Alumni Engagement And Philanthropy


My Time At Queen's


Take a walk down memory lane, share recollections of your time at Queen's or read some of the many reminiscences provided by other alumni.


Queen’s is rich in heritage and tradition. We have over 170 years of it – and we are still counting!

We asked graduates for recollections of their time at Queen’s and were inundated with hundreds of responses. You can read some of the many wonderful memories of life at the University from the 1950s right through to the early years of the 21st century below. 

To submit your own story for inclusion, or in the next alumni publication, just complete this form and include your comments in the last response box. Please note that the University reserves the right to edit any copy returned for promotional purposes and any responses you provide may be used within publications and on the University’s website. By submitting your form you are agreeing to these terms of use. Thank you for your support and feedback, it is greatly appreciated.

Adegoke Ademiluyi, LLB 1967

Lucille Bonar (nee Speedie), BSc Physics 1958

Lindsay Butler (nee Sadler), BA 1971

Nicola Cahoon (nee McAuley), MSc Mathematics 2009

Stephen Cairns, BMus 1981

David Cunningham, BSc Civil Engineering 1968

William J Davis, BSc Chemistry 1950

Tracy Dempsey, BSc in Industrial Management 1999

Mike Douse BSc (Econ) 1960, DipEd 1961

Melanie Elliott, BA English & Politics 2007, PGCE 2008

Professor Emeritus Alun Evans, MC, BCh, BAO 1968, MD 1984

Sarah-Anne Gillen, BEd 1988

Patricia Hamilton (nee Inglis), BMus 1966

Gerald Harrison, BA Philosophy 1962

Anthony Holmes-Walker, BSc Chemistry 1950

Susan Howley, MSc Environmental Engineering 2005

Ian Jagoe, Psychology

Fred Kennedy, BSc Physics 1954

J A (Tony) Kernahan, BSc (Physics) 1964, PhD (Physics) 1968

Paul Lilly, LLB 2009

Lim Si Boon, BEng Manufacturing Engineering 1989

Jim Livingstone, BSc Psychology 1976

Erling Lund, BSc Electrical Engineering 1954

William David (Double) MacConnell, BSc 1970

Bill McAlpine, BSc Chemical Engineering 1976

Thomas McCalden, BSc Physiology 1970

Alf McCreary, BA Modern History 1963, DipEd 1964

Roger McCune, BSc Chemistry 1970

John McCurdy, MB BCh BAO 1960

Gardiner McDonald Weir, BAgr 1957

Donna McDonnell, BA Business Administration 1990

Chris McDowell, BSc Chemical Engineering 1984

Ciaran McFerran, BSc Pure Mathematics 1967

Gary Moss, BSc Chemistry 1992

Peter O’Neill, BSc Psychology 1983, MSSc European Integration Studies 1996,  LLM 2008

Penny Pollard, MPhil 2001, PhD 2006 Irish & Celtic Studies

Konstadinos Costas Popotas, LLM 1987

Julie Port, BSc Psychology 2005

Muhammad H. Salim BAgr 1951

Albert Siewers, 1952 MB, BCh, BAO

Joanna Sinnerton, LLB 1956

Ian Smyth, BSc Mechanical Engineering 1949

Patrick Taylor, MB 1964, MD 1985

Dr Patrick J Thompson, MC, BCh, BAO 1957

Marion von Sivers (Mandy Boyd), LLB 1966

J M Wesley Starr, BSc Physics 1952

Seán Stitt, PhD Social Studies 1989

Norman Young, BSc 1964 PhD 1968

Adegoke Ademiluyi, LLB 1967

My 4 years at Queen’s and indeed in Northern Ireland have remained indelible in my memory.

The Law Faculty was an international unit with students from parts of Africa, Asia, India, Malaysia, Europe, North & South  America and of course the British Isles. There was no discrimination racially and I was always at ease with both the staff and co-students. We had remarkable and helpful lecturers most of whose names I cannot now recall except a Professor Newark. The Vice-Chancellor then was quite down to earth as he related well with the students.

Hence, there were no students’ riots in my time. I participated in a few activities of the Students’ Union especially in the areas of political debates on the emerging Nations of Africa. My digs were a hotbed of arguments involving Protestant and Roman Catholic students. I used to tease them that coming from Africa where inter-tribal wars were rife, at least, among the religions, we had a large amount of tolerance. I had previously lived at the Presbyterian Hostel in my first year before I moved to digs.

Queen’s had an ideal environment for studies and stood out as a pleasant place for interaction amongst the communities in Northern Ireland. The Town and Gown related positively. I am happy to note that it had kept its place as one of the best universities in the UK. I remain a proud alumnus of Queen’s as I usually pin my Queen’s graduate badge on my jacket lapel wherever I go in the world.

My graduation day was memorable. We had both gowns and hoods loaned to us for the ceremony and after photographs were taken, we returned them. It was interesting to take group photographs with friends and classmates and meet family members who came to share in the joy of the day.

Like all Queen’s activities, the event was well organized with a professional touch. My graduation photographs still take a pride of place in my home and my family fully appreciate my love for Queen’s even though none of my 6 children here in Lagos felt inclined to go to there.

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Lucille Bonar (nee Speedie), BSc Physics 1958

My memory is of four very happy years - Professor Emeleus was my favourite lecturer.

We did not have as much free time as the current students. Wednesday afternoon was hockey practice at Cherryvale.  Through hockey I made many friends.  We had success in the Ulster Women's Hockey Senior League and the Chilean Cup competitions. I was honoured to be Club captain in my final year and delighted to be awarded a Queen's Blue for hockey.

Another happy memory is of times spent at the Presbyterian Community building and of knowing Rev R R Davey.

The 1959 Honours Physics students were a friendly, helpful group and the reunion we had was another most memorable event. Even though we had not met most of our fellow students for 40 years we were able to chat and recall our days in lectures and practicals.  To sit in the old Physics Lecture Theatre was an amazing experience.

Thank you to Queen's for the opportunity to study there for four years, years which I will always treasure.

Lindsay Butler (nee Sadler), BA 1971

Some of my best recollections of Queen's (1968-1971), are contained in this excerpt from a tribute I made to another contemporary student from England, Julie Baker, who was sadly killed in a car crash in Spain on 2 March 2009.
Tribute to Jools

I first met Julie – or Jools, as I always knew her – in 1968 when we were first year students at The Queen’s University of Belfast.  Six of us allocated to the same house - Jools, Heather, Ann, Kath, Barbara and I - formed a close friendship which has lasted across the years.  Jools often remarked to me how lucky we were that the six of us were brought together at that time.  Heather died with Jools four weeks ago in that terrible car crash in Spain while they were celebrating their 60th birthdays together, so only four of the original six are left.

A few days after we arrived in Belfast, the Northern Irish Troubles started – but didn’t stop us having fun.  Once we were without running water for days, when the water pipes from the reservoir were blown up.  We collected water from standpipes near the Students’ Union in plastic cups, but not much was left by the time we had walked home, so we used the water left in our hot water bottles for cooking instead.

During our first year Jools and I were invited to a 21st birthday party – a blind date for me.  We thought the party was in Ormeau, a suburb of Belfast, and were surprised to find ourselves being driven to Omagh instead - 60 miles to the west.  It was a good party, but getting back to Belfast in time for our group trip to Dublin the next day was a bit of a problem – and one of us didn’t make it!

During our second year, we six rented a small house together and each cooked for the others one day a week.  We put money into the kitty on Sunday evenings, so whoever cooked at the beginning of the week was lucky.  By the time Sunday came round again, there was never much money left, so we often existed on baked onions for our Sunday lunch.

Jools’ time as a student gave her useful experience in how to plan her finances.  Always an avid reader, she would spend the great bulk of her student grant at the beginning of each term on expensive glossy books related to her subjects, and then find it hard to make ends meet towards the end of term.  She decided to supplement her income by joining the Officer Training Corps – but the sight of Jools in army uniform and the thought of her wielding a loaded rifle – even in practice - was not something to give peace of mind.

After we all graduated our ways diverged, but the close friendships formed during our student days had long lasting consequences.  Jools’ career as a mining investment analyst began when Ann’s father offered her a job, and, later on, Kath became godmother to Barrington.  We met up as a group again in 2002, when we started having regular reunions.

Nicola Cahoon (nee McAuley), MSc Mathematics 2009

I had a brilliant university experience at Queen's and have fond memories of my time in the David Bates Building (Mathematics), working with great lecturers and supervisors and fellow students, people who became good friends.

The most beneficial year for me was the big finale - the year I studied for my Masters. I gained many valuable skills at this time which are benefiting me now in my current research and there was more of a social network as I was spending a lot more of my time in the University Masters suites.

I have to say I did not get involved in sports as part of my University experience but enjoyed full student membership for the PEC’s facilities, a top class facility might I add.

I did however get involved in an evangelical outreach called Talkshop, started through the Christian Union and which has continued for years. The group still meet for bible study and prayer every Thursday evening at 10.45 at Shaftesbury Reformed Presbyterian Church, and then go up to the Union to give out literature and spread the good news of the gospel. I have to say this was a great witness to be involved in and during University years there were many times of spiritual growth.

