20 June 2018

Old Folks at Home

By Development and Alumni Relations Team

Written by David Hilling, Bedford College staff member and Honorary Fellow of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College

On a sunny Saturday in late April, a number of old folk returned to their former home at Bedford College, Regent’s Park. I hope that they do not mind the ‘old folk’ but I remind them that they have a few years yet to catch up with me!

In January 1966, after five years in West Africa, I joined Bedford as a lecturer in geography. As I had expected, most of my students were female and after my first lecture one told me that I had walked 1,160 yards. I did not try to persuade her that what I had said was more important!  In the first year there were a number of males who came in by clearing a year ahead of the many more arriving in September 1966. The old folk of 2018, including the men who came in through clearing in 1965, were all from the few years at the time of this dramatic change. For some of the girls, Bedford College was their term-time home and for all it was the focus of their work and leisure-time activity in London. Building names such as Oliver, Reid, Herringham and Tuke were familiar to them and brought back many happy memories  and they certainly felt at home in the refectory and the dark-wood panelled rooms which became the student bar, and is now the Brasserie which Regent’s University very kindly allowed us to use.

Conversation around the room centred on why the University of London should have given up Bedford and valuable city centre accommodation for students even if it had no future as a multi-faculty college. It was also of interest that, while many students leave with a degree, few year groups show the long-term friendships of this group. My own Christmas card list is 25% former students and mainly from the late 1960s. It is not without interest that students at the time of the move of Bedford to Egham show similar long term friendships possibly developed at the time of events of special interest and challenge.

David Hilling speaks at the recent Bedford College reunion at Regent's Park

After 50 years the friendships developed by the old folk were all too apparent and the happy memories of the good old days were fantastic. Even knowing me to be a Welshman and a professional talker for over 60 years, Richard Baker risked asking me to say a ‘few words’ which gave me a chance to thank him and Penny for all that they had put into organising such a wonderful day so obviously enjoyed by all.  I communicated our thanks to Regent University’s Head of Events for their understanding, hospitality and assistance and the old folk could well return. An event well worth repeating. One hopes that new graduates will in 50 years time also have friends and memories such as our present old folk. Yes, get a degree but friends and memories are an invaluable part of the university package.