Image : Lancaster 50th Anniversary

Remember When

Here are some of the people and events that have made the University what it is today.

Send your memories and anecdotes (max 300 words plus a high resolution photograph) to

We’ll include as many as we can.

Great Days, Brilliant People and Better than Work!

Alex Phillips (1991, Bowland) reflects on various elements of his time at the University in the late 80s/early 90s and how dramatically the campus has changed since both physically and for student life on campus.

I was in Bowland College from ‘88 to ’91 back then the university was easy to navigate - just a big circle intersected by 'the spine'. The spine was essentially a line of college bars stretching from County at the North to Grizedale at the South. You travelled down it either in a zig zag fashion careering off the brick pillars or, for the more adventurous, you could go on a 'roof run' from one end to the other. The porters were rarely inclined to give chase at this height. I still live in Lancaster and have a printing business here but I no longer know my way around the University.

 Bowland Bar & JCR was my spiritual home and, as you could buy a pint of beer for about 70p, there was little incentive not to leave. I really sunk my teeth into college life. I was social secretary for a year and thoroughly enjoyed it. We staged various talent contests & game shows - I wonder if anyone remembers Blind Drunk, The Degeneration Game, Family Flatulence, Call My Muff or You Bend? The discos were great, if somewhat shambolic, affairs - Happy Mondays, Wonderstuff, REM, Inspiral Carpets, Nirvana were all on the playlist. Everyone sat down and flailed their arms about for 'Sit Down' by James and proceedings were normally concluded with 'Whole of The Moon' by the Waterboys before the plug was (sometimes literally) pulled. Home-grown talent included Comatose, Trapdoor, Telepathic Walrus, Sheer Bliss, Big Ted, Private Zoo. 

At the end of one term I was banned from setting foot in the bar for arguing with one of the bar staff (let’s call him Gary Sox to preserve his anonymity) so my friends carried me in and held me up while I had my drink. Drew, the bar manager just rolled his eyes in typical fashion as if to say ‘bloody students’. 

There were always antics going on. There was no concept of 'flash mobs' in those days but impromptu gatherings and parties would spring up in the bedrooms, kitchens, mixing bays, launderette - even in the dunk pond! 

No-one had a mobile phone. If your parents phoned you, you got a knock on the door at some ungodly hour of the afternoon and padded down to the corridor phone in yesterday’s clothes that you had passed out in a few hours before - only to find it was a friend phoning you to say they were the college dean and you had to go and explain why your kitchen had been papered with wet toilet roll and all the doors were off their hinges. You didn’t fall for it though because those requests always came by letter. If you were off campus you may have had a phone in the house but for most it was a trip to a payphone and, if you were lucky, mum wouldn’t natter too long or they’d call you back after a small 10p investment. 

Few students even had a computer back then - let alone email and the internet. We even produced the college magazine partly on my electric typewriter (yes there were such things) and partly on the college photocopier.  Jokes and cartoon fillers were plagiarised from the pages of Private Eye and Viz. Our cut & paste was scissors & Pritt Stick. I would write letters to my friends and family using a thing called a ‘pen’. Something called a ‘stamp’ was put on an ‘envelope’ to make it arrive. 

When we had a college event to advertise, we had no Facebook group. Instead we had big blank A1 posters sponsored by Maine Amusements from their no doubt bounteous revenues from the assorted arcade and quiz machines on campus. Who remembers Gauntlet? “Elf needs food - badly!” We wrote scruffy adverts with chunky marker pens (“Cross Dress Pool Match”, “Toga Party”, “Trip to the Hacienda”, “Piss up in a Brewery” etc). You would invariably start the title off too big and have really thin letters at the end. 

Instead of finding friends on Facebook we had ‘Killer’ - an organised water pistol game at the start of term where you were given 2 names of others in the game who you had to track down and ‘kill’ with no witnesses. I found the key tactic in this game was to bribe the porters for information with Mars Bars. 

Ensuite facilities were purely the stuff of dreams apart from a select few I think in Bowland Tower. Not for them the shambolic morning hangover shuffle down the long corridor to the loos. Cludge No 4 was the infamous stall on our corridor. Home to the Phantom Logger. At least we had a sink for “emergencies”.

 Very few students owned a car - for most of us it was a bus trip round the houses or queuing in the rain at the hitching post. Those who did invariably had a old rusty banger with at least one student in the boot, at least one across laps in the back and a maniac behind the wheel. Perhaps off for a trip to Frontierland in Morecambe for a few games on the Arabian Derby or to risk their life on one of the rickety roller coasters. 

There was always an issue to campaign for/against but the students were fairly apathetic unless it was something close to home. At some point someone mentioned bar centralisation - I don’t think anyone really knew what that meant but we were all immediately down to the library for a sit-in. (Some needed directions!) We also set up a Jedi sect to try to avoid the new poll tax but the authorities weren’t falling for it.

They were great days, brilliant people and it definitely beats working for a living! 

(Also, I think there may have been some lectures and seminars.)


Happy Memories and a Special Place

David Podbur (Biological Sciences, 1991, Lonsdale) recalls his happy times at Lancaster in what he remembers fondly as a wonderful learning environment.

It seems like a lifetime ago. Twenty-six years (and counting) since first setting foot in the place suggests that it was; now I'm blessed with a wife and two beautiful teenage children. It was my A-level biology teacher, a former Lancaster University graduate himself, who had recommended the place to me. I owe him so much.
I read Biological Sciences between '88- '91, and lived on campus for the first and third year (in terrific accommodation in Lonsdale College). That second year was interesting though: finding squalid & shared digs just off the Skerton Bridge opened my eyes to what student life was really all about. The slug trails, the frozen mornings, the piles of uncleaned washing-up as negatives, but a pretty efficient hitching post, the house parties, Friday night at the Sugar House (‘Ali Burgers’ at chucking out time!) and warm friendships, all made up for any inadequacies. Stone Roses, The Inspiral Carpets and Carter, the Unstoppable Sex Machine too, before they were famous anyone?
Several things came together to create such a wonderful learning environment. Yes, like-minded students who wanted to enjoy their time at university, but having all those facilities so close to hand allowed everyone to get on with the proper business of being a student. Lancaster holds a special place in my heart (as it will do for thousands of former students) and memories flood back every time I pass the place on the train or via the M6. I'm proud to have been part of the University's first fifty years, and hope that the establishment continues to flourish and grow. Good luck!

Photo shows: Johnny Holmes, David Podbur and Kit Britten hard at work in the library ahead of their finals in May 1991!