All in all, a very positive experience from my time at Queen's!

Stephen Cairns, BMus 1981

My most enduring memory of my time at Queen's would without doubt be the chance to participate, as a trombonist, in performances of large scale works with the Queen's University Orchestra in the Whitla Hall.

Of particular significance would be the performance of Walton's 'Belshazzar’s Feast' , directed by Professor David Greer, Holst's 'Planets Suite', directed by Adrian Thomas and Mahler's 'Symphony No. 1', conducted by Tony Carver (pictured).

These are events which will live long in the memory and participation in such important large-scale works is something which I am unlikely to get the opportunity to do again.

One other very significant event of my time at Queen's - I met my wife there!

David Cunningham, BSc Civil Engineering 1968

Memories: The old Union (now the Music Dept) and the all-pervading homely smell of old cooking fat; the Friday Formals, going directly on to Saturday morning lectures and then Van Buren for photographs; the Union or if lucky the Drill Hall at the hops; the long David Keir evening coffee breaks; doing the problems for Prof Crossland’s (pictured) next book.

It was a great time, or was it just that we were young?


William J Davis, BSc Chemistry 1950

Many things transpired to get me my job as a lecturer in the Chemistry Department at Trinity College Dublin where I taught for over 40 years.

Firstly, there were only two candidates for the job. My rival was a fellow research student of mine at Queen’s who had not been outside Belfast for his education. I had. Not only outside Belfast, but in Cambridge, a University following and soon out-stripping Oxford in post-war (World War II, 1939-45) development of scientific research. And it was the site of the famous Cavendish Laboratory.

Secondly, one of the two interviewers was himself a Cambridge graduate. So choose your interviewers!

Thirdly, because I had been working on the Bacon fuel cell there I was well versed in electro-chemistry and so would allow him gratefully to relinquish to me his lecturing in that subject (not a popular course for most chemistry lecturers). Also I had two years teaching experience, having been a junior lecturer at Queen’s for the last two years of my PhD research period.

Fourthly, being a Dubliner and with an Irish wife, it was probably thought I would be likely to stay in the job for a reasonably extended period, unlike many of the British candidates appointed who looked on their stay in Trinity College Dublin as a stop-gap job before some UK position became available.

Finally, as I had applied for, and been interviewed for many jobs in industry and in the Scientific Civil Service while a research student (jobs in science in the middle 1950s were two-a-penny) I was used to being interviewed and felt comfortable with that situation.

And most important of all a good deal of luck!

Tracy Dempsey, BSc in Industrial Management 1999

On first reflection, my Queen's experience was more of a social one than an academic one.

First time up to the Big Smoke, from the wilds of Aghadowey; first time living away from home; first time sharing a 'house' (Hamilton Hall, since demolished - and by the way, how spoilt are the students in those replacement apartments? They're luxury suites!) with 100+ other students. It was exciting, frightening and overwhelming at times, but all in all a very positive experience.

One particular highlight was getting voted VP of Halls (partly on the back of promising a pool table, I believe - nice little earner it was too) and scored the President's single-occupant double room with its en-suite loo. (The actual President was studying medicine and opted for a quieter, 10th-floor, single. Win-win.)

Educationally, I had opted, at the last minute, for the BSc in Industrial Management - I'd originally been down for social anthropology and Spanish, but a worried mother convinced me that the long-term career prospects were not favourable, and I switched (of my own volition, of course) to an engineering and management course being advertised at the time. The bright star on the faculty was the legend that is Dr W J Skelton, our mentor, father figure, visitor during a semester in Pau (he came out to check that all was 'tickety-boo'), and all round Good Bean. We've had the pleasure of his company on a few reunions since graduation, although he's hard to pin down these days due to his dazzling post-retirement social life.

French was also a part of our degree, hence that semester at a university in Pau, near the Spanish border. On our first day wandering the streets, in vest tops and shorts, sunlight bouncing off our Northern Irish skin, we got stopped by a very well-dressed (naturally), tweed-coat-and-scarf-wearing lady who exclaimed, 'Tu n'as pas froid??' 'Non,' I said, 'nous sommes irlandais'. 'Ahhh!', she replied, with kindly pity in her eyes.

Every degree course should include 3 months of studying in a hot, sunny country, where the fine wine is in cheap and plentiful supply (for weekends only, of course - but really, £1 for a bottle of 'champagne'; £3 for a 5-litre tank of red wine? No matter that it looked like a Castrol GTX container) and where a pale, freckled face is a thing of exotic beauty. Well, unless you're on a 'French for International Students' course that includes blonde yet lightly-tanned Swedes, that is. Tough competition. 

Aside from the French, of all the actual information I did take in, the management segment has turned out to be most useful. I enjoyed the motivational theory and lifelong learning modules, at a time when I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I eventually figured that out; life, business and arts coaching - so all that motivational theory and business information has come back into relevance for me. Since launching Soul Ambition 3 years ago I've delivered workshops for the Queen's Widening Participation Unit and most recently with the SIFE entrepreneurial student group; and so I've come full circle. I also teach time management and how to overcome obstacles such as procrastination and lack of willpower - so just as soon as those real engineers have created time travel, I might take a little trip back to 1995!

I did also try to use the French by moving myself and business to Nice in 2007 - I just needed to sell my house and use all that lovely equity to get myself established out there. Le d'oh. I'd even got on a property programme, getting shown around some lovely apartments I might like to buy - in hindsight, 'Fantasy Homes By the Sea' was somewhat prophetic. But nil desperandum; when it became clear I'd be staying in Belfast for the foreseeable, I switched my focus to music and the arts as a replacement adventure/skills challenge, and I've since taken a couple of trips back to the Côte d'Azur for work and pleasure.

In January last year, I got asked to compere the Northern Ireland Showcase at the MIDEM music conference, in Cannes - in French and English. Now we didn't exactly focus on music industry lingo in the French faculty, but a helpful concierge told me what I needed to know as I waited for the taxi from the hotel to the venue. (If you're wondering, 'showcase' is 'le showcase' and 'a record label' is 'un label'. Who'd have thought?) I did remember the eminently useful phrase 'Parler francais comme une vache espanole' - 'To speak French like a Spanish cow' - a bit of apologetic self-deprecation at the start got me off the hook for any dodgy grammar etc. and I thoroughly enjoyed my Eurovision-esque experience.

So, 10 years on and I'm still getting use from that course, despite not caring too much what exactly I'd be studying, back then. If I were enrolling for the first time this year, I'd have a much easier time in choosing courses - the music degrees offered now seem second-to-none, thanks to the excellent SARC facility, and of course Queen's has been earning great accolades for its teaching in entrepreneurship. But I have no regrets about the decisions I made as a directionless 18-year-old; I'm glad for all the lasting friendships I made and the great memories that still make me laugh and squirm in almost equal measure - and I'm glad to be involved with Queen’s once again through my work.

Melanie Elliot, BA English & Politics 2007, PGCE 2008

Looking back, September 2004 marked my arrival in the bustling city of Belfast. A rural girl from County Tyrone, home seemed like a million miles away. A fish out of water,   I remember having to set a day aside before enrolment to find out how to actually get to Queen’s University!

My undergraduate days at Queen’s were a steep learning curve to say the least. From mastering the art of balancing academic and social life, last minute coursework submissions made possible by the blessing of the 24 hour Seamus Heaney Library, not forgetting getting locked in the College Park building with no credit on my mobile phone (thankfully I was found within a half hour!) all played a part in my student experience.

I somehow managed to graduate in 2007 with a Joint Honours in English and Politics, and was lucky enough to stay at Queen’s to complete my PGCE.  I am currently teaching in St Louise’s Comprehensive College and in the final stages of my Masters in Personal and Civic Education.

Two particular lecturers stand out from my time at Queen’s. From my undergraduate years, Dr Margaret O’Callaghan (School of Politics) was an inspirational figure. She was undoubtedly a captivating speaker with formidable intellect. From my PGCE year, Dr Joy Alexander immediately comes to mind, a lady who nurtured a passionate love of literature and teaching in all her students. For me both lecturers represented the true spirit of Queen’s, combining academic excellence and authority with a light touch and a desire and ability to communicate with people from a wide range of backgrounds. Both were full of humour, humility and humanity and they left (and I am sure still leave) marked impressions in the lives of their students.

To this day when I enter the grounds of Queen’s surrounded by the zeal of fresh faced students the words of W B Yeats always come to mind, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

Professor Emeritus Alun Evans,  MC, BCh, BAO 1968, MD 1984

I only began to enjoy my undergraduate medical training at Queen’s once the clinical years had begun in the mid 1960s. To be honest, this was largely due to my dilatory input to my earlier studies which was commensurate with the satisfaction I derived from them.

