travel back to Fiji, and on to New Zealand and Australia, as the “oldest back packer” in town and to recover from stress and the loss of his wife, Ann, a Pentland girl.

Revived, he spent four years as a PGCE Tutor at De Montfort University in Bedford. To date, he has been an Ampthill Town Councillor for 10 years, one as Mayor and on the Rural Development Programme Greensand Trust Local Action Group. He still keeps in touch with some of his Raymont’s B Floor mates, who also have had successful careers inside and outside of teaching.