Things changed when I got to hospital, largely thanks to two remarkable people whom I encountered. The first of these was the surgeon, John Robb, who was a charismatic teacher. His enthusiasm for his subject was infectious and I regard him as the greatest Professor of Surgery which Queen’s never had. Some years afterwards, in March 1972, after the bombing of the Abercorn Restaurant, John went on the radio to describe the amputations, often multiple, which it had been necessary to perform, commenting: “You cannot create a healthy society from one which has been dismembered.”

The other person who caught my imagination was the great Cardiologist, Frank Pantridge (pictured). Frank's reputation route-marched ahead of him: years before I met him I was asked by my barber if I had met Frank. He then recounted how he had been cutting a patient's hair in Frank's ward and had looked up to see Frank gesticulating in his direction.  The barber bravely walked over to Frank and asked, “Sir, am I annoying you?”  “No,” replied Frank, in a measured way, and then glowering around at his entourage, added, “And come to think of it, you are the only person here this morning that isn't.”

Frank’s strengths did not lie so much with teaching, but he was piercingly shrewd and extremely funny, invariably at other people’s expense. His most severe humiliation was reserved for us medical students who had problems identifying heart murmurs.  He would demand to see our stethoscopes and examine them most fastidiously, trying them out himself, before announcing that, 'The problem lies here!' as he held them up and pointed to between the ear pieces. He was an irascible individual whose attitude to the world had, in part, been tempered by the years he languished in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

It was during my time as a student that Frank introduced Mobile Coronary Care in Belfast, and by his example, to large tracts of the western world. He was subsequently to develop the portable defibrillator, the prototype for those which almost all airliners now carry. Frank was great innovator and a unique man who well deserves his title as ‘The Father of Emergency Medicine.’

Sarah-Anne Gillen, BEd 1988

I left St Mary's in 1988. At times it seems so long ago, at others I feel it has passed in a flash. I still remember getting the bus from St Mary's to St Joseph's for lectures and feeling glad when spring arrived and the days had got longer.

Coming up to Belfast on a Sunday night, with washing washed and food supplies to keep us going for a while. We watched Neighbours in the common room (it's still going!) and our lectures talked of shopping at home on the computer in the future. It was only a dream away back then. Look at us now emailing, chatting, shopping and banking on-line. Technology has moved so rapidly.

The Troubles played a big part in life back then, but we got on with our daily lives. The Peace Process has made a huge change to life now.

But for me the memories are summed up in the people - the children we helped in West Belfast on Wednesday afternoons, our landlady in Andersonstown Road in first year who made us part of her family and the eight girls I shared with until I left Belfast for my first job in the real world.

Time has taken us different routes, tragedy met a few unexpectedly, but the rest try to keep in touch. I still meet with members of my year group in courses, meetings and get-togethers. Personally we feel we haven't changed that much and are still the same people.

Many lecturers and tutors took the time to motivate us individually. Dr Murray was an inspirational lecturer. I remember her words of wisdom still to this day and she helped me personally with her advice and encouragement. When meeting students today I hope to give them the same encouragement she passed onto me. A difference can be made to a life with a few encouraging words.

As I left my daughter up to start her university life this year, memories of my Graduation Day in Whitla Hall came flooding back - strawberries and cream in the garden, meeting up in the Union. I just hope my daughter has the same wonderful experience I had. I am grateful for all St Mary's and Queen’s gave me.

Patricia Hamilton (nee Inglis), BMus 1966

It was strange the way I came to Queen’s.  I played the clarinet and piano and was keen to go to the Royal Academy of Music in London where we lived.  However, my parents felt a secretarial training was more appropriate so I could get work easily and support myself.

I joined EMI and worked in the Abbey Road studios for Walter Legge who was the Manager of Columbia Records and husband of the famous soprano, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.  During my first year we recorded ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ and ‘Don Giovanni’.  But my lack of languages made it difficult for me to communicate with the artists so I opted for evening classes in Italian.

My mother was from Belfast and my father, a Scotsman, was often sent to countries in South America, particularly Brazil where I was born.  When he was away during the school holidays my mother would come into our room and say:  ‘girls we are going home’ (meaning Belfast) which we always enjoyed. 

On one of our visits I accompanied a cousin to his Italian evening class at Queen’s.  Afterwards we were standing in the Quad watching all the activity and looking at the beautiful buildings.  ‘I wish I had come here’ I said.  He replied ‘Why don’t you?’ ‘What would you study?’  I said. ‘Music, I suppose.’  He told me to come into Queen’s the next morning and see the Clerk of Admissions, which I did and was sent up the Malone Road to Derryvolgie House to see Professor Philip Cranmer.  I then had a year in Italy and joined Queen’s in 1962.  I did a BMus four-year course with French and Spanish as my other subjects as the Italian Department didn’t open until my final year at Queen’s.

My favourite lecturer was Dr Godin in the French Department.  He put across his words like an actor on the stage.  His lectures were always well attended.  No Yogi Bear in the register here!

At the Fresher’s Fair I joined 8 clubs and societies and was interviewed on local television.  They included the Folk Music society, the Motor club and Scottish dancing.  Through them I made many friends.  I was also Vice President of the Music Society.

I bought a motor scooter to get around on but had a bad accident during my first year exams.  My family insisted that I change onto 4 wheels rather than two so during my summer vacation we bought an old Ford Popular car.  I drove it up to Liverpool and put it on the overnight ferry.  When I formed a Wind Quintet it was great taking us around with all our instruments.  During vacations Professor Cranmer put it in his second garage and his son, Damian, used it.

It was the custom for Freshers to take part in the Freshers concert during their first year.  One student said she played the piano and could accompany us.  The other said ‘I think I’d like to sing.’ So we performed ‘Schubert’s ‘The Shepherd on the Rock’.  The singer’s name was Norma Burrowes and we shared a flat during our third year.  We did a concert performance of ‘Der Freischutz by Weber and Norma’s soprano singing drew wonderful comments in the newspapers.  She became a professional singer after training at the Royal Academy and performed at Covent Garden Opera House and the Salzburg Music Festival.  She took part in recordings of two works by Handel and An Anthology of English Song.  Her voice was clear and bell-like and I love to listen to these CDs.  She received a doctorate from Queen’s and now lives in Canada.

We used to go down to Dublin and on one occasion a group of us gave a concert at UCD with Professor Ray Warren who is a composer. We each were given a different series of notes to play whenever the conductor, Ray, pointed his baton at us.  This way the piece was composed as we went along.  Howard Burrell, who became a composer and Professor at Hatfield College north of London, was given the first signal.  He blew hard but his horn refused to sound which had us all in fits of giggles so it was difficult to come in when the baton was then pointed at us.

I went along to hear an orchestral concert in the Whitla Hall during the November Festival.  Standing at the side I noticed a student dressed in black tie with red boots! His name was Michael Emmerson and he told me he was going to take over the Festival and broaden its horizons. I told him I could get artists over from London so I joined the Festival Committee.  My first artist was Larry Adler, the harmonica player.  I used to play the harmonica myself.  His face looked a picture when I turned up at Aldergrove Airport to meet him in my old Ford Popular.  I took him on a tour of Belfast and he then rehearsed with Professor Cranmer accompanying him.  The two men appreciated each other’s musicianship and played a brilliant concert.

Most people will remember where they were and what they were doing at the time when President Kennedy was shot.  I was taking part down town in ‘Graduation Ode’, an opera by Ray Warren.  We were all very shocked by this news.

The Music Department was small and therefore more intimate. I loved the simple way we would entertain ourselves.  For instance when one student’s mother sent him a cake it was a good excuse for us all to have a party, singing around the piano or joining in on other instruments.  When it became late we had to stop so as not to disturb the neighbours so we all sat round the fire telling ghost stories while we enjoyed the cake.

During my four years at Queen’s I had great fun putting on concerts by professional musicians, performing in lunchtime concerts or giving talks.  I viewed my time at Queen’s as a jumping-off platform for my future career as I wanted to do a job in music administration.  In fact I rejoined EMI, this time in a job going on recording sessions and interviewing artists for EMI’s internal magazines.  When I married and had children I changed to teaching and found this very satisfying.  I am retired now and unfortunately have Parkinson’s disease but I joined Queen’s London Association – QUAL – and go to their annual dinners.

In October 2006 I met up with fellow students from the Music Department at the memorial service for Professor Cranmer in All Saints church in Margaret Street, London.  Ray Warren gave the address.  I was struck by the beautiful music in the service composed by Cranmer.  I had never regarded him as a composer not having heard his music.  The Cranmer family said they had all enjoyed their 16 years in Northern Ireland more than any other position their father had held in his distinguished career.

I have only been back to Queen’s once. It was in 1995 when we had the first peaceful time from the troubles.  I was in the Lanyon Room (Welcome Centre) buying some souvenirs and I said to the assistant who was doing my receipt and had his back to me; ‘I graduated 29 years ago and haven’t been back until now’.  He turned round and said; ‘What kept you so long’.  That is the spirit of Queen’s!

Gerald Harrison, BA Philosophy 1962

I graduated from Queen's for the first time in 1962. Like many students of that less pressurised era, I was carefree and blithe, and it came as a shock a day or two before the graduation ceremony to realise suddenly that I had to appear in a respectable suit! Like many male students in those days I knocked around in cords and an old sweater, and although I had a serviceable jacket, I had nothing approaching a respectable pair of trousers, let alone anything with a matching top and bottom.
So, driven by the spectre of otherwise being barred at the door to the glittering prizes, I borrowed a ‘proper suit’ from my friend Derek. Now, Derek and I were of a height, and the jacket was a bit tight but fitted fairly well, but I would modestly claim to have been of a bulkier build, and the trousers had a suggestion of the drainpipe about them. I almost had to be screwed into them, and, sitting in the back of my proud parents' car on the way to the Whitla Hall (pictured), I had to stretch my legs out along the back seat, as I couldn't bend them at all!
I was duly admitted to the ceremony after all, gowned and glowing. All was well until it was my turn to head for the platform. I had to goosestep the short distance to the steps. The steps....ah yes, those few steps. To this day, I am thankful to the gods of Academe that I somehow was able to waddle up them without breaking sweat, or anything else of even greater potential for embarrassment. In the end it all went well, disaster was avoided, and when I graduated again in a subsequent year, I had my very own suit. And it fitted.

Anthony Holmes-Walker, BSc Chemistry 1950

My time at Queen’s began in 1944 with a six-month’s War Office Pre-Entry course in Engineering, during which time I won the under 23 Northern Ireland Long Jump Championship!

After war service I came back to Queen’s in 1947 and spent the next six happy years doing and teaching chemistry.  In those far-off days the University was quite small – not more than about two thousand students – and it was possible to know most people on the campus.

My memorable moments mostly came in 1951/2 and began with the shock of being confronted with a class of about 185 amiable, but not very enthusiastic, medical students to whom I was supposed to teach chemistry.  Then there was the time we wheeled the Dean – Professor A. R. Ubbelohde – in a wheelbarrow through the campus when he was elected FRS. 

I remember too the visit of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the early 50s (pictured) and the academic procession which accompanied it.

Having “missed” some years of study we had to work hard, but also played hard: doing sports – I won the Triple Jump in the Londonderry Trophy match – and joined many societies, I was a founder member of then choir under Ivor Keyes, and was also fortunate to get married in 1952 to Marie-Anne.  We are still happily together almost sixty years later!

Susan Howley, MSc Environmental Engineering 2005

My favourite lecturer was John McKinley. His knowledge and enthusiasm was so enthralling, his wit and body language amused and engaged us all.

I loved walking through the Botanic Gardens to get to class, and through the quad equally if they were closed. They give you a real sense of being part of Queen’s.

The endless hours we all spent in the Seamus Heaney Library, night and day; thank God for the coffee and sweet machines!  And the small canteen room where we gathered to brain storm or chill out.

Mostly I remember my friend Ciara Meehan who got me through the tough year that consisted of a workload none of us had experienced before. It was after all, as we were told, ‘a most prestigious Masters’, which I am now eternally grateful for.

From study breaks in Clements Coffee house, site work, sunburn and natural yogurt, pints in Bar 12/The Empire/’the Bot’ to a final night on the lash in the Students’ Union, dancing to our favourite tunes.

Ciara has since passed on from us, on July 5th 2007. She is stamped on my memory like the seal on our graduation scroll - deep and entirely significant. Ciara, you are indeed a legend, and you can do your ‘I am a Legend dance’ now.

Fred Kennedy, BSc Physics 1954

I was Honorary Secretary of the Students’ Union at the time, 1953 as I recall. We got a request from the representatives of The O’Brien, self-styled Prince of Thomond to receive him at Queen’s and provide an opportunity for him to address the student body on his tour of universities to promote his cause.

After some discussion in the SUS committee we invited him to visit Queen’s. Then the preparations began. Tongue in cheek we arranged to hire the landau normally used on royal occasions for visits to Belfast so that on his arrival to Queen’s he would be suitably treated with pomp and ceremony. The students gave him a great welcome and listened to his presentation claiming independence of the Principality of Thomond from the “Red Republic”.

He left Queen’s well satisfied with his reception and as a mark of recognition for my efforts he granted me the status of “Knight of the Dalcassian Order”. I still have the piece of paper somewhere in my files. It turns up from time to time and I smile at the memory. However I have never claimed the title of Sir.


J A (Tony) Kernahan, BSc (Physics) 1964, PhD (Physics) 1968

Sitting at my computer in Edmonton, Alberta, it's hard to believe it is over 50 years since I went up to Queen's in 1961, having been schooled at Coleraine Inst.  I was fortunate to have obtained a place in the men's hall of residence Queen's Elms (pictured), that wonderful row of fine four storey houses on University Rd opposite the main entrance to Queen's.  Sadly, the complex was demolished (in the mid 1960s) to make way for the new Students' Union Building.  So, as it turned out, I was a resident in the old Elms for its last two years.

The Warden was Dr Henry Mackle who was in the Chemistry Department, a kindly man if I recall. He and his wife had their own flat within the Elms and I believe their child (a daughter?) was born at home. After the birth, Henry was in the Club Bar one evening celebrating with some of the lads. When asked to comment about a baby being born in the Elms his reply was along the lines of "She may have been the first child to be born in Queen's Elms but by God she is not the first to have been conceived there!" (The rules regarding lady visitors to the Elms were strict by today's standards, but the residents had great respect for Dr Mackle and never pushed their luck too far, so to speak!)

Two other characters of the Elms spring to mind. The Matron was Miss Hagen, a jovial "Hattie Jacques"- like figure who kept us all in line. She really did look after her "boys" and was there when we needed her.  Dr Mackle's secretary was Miss Walker who seemed to enjoy her job maybe because of the excess of virile young males in her work environment!

As well as the staff there were many "characters" among the residents, far too many to mention here. I still have very fond memories of Queen's Elms and, although it was rather inefficient in its use of space, it had a real personality all of its own.  From a purely architectural perspective it's a shame that it was pulled down in the name of "progress".  It was good to me, as was my whole Queen's experience.

Paul Lilly, LLB 2009

I have some great memories of Queen's, so much so I stayed on, as one of the Vice Presidents in the Students' Union.

Queen's for me had everything. To start I thought the teaching was great. Teachers such as Professor Bew in Politics and Professor Dawson in Law helped me to understand complicated issues in the areas of Law and Politics. I also found for the most part that lecturers and teachers in Queen's were very helpful and 'student friendly'.

Yet, perhaps, most of my favourite memories come from the social side of Queen's. I can honestly say that the friends I have made here are the most lasting and important friendships I will ever make. Whether it was playing football up at the Dub, attending meetings of Student Council or enjoying a beverage in the Bot, the Queen’s experience is one which I enjoyed immensely.

As a Student Officer, I have had the opportunity to represent Queen's students, and truly was in awe when meeting such guests as Hilary Clinton, Mary McAleese and the then Chancellor of Queen's, Senator George Mitchell (pictured). As Equality and Diversity officer, I have been able to give something back to this great University, helping International students with events, organising cultural activities in the Students' Union and just generally enjoying life at Queen's!

Peter O’Neill, BSc Psychology 1983, MSSc European Integration Studies 1996,  LLM 2008

   President, Students' Union 1983-84

   Director of the Imagine Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics

   There is always a danger of donning rose tinted spectacles when reviewing the past but looking back at my   
    time at Queen’s it was clearly a very eventful and generally happy period in my life. It was, after all, the time   
    when I met my wife, most of my current friends and made Belfast my home. Notwithstanding the tribulations
    of a Thatcher government, the hunger strikes and the backdrop of the conflict, we made the most of a comparatively generous student finance system, the excitement of punk music, a vibrant student community and the occasional academic pursuit. With a student population of only 7,000, the Students’ Union (SU) felt like a village, particularly for those living around the campus. We largely spent our time in the SU – not a particularly attractive building and apparently built back to front - but quite functional and student controlled. In fact, it was the largest SU building in Ireland with a busy network of bars and venues including the McMordie Hall , which we renamed as the Mandela Hall. The Club Bar and Lavery’s were other outlets but rarely did we venture into the security-gated city centre which largely closed down at 9pm. 

I started in student politics by setting up a Community Action group and becoming active on housing issues. I was elected President of the SU in 1983 as part of a new wave of student leaders who had rejected the more managerial approach to representing student concerns. In my time as a student hack, we embarked on a wave of protests opposing cutbacks in higher education spending and the lack of student representation on university committees. I was arrested quite a few times in high profile occupations of the Education Minister’s office (Nicholas Scott), Belfast Education and Library Board and various university offices. 1983 was an eventful and painful year in Northern Ireland’s history, which witnessed the assassination of the Unionist politician and QUB law lecturer, Edgar Graham, by the IRA less than 100 metres from the Union building. He was on the liberal wing of the Ulster Unionist Party and was tipped as a future leader. In the immediate aftermath there was turmoil in the student body with allegations that students had been involved in the murder and the existence of a student IRA cell. Over a thousand students attended an emergency general meeting where, with my fellow officers, we called for calm and student unity in the face of this callous act. I felt an immense sense of responsibility, talking to students on a one to one basis, with the SU seen a haven and a source of direction and hope. However, in the wake of Edgar’s murder I received death threats and was advised by police to modify my routine and change address.

In spite of the above challenges, looking back at my annual report from the time, I am struck by the level of activity we were able to generate. As well as organising three- day strikes and two large marches against student poverty, we succeeded in winning student places on the key university Academic Council; securing 50/50 student representation on Academic Board; an extra sabbatical officer for education affairs; the creation of the first Women’s’ Officer position on the executive committee; improvements in student housing and successful campaigns against the introduction of student medical cards and the visit of Ronald Reagan in the Republic. I learned a lot from my time in Queen’s and will miss the old building which witnessed so much political and cultural activity. But time doesn’t stand still for old hacks and I look forward to seeing how current students can create a new Students' Union that meets their future needs.

Lim Si Boon, BEng Manufacturing Engineering 1989

There were many fond memories of Queen' personal tutor was Prof Bahrani; he was a great character and was always approachable and an inspiration to me. What I always remember was Prof - who was about 65 - jumping the last 2 steps as he came down the stairs.

Memories of the Ashby Building include meeting Jeyabalan Seenivasen from Mauritius on the same course - we became good friends and we did our final year project together. We spent many hours in the workshop and the darkroom developing photos and won the Institute of Production Engineers Best Project.

The best memories were the friendships I made. I had friends from Malaysia, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Ireland...sharing cultures in Queen’s Elms. I remember once I was frying preserved and salted fish when an Irish friend came running out and said, ‘who is drying their dirty socks in the common room?’ We laughed when he learnt it was food and he thought it was dirty socks. Anyway he insisted on trying it and he did turn a little green.

Jim Livingstone, BSc Psychology 1976

Good memories from the 70s

Lecturers like Ken Brown in Psychology who made the subject exciting and fun.

Having evening dinner in the restaurant and then drinks after in the basement bar.

Trying to get past 'Billy' on the door of the bar - with a girl who was not a Queen’s student!

Hearing about the young lad trying to get into the Students’ Union without a student card, who when asked what he was doing at Queen’s answered ‘A degree in Maths’ and then when asked ‘In what speciality’ answered ‘Sums!’ He was thrown out!

Rag Day and making mayhem and finding that most (but not all) people took it in good fun and donated generously.

Bad memories

Hearing in the basement bar about the Bloody Sunday shootings; hearing the explosions all around on Bloody Friday; having to know where was safe and unsafe to go as a student.

Ugly memories

Watching the poker schools at play on the first floor of the Union and seeing 1st year students putting their grant cheques into the pot unaware that they playing card sharks (not other students) and losing!

Erling Lund, BSc Electrical Engineering 1954

I still remember my days at Queen's, although very long ago. I stayed at Queen's Elms and have only good remembrances from my there. However, to single out specific incidences is difficult today.

I remember my fellow students and favourite professors and lecturers (Professor Warnock, Professor Porter, Professor Allen, Professor Burns, Professor Gilchrist, Professor Gillies, Professor Greig and others whose names I cannot recollect.

I have had a long and interesting career in Electrical Engineering:  In Production (ABB) and Process Industry (Falconbridge), as well as in Shipbuilding (Kaldnes) and in Offshore Construction Companies (British Petroleum, Philips Petroleum) -Classification Institutions (Det Norske Veritas and Lloyd's Register).

My last assignment until I passed 77 years of age was as Secretary of IEC/TC 18 (Electrical Installations of Ships and Offshore Mobile and Fixed Units).

I am now enjoying my retirement in Norway with family and friends. My wife and I have 3 children, and 8 grandchildren, and I have a reasonably good health.


Bill McAlpine, BSc Chemical Engineering 1976

I don't remember much of graduation day except a few years later I met and became very good friends in The Hague with Jim Gurley and found out that we sat a few seats from each other at graduation!

My most vivid memory of Queen’s was living in the halls of residence - Alanbrooke - for all of my 4 years. Thursday evening was chicken and we swore that the seagull population was reducing each week. The cooks had the skills of cooking chicken 100 different ways! I've never liked chicken since which is a problem out here in the Gulf as it seems to be the stable diet.

I was in the Chemical Engineering Dept and our favourite lecturer was Raymond Murphy, his passion for the subject as he sucked his pipe and he not only taught us the theory but backed it up from his real life experiences at Richardson's. They were happy days and character forming for the rest of life.

William David (Double) MacConnell, BSc 1970

I must confess I had a particularly difficult time at Queen’s. Not, I might add, to any fault of the University which I thought was fantastic. I wanted to go to Keele where everyone did the same courses for the first year before specialising. I did Chemistry but discovered on leaving that I would have been better suited to an Arts degree. 

My mother passed away during my time there but instead of immersing myself in study, I devoted myself to sport and the students’ union. I was House Secretary for a year and my memories of the sporting fields (rugby), the gymnasium (basketball …I did get a blue) and the students’ union are still very fresh in my mind.  I helped to change the downstairs cloakroom into a bar and at that time the length of the bar was the longest in the UK.  I have since travelled the world and I still have to see one which was longer!

Queen’s for me was more than an institution of learning - it was my life. I never lived in any of the halls but I often got free passes to eat there on various weekends thanks to generous friends who went home. The year after I was House Secretary, I had a humbling experience by becoming the chief egg fryer in the canteen! I had made friends with the manager and she was kind enough to offer me the part-time job to make ends meet.

I suppose my best memory is representing Queen’s at the Edinburgh Ball and at the Sports Conference in Swansea.  I was so impressed with the latter that I did a postgraduate course there. This was based on continuous assessment and suited my style more favourably.

My worst moment was when I asked my professor for a reference and he readily admitted that he had no recollection of me (after 5 years) at all during the time I spent at his lectures. That was until I reminded him of the story when I was doing a very dangerous practical (using an autoclave behind a reinforced brick wall). He said to me NOT to do what the student had done in the previous year by bringing the experiment to his desk and politely inquiring what the next part of the experiment was. My professor claimed that he had fled his office within seconds! I got the reference without any further questions.

I was extremely sorry not to have attended the graduation. I was in the US at the time earning big money and as I had no parents alive to witness the event, I regrettably did not return to Belfast in time.

Recently, I attended my daughter’s graduation from Curtin University Perth Western Australia where she got a first in Physiotherapy. It was my first time at one of these ceremonies and I must say it was well worth the experience.  If the ceremony at Queen’s was half as good (and I am sure it was!) I certainly missed out on one of the great experiences of life.

I did a variety of jobs over the years including teaching English as a foreign language (Spain), marketing hospital equipment and university lecturing (Birmingham), selling computer systems (Sydney), teaching a variety of subjects (Perth) and singing Irish music (lots of places).  I still do the latter along with writing websites (see more here -

Thomas McCalden, BSc Physiology 1970

My most powerful memories revolve around going to University and dealing with ‘The Troubles’.

I remember the anti-government ‘People's Democracy’ meeting all night long in the debating hall and then the march to the City Hall and barricade of the Students’ Union.  In the meantime I had to get to my classes and research in the Medical Biology Center - so politics by night and physiology by day.

Then in the middle of all that I joined the newly formed Police Reserve. So not only did I study for my degree but I went to protest meetings and then out all night to guard judges, police stations, and other important places. All with a 38 revolver in a shoulder holster under my jacket!

The ultimate irony is that after years of anti-government/police protest I joined the force and then graduated with the RUC band playing in the graduation garden reception.

I graduated and could not find a job. So I moved away and developed a career. It is great that 30 years later both Irish politics and I are at peace. I am grateful for the start that Queen’s gave to me. The faculty in the Medical Biology Center inspired me to confront and overcome both professional and social obstacles. Go, go QUB!

Alf McCreary, BA Modern History 1963, DipEd 1964

(Photo of the The Harty Room in the old Students' Union)

My main memories of Queen's in the early Sixties are of the social life, rather than studies. One of the highlights each week was "The Hop" in the old Students’ Union, and the prospect of inviting a dancing partner to move to the more intimate atmosphere in the "Drill Hall", where the Postgraduate and International Student Centre now stands.

The Students’ Union in those days was dark, and despite the heavy odours of food the dining-hall it was a major meeting place. Here the members of various Queen’s Societies and sporting groups, ranging from the Men and Women's Hockey Clubs to the GAA and Camogie Clubs, met every day for coffee, usually at their own tables, However there was a lively sharing atmosphere. There was also much enjoyment, challenge and hard work on the sports field, and I was thrilled to be awarded a hockey "Blue" in my first year.

The Students’ Union was also the focus for the short-lived but memorable Glee Club which was run by my long-term friend and former student colleague Phil Coulter. The international stars whom he persuaded to perform at the Glee Club included Helen Shapiro and Emile Ford and the Checkmates.

However, life was not all fun, and there was hard work to be done in the Honours School of History, where a student two years ahead of me was Art Cosgrove, who later became President of UCD. I was most privileged to have studied under Professor Michael Roberts, a world authority on Swedish history, Professor Lewis Warren, who wrote an international best-seller on King John, and also Professor JC Beckett, one of the most eminent Irish historians of his generation.

Beckett was kindly, courteous and a good teacher. He was also a smallish man who moved about the campus in long, loping strides. He also cultivated an air of eccentricity, and his obituary in The Times stated "Beckett made a point of not moving with the times, but he was cuter than he let on... he once resolved either to marry or to learn to drive a car, but in the event did neither."

Roger McCune, BSc Chemistry 1970

The transition from school (for me the wonderful Ballyclare High School) to University was a mega jump.  The David Keir Building (pictured) was to be my home for four exciting years. 

Every day in that first term brought home to me another difference between school and university; bigger labs and more of them; more apparatus than I had ever seen; and automated analytical machines.  Only the smells were the same!

One day, as I sat in the Keir library copying from a chemical journal, an honours student said ‘You don’t need to do all that writing - if you leave the book with the library office and fill in a photocopying form you can have that practical photocopied.  What did that mean?  Get a photocopy?  I got that copy the next day; it was magic!  Little did I know then that within twenty years there would be photocopying machines in every office.

Days and days in the laboratories followed; sometimes you got a product other times you didn’t.  Did I add the acid too quickly?  Was I not controlling the temperature?  Sometimes you were exhilarated, other times crestfallen.  But always there was the Keir coffee bar.  The woes of the laboratory were forgotten soothed by a caffeine fix!

And always there were the friendships.  Wonderful years that you thought would never end; could we be perpetual students?  Then graduation, followed by my first job as a chemistry teacher and another shock – completing tax forms.  Oh, to be back in the ‘Keir’.

John McCurdy, MB BCh BAO (1960)
From Brampton, Ontario, John shares one of his memories of studying medicine at Queen’s, with a ‘graphic content’ warning for the squeamish.
"It was a beautiful spring morning in the Anatomy Department at Queen’s. A mild euphoria pervaded the room as we finished five semesters of anatomy and looked forward to our clinical years at the Royal and Mater Hospitals.
“A spleen was picked up and bowled to a femur wielding batsman. Contact was made and the formalin-hardened spleen sailed through the open window and landed at the feet of the approaching professor.“
Silence prevailed as Professor Pritchard, with his mane of white hair, entered the room.“
No attempt was made to identify the culprits. Instead, in his subdued Australian accent he reminded us of the living who had generously donated their bodies so that we might learn.
He mentioned the sanctity of the human body and the respect it deserved. He expressed his disappointment. He quietly turned around and left the Department.“At that moment, I believe, we all became better doctors.
"Thank you, Professor Pritchard.”
John can be contacted by email at 

Gardiner McDonald Weir, BAgr 1957

Looking back to 1953 I see myself as an eighteen year old escaping from the discipline of a boys-only Grammar School and taking his first steps in an environment where he would have to decide rather being told. It was a big step towards becoming an adult and took time. There were moments of my foolish behaviour but that is young life. What was important was being one of many hundreds similar to me who were also searching for that path forward, a path with many forks in the road and the option of choice.

In that first year I discovered that the subject matter of the lectures I had to attend were really interesting, something that had never happened to me at school; and a new meaning of attending University to get a degree took over my life. Studying hard became a pleasant mania yet there had to be time-off; and that is where I recall the Saturday Night Hop in the Students’ Union and at the Drill Hall. The 50s were a period of rebirth of traditional jazz and the jitterbug was in vogue. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. What better release of tension resulting from a week of sticking one’s nose in the textbooks?

Of course there was the Drama Club and though I did not take an acting part in serious plays I did participate in various vaudeville items playing the fiddle and reciting nonsense poetry in the Ulster-Scots dialect. How I wish there had been camera phones at that time to have immortalized those nights and enable me relive them now as an old man.

In 1955 I had contributed several cartoons to the PTQ rag magazine and in 1956 was appointed its editor. That was fun! The content was a bit naughty by the standards of the time but that was marketing. The collective effort of the student sales force sold a record of over 90,000 copies. Somehow my young mind was seduced by that success and I wanted to be a cartoonist and writer. But the Scots-Irish sensibility kept me on track and I graduated as a scientist. However, I did continue writing and several stories in my 2 published books of Scots-Irish short stories are associated with the university, quite imaginary of course. For more information check the book’s website.

One other aspect at Queen’s that must not go unmentioned and that is, at that time, many of us not native to Belfast had to find digs. That too is unforgettable and was a valuable though strange experience that, modified into a romanticized version, became the theme for one of my stories. It is set in what we called The Holy Land, those rows of streets beyond the University that had names based on locations in the Middle East and wherever the British forces had visited in the past.

I will honestly say that my six years at Queen’s have probably been the most influential years of my early life and to a great extent decided my future. To that should be added that Queen’s is a component of Belfast, a city that has stayed with me since I left over 50 years ago and is also the scene of several of my stories. Below is my tribute to those long gone times, based on a visit some years ago.


By ©Gardiner McD Weir

I walk around Donegal Square alone, as in the old days, confident, full of myself, sure of me.
Old streets, old shops, new faces, new looks!
It’s funny to be so amused by being here again.
I pass Castle Junction and down Royal Avenue to what was once Blitz Square, now rebuilt.
There is a mass of humanity moving about, and I a stranger, and yet no stranger to all this.
I don’t know if I am glad.
I don’t belong here any more and yet I feel part of it as if I never left.
Part of me will forever belong here; the other remains as eager to leave.
So strange!
Longing to be here, where I used to belong, and as eager to leave as once I did.
I feel different and yet it amuses me to think that nobody knows I’m different.
I’ve lived away for many years, where life was somewhat otherwise.
Now I see the scars left by The Troubles, the armed patrols and the citizens’ fear.
How can I belong here?
I went away by myself, free, confident but came home, tired, disillusioned by the news.
I hope that time will bring change and peace.
I am confident! It has to be!
Yes, I can always believe!
For Belfast will still and always be my beloved city!

Donna McDonnell, BA Business Administration 1990

Crushing huge leaves in the autumn term as I made my way down University Road towards the French department, feeling like I could take on the world with my huge sense of privilege for being able to study my favourite subjects.

Chris McDowell, BSc Chemical Engineering 1984

I studied Chemical Engineering 1980-84; reminiscing about our Queen’s experiences is one of the favoured pastimes here in Johannesburg where two of my final year classmates, Gavin Horscroft and Geoff Montgomery have also lived pretty much since we graduated. (Not to mention our inimitable classmate Harry Armstrong who was here for many years & Paul Skivington a prior year Chemical Engineering graduate now employed by the same company as myself).

That sustained togetherness pretty much epitomised Queen’s for me:

  • a place of great camaraderie, where many life-long friendships were formed;
  • a close-knit Chemical Engineering department which included the larger-than-life Professor Raymond Murphy who was never short of a great quip and was aptly supported in that department by Dr Holland for whom the late arrival of a new undergraduate at a lecture represented a fresh lamb-to-the-slaughter!  However jesting aside they, in conjunction with the rest of the staff provided great support to the undergraduates throughout their studies;
  • a vibrant Students’ Union that seemed to drag you in to be met by a throng of friendly faces and an unmatchable atmosphere;
  • the Soccer Club at Malone and inter-university competitions;
  • the Societies Cup (soccer), a great competition the results of which were guaranteed to ensure great banter around the campus thereafter.

The list is endless but all in all a great experience and on top of that, Queen’s provided a great platform for a world of opportunity thereafter.

Gary Moss, BSc Chemistry 1992

There were many parochial clichés about Queen’s, and Belfast, when I was a student there from 1989 to 1996. One of the stories that colleagues and friends in England like is the backfiring car at the traffic lights in front of the Lanyon Building, which made a group of Asian students hit the ground and cover their heads with their hands, while all us locals barely flinched. What a sign of the times that was!

Such matters are gladly of the past, and things have clearly improved in the province. I therefore approached two screenings at the Queen’s Film Theatre with trepidation, when my wife and I visited before Christmas last December. It was my first visit since 1996 and I didn’t really know what to expect – I had heard stories of financial troubles, dwindling audiences and general apathy. I was quite nervous as I hoped QFT would have retained its lustre, and that my memories would not be sullied by a corporate, latte-infused sell-out or makeover. You see, I have had the pleasure of living in various parts of the UK, and experiencing great cinemas, such as the Glasgow Film Theatre, The Manchester Printworks, the now sadly departed 051 in Liverpool (there are few places where you can see a double bill of David Lynch’s Lost Highway and John Woo’s Bullet in the Head!) and various cinemas in London including the Prince Charles Cinema, the Curzon Soho and, of course, the National Film Theatre. We all have our favourite cinemas and, as good as the above cinemas are, or were, the QFT was miles ahead of any of them.

And in so many ways it shouldn’t have been. It got films later than the rest of the UK (basically, it seemed like QFT got them when everyone else had had a go) and was always seemingly broke, seldom full and some sort of anachronistic, subsidised waste of money that wouldn’t be tolerated today without Lottery funding, or some similar patronage. QFT 2 was used as a lecture theatre, and had the seats to match!

But…the QFT showed proper films, not the exclusive art-house nonsense or the mainstream rubbish that both give cinema a bad name, but good, classic films. The sort of thing you were lucky to catch on a Saturday morning or late one night, in the days where four TV channels were a luxury. To list the films I have seen at the QFT would be an education in cinema of all hues. Tous les matins du monde, The Baby of Macon, Bad Lieutenant, Blade Runner, The Big Sleep, The Usual Suspects, Solaris, Casablanca, To Be or Not To Be, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction…and hundreds more, some of which films that seldom got a run-out in mainstream cinemas, like Shadowlands or Black Robe, or…well, there are too many to mention, far, far too many. But the QFT showed such a range of films that it literally gave an education in cinema, not just of current “art-house” films, but often mainstream films and foreign films, classic neglected films and films that were seldom seen on TV and that provided a cinematic education unparalleled in the UK. It was unparalleled because, like so many similar institutions, it struggled to keep its doors open to the small audiences that often saw such films.

Maybe the entrance, up a nondescript back alley of Botanic Avenue, grandly called University Square Mews, was off-putting. Maybe too the lack of “refreshments”, or the associated comforts of the multiplex. Who knows, but Michael Open, who ran the QFT for a long time, deserves immense credit for managing to run the QFT through troubled times and sticking to his principles throughout. His greatest achievement, and indeed the greatest achievement of the QFT and perhaps of any cinema, was the Centenary of Cinema programme launched in 1996. It ran for a year and showed a different classic film on each day of the year – each week was a chronological segment of cinema history, none more so than the opening week: Birth Of A Nation, Gone With The Wind, Casablanca, Some Like It Hot, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Annie Hall and Raging Bull. The second week wasn’t bad either: Trouble In Paradise, It’s A Wonderful Life, Pickpocket/Une Partie De Campagne, The Trial, Ai No Corrida, The Pagnol Trilogy and Metropolis. And on it went, for the whole year. I am sure there were other such activities around the UK and the world, but this was simply the best organised (particularly given the resources) festival of film ever, and it was run by a dedicated and committed team who, for one person at least, made Belfast the cinematic centre of the world, bringing work from many cultures to the screens of QFT1 and QFT2, making such work accessible and relevant.

I feared the worst for the QFT when Michael Open retired. He was kind enough to give me life membership in 1996, when I left for England, and to screen several months later, a film I loved that I had spoken about to him on several occasions – Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry. Alas, I was not able to get to that screening, which was part of a Hitchcock double bill, but the sentiment in arranging it was incredibly touching. More importantly, it made a rarely seen film available to a wider audience. It sums up his dedication to the QFT, and his interest in a wide range of films, as much as his dogged efforts to obtain a print of Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight. How often do we get to see such a treasure even today, and can you imagine how special it was to have the opportunity to see this in a Belfast that, in the previous decades, had been avoided by certain artists because of the Troubles? Michael Open’s dedication to providing the very best at the QFT made it the most special place at Queen’s for my seven years there, and a place that has been impossible to replicate since.

I do have one bone to pick with the QFT, though. I was awarded Life Membership – and a free pass – upon leaving for England in 1996. A lovely, thoughtful gift…which sadly had an expiry date of 31st December 1999! I think I need to see about getting it renewed!

And so, to my trepidation in entering the QFT again, for a pre-Christmas screening of Scrooged, one of my wife’s favourite films. We strangely entered through a house in University Square, into a modern and spacious lobby. The bar was understated and QFT1 was exactly as I remembered – the comfortable red seats, and the perfectly sized theatre. The film was a treat, as much for the on-screen shenanigans as the respectful and intelligent audience, who seemed so unlike other cinema audiences in that they could forego texting and conversation for two hours and actually watch the film.

And we went back three days later to see It’s a Wonderful Life. There is no better place to see that film than the QFT, a great cinema with an appreciative and unpretentious audience. The QFT is the best thing about Queen’s and the best cinema in the world. Ever. A lot of good changes have happened in Northern Ireland since 1996, but the QFT has been updated and yet remained the same: long may it flourish.


Ciaran McFerran, BSc Pure Mathematics 1967

Remembered places/events - The subterranean 'bogs' in the Quad, about which Ian Hill wrote a 'thesis' concerning a low level of wit; the Students’ Union (the Old Union now Music Dept.), wood panelled smoke room, does anyone remember 'PRESS UP HERE' (on the roof), the British Ensign flying (briefly), Literific debates (Tomans, Farell, McKeown et al), the Plaza Ballroom (on one particular night in the year only), buses stopped (anywhere -by prone students), Freddie Gilroy 'captured' by students in an 'official' rag car, PTQ - especially as advertised at the City Hall with the help of the mountaineering club, the Rag Queen (enough said) and Immunity (of shop windows), the Glee Club…

A little anecdote about Dr Emeleus - at my first lecture of his (Physics 1) - I remember his introduction. He explained that the lecture theatre (which I see now carries his name) had perfect acoustics and that therefore he should have no need to raise his voice. He never did. And too bad if you were late - you didn't get in because the door would be locked!

Prof Bates (pictured) (Applied Maths 2) caused us to wonder if he had only one tie - certainly I only ever saw a red (not very clean) one. Prof Crossland was of a different breed. He was larger than life (if that were possible!) and lectures were an entertainment, (2nd year Mech. Eng.) often with anecdotes about his Jaguar car.

Penny Pollard, MPhil 2001, PhD 2006 Irish & Celtic Studies

When boarding an Air New Zealand plane at Auckland airport that was bound for Belfast in the year 2000, I leapt into the unknown; a new green land in another hemisphere awaited.

Despite not knowing anyone in Northern Ireland, before arriving, I looked forward to embarking upon my journey at the Queen’s University of Belfast. The students who greeted me at the local  International Airport were warm and friendly, traits that I found true of all locals, the student and staff communities throughout my entire time at Queen’s and Belfast. 

The spirit of excitement at starting my experience with the Irish and Celtic Studies department, a cornerstone department of the University, and the enthusiasm for learning led me into the Special Collections. This unit was situated in the original old red brick and stained glass library of Queen’s. It contained not only friendly and professional staff, but a wealth of journals, early manuscripts and books, some which even dated to the 16th century. It was amazing to touch and to breathe in the history from such books. 

A sense of all that has passed before is present at Queen’s, in Belfast and in Ireland. The ancient sites, the monuments and stunning landscape are all within easy reach of students. It was wonderful to drive with friends along the winding Antrim Coast, with Scotland so near, and to scramble over the Giant’s Causeway. The rugged wildness of Donegal, the quiet solitude of the Fermanagh lakes, and the energy of Dublin were also so close. The sacred ancient sites that formed part of the research were able to be visited, touched and seen in their true landscape context. The coastline, the shades of green and the shifting terrains, felt familiar to a New Zealander.

I applaud Queen’s for actively seeking academic partnerships with antipodean universities. Many Australians and New Zealanders possess ancestral links back to Ireland, both north and south. There is a natural bond between our lands and our people and our heritage.

The Queen’s campus, with the beautiful Lanyon building exudes a sense of history and place. Students often think of how many people have passed through these halls and galleries. Of the former staff and the students who have all contributed to the Queen’s of today, as well as the surrounding community of south Belfast, the 500 year old oak trees, the Botanic Gardens, and its history.

The many visual aspects of Queen’s stand out for me; the quad filled  with pink blossom, the campus lit up at night, with the mist of  wintry night, and the joy at relaxing in the sun near the lavender gardens.

Queen’s, during 2000-2006, was home to world-leading academics, profound scholars and thinkers, all of whom were changing the way that the world thought about various academic disciplines. Professor Dónall Ó Baoill, the Head of the Irish and Celtic Studies department, and supervisor for my MPhil and PhD degrees, is a true cauldron of knowledge. Professor Ó Baoill’s deep and vast insight into the Irish language, folklore and traditional customs, hugely contributes globally, to Irish and Celtic Studies scholarship. It was a wonderful experience to be able to discuss ideas with such exceptional staff; it was a real extension for the mind. Mrs Máire Ó Baoill’s own expert scholarship, warmth, kindness, generosity and superb hospitality were another special feature of my time at Queen’s.

The fellow students, also exceptionally bright, were original thinkers who could articulate eloquently, their thoughts and insightful research. The camaraderie between the postgraduates of the School of Languages, Literatures and Performing Arts was strong, positive and supportive.

The Humanities postgraduate community was also vibrant. There was a real sense of going on a beautiful journey of discovery, learning that inspired and unfolded, especially with the PhD experience. 

I was fortunate too to have been part of the School of Languages, Literatures and Performing Arts postgraduate committee, and to have worked alongside such great academics as Professor Susanne Marten Finnis, Dr Dave Robb, Dr Nigel Harkness and Dr. Roberta Quance.

I also enjoyed my time as a student representative on the Humanities Post Graduate Committee, with professors such as Harvey Whitehouse; looking into PhD training development, funding and other academic issues.  Sir George Bain provided exceptional leadership to Queen’s during the majority of my academic journey.

Queen’s enables you to grow, to expand academically and personally and to discover new horizons, while being supported with an excellent supervision system. There are many avenues that enable your own skills to grow. Organizing post graduate conferences, contributing to establishing humanities e -journal, and assisting with the induction process of new students, all added to the Queen’s experience.

The University is a real family and a community that surrounds a student with the right environment to thrive, excel and to grow ideas that will carry you into the future. A truly beautiful journey….

Maori proverb:

Hutia te rito o te harakeke
Kei whea, te komako e ko
Ki mai ki ahau
He aha te mea nui o tenei ao
Maku e ki atu
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.


When the heart is torn from the flax bush,
where will the bell bird sing?
You ask me, what is the most important thing on earth?
My reply is it is people, it is people, it is people

Konstadinos Costas Popotas, LLM 1987

In 1985, Belfast sounded far away from Greece. And it probably was. The British Council had arranged a first night in London, and then I was dispatched to Belfast.

First formalities were easy, at 14/16 Upper Crescent, my place for the year. Margaret showed me to my room – a big one with a sash window and rear view. David R, an American who was to become a close friend, was there already and the two of us spent time finding our feet while waiting for the other residents to show up.  When they did we spent days gazing at each other before we got used to the accent.

Slowly the house – in reality three houses joined together – became really lively and remained so for the year.  In the common room you could always find somebody to exchange a word. This is where I made some of my best friends - Gordie, Paul “Walter”, Peter further down next block, Garry on the second floor.

Donegall Pass police station was “caged” – nothing exceptional at the time. The police officer was really polite but amazed to see a Greek in Belfast. When he realized that going to Castlereagh for further formalities was not as evident for a Greek, he arranged for an armoured police van to give me a drive up.  On the way I saw my first murals off Ormeau Road through the slot on the side of the van.

At the Law Faculty - now School – they were all very helpful. I shared an office with Anne on the ground floor of 6 College Green, just below Sir Colin Campbell, then Dean of the Faculty. I owe it to Anne for me giving up smoking, since she could not stand the smell of the Greek “Assos” cigarettes!  The human warmth at the Faculty was the most stimulating part. One such person was Professor Philip Leith – a hero for having survived as my thesis supervisor, and a very dear friend nowadays.

As a real ‘night bird’ I had to have special arrangements with the security guys who knocked at the door of the office at precisely 2am. Just before that Downtown Radio would close programmes with a beautiful Irish melody; I had to listen to it every day. At around 4am I would take the same standard route to my room, cycling or walking down Botanic, occasionally greeting the skinheads at the courtyard of the abandoned church, later converted to The Empire.

I did not manage to keep teetotal for long; the Faculty arranged for the conversion - at The Elms, The Fly or the Common Room towards the end of the evening.

The Queen’s Festival was a revelation for me. My first ever chance to see Van Morrison live. David H - another close friend - had arranged for tickets in the first row, I was at three meters from ‘Van the Man’. I still look forward to every new album of his.

Leaving Belfast in late 1986 was a real shock; I never thought I would be that much bound to a place. I do not visit it often but every time is like going back home. For years afterwards I kept my Belfast accent, baffling people about my origins.

Would I do it again if I had the chance? Yes, no doubt, at any cost. Do I have any regrets? Yes, two. When asked to consider giving extra mural courses in Greek, I declined because I thought I was not up to the task. Then my biggest regret, I graduated in absentia since I had a difficult year when back, thus I never had the chance to wear the gown.

Julie Port, BSc Psychology 2005

As an undergraduate, my favourite professor was Noel Sheehy from the Department of Psychology.  He always had time to answer my questions, and encourage my research ideas.  I appreciate this more now as I'm in the final year of my PhD at the University of Edinburgh and I can see that academic staff never have enough time to go round.  I admire his dedication to students and to research.

While he has moved onto new pastures, Noel has recently been elected as President of the British Psychological Society for the period 2011-2012.


Albert Siewers, MB, BCh, BAO 1952

The first thing that comes to mind is the respect we were to give the subject of our dissection in human anatomy; Professor Walmsley was most insistent about that. Each piece of tissue removed was dealt with respectfully. I was a combat medic in WW II and had a BA in biology and his reminder that we should consider it an honour that our subjects allowed us to learn from them. 

At Queen's Elms, where I was honoured to have been elected president of the residents, the curfew imposed on veterans was observed in the breech. I was able to create a key to the basement door. Paratroopers found high windows no problem. Johnnie Watts would not always exit by using stairs – he just jumped out the window. Bunny Austin, Spitfire pilot, measured the gateway to the Malone Road and found his MG would just fit.  One Saturday night after the Flying Officers' Club closed, his car had several passengers who bailed out in haste as Bunny drove toward the gate, thinking he was about to crash. He enjoyed his joke!

Most of all I recall the warm acceptance offered me by the Queen's community even though Professor Biggart seemed to hold me responsible for bringing syphilis to Europe in 1492!

On students' day we would harass Belfast residents to buy ‘Pro Tanto Quid’ and hire steam engines to create parades with horse and carriages and costumes to collect money for some worthy cause. 

In those post-war days everything was rationed.  A hot bath in the Students’ Union was a luxury. Brussel sprouts in the cafeteria were a certainty.  Food at the Mater Hospital was better because of ‘cross-the-border’ contacts. City Hospital wards were heated by open fireplaces. Infection was reduced in the Royal Maternity Hospital and Royal by requiring a walk in open air between it and Royal. Short smoggy winter days because homes were heated by open coal fireplaces.


Joanna Sinnerton, LLB 1956

I have many, mostly happy, memories of my time at the Law Faculty, when the brilliant Prof Montrose was in charge, with Newark, Sheridan, Delaney and Williams. We were very privileged to have such men to lecture and encourage us.
But perhaps my special memory of Queen’s was when fellow law student, Billy Sinnerton and I got engaged on Graduation Day 1956.

Ian Smyth, BSc Mechanical Engineering 1949

I first ‘went up’ to Queen's in 1942 to start a course in Mechanical Engineering. At that time, pre the David Keir engineering building on Stranmillis Road, both Mechanical and Electrical Engineering departments were located in the Belfast Technical College ‘down town’ beside ‘Inst’.
I transferred to an ‘RAF university short course’ in April 1943 as I was determined to join the RAF and this seemed to offer a suitable entry opportunity. This was my first spell in ‘Queen's Elms’; Dr Colhoun (an Agronomist, I think, and HoD (Head of Department) or ‘Prof’, of the Agriculture Department further down Elmwood Avenue) was the Warden.

Returning in 1946 I travelled from home for a year or so but managed to get back into the ‘Chambers’ for a second spell in 1949.
In 1943 trams were still running and the accepted method of catching one was to wait until it started off then hurtle down several flights of stairs, across the little patch of grass, jump the wall and jump on board, before the Tram reached the ‘WSH’ (Women Students’ Hall) - a practice which would be forbidden today and should have been then no doubt as it was potentially rather dangerous!
The other cherished memories of The Chambers was our evening dinners which were served rather formally in the Union with diners in gowns and Grace said in Latin, of course, by Dr Colhoun. I even remember most of it - ‘Benedict, Domine etc’. It always ended with a deafening clatter of chairs as the hungry horde prepared to scoff.
I think my graduation ceremony in 1949 was one of the first, if not the first in the brand new Sir William Whitla Hall as all previous ceremonies were held in the Great Hall.

Patrick Taylor, MB 1964, MD 1985

The film The Night of the Iguana was released in 1964. I graduated from Queen’s that year, but my most vivid memory of my six undergraduate years concerned not a lizard but the evening that came to be known as The Night of the Queen’s Elms’ Spider. A very big spider!

The Elms was a row of redbrick Victorian houses that had been remodelled inside into interconnected corridors with bedrooms, bathrooms and, a communal dining room and lounge. It was a ‘men only’ establishment and lady guests were not permitted, but some were there on the arachnoid night when the warden decided to make rounds specifically with the object of apprehending any young women on the premises.

The word of his presence went through the place like wild-fire through dry bracken. Doors slammed, high heels clicked on linoleum. Hems of skirts could be seen vanishing into the night. There was chaos on the fourth floor.

A fellow student, convinced that his paramour would be intercepted if she tried to use the stairway, managed to persuade her to take an alternative exit. The fire escape was not an externally fixed iron staircase. It was a cunningly rigged canvas sling attached by a rope to a friction pulley and was supposed to lower the escapee gently to the ground. Supposed to!

The sling fitted. Protesting only mildly the young woman clambered out—she had real spirit. The rope unwound gently as billed, but stopped leaving her dangling one storey up. The contractors had installed the escapes designed for the third floor on the fourth. It took a good half hour to find a ladder long enough to rescue her.

I still think she might have forgiven my friend if he hadn’t told her that while she was dangling she’d looked for all the world like a massive spider.

Night of Iguanas? OK, but spiders? They’re really worth naming nights for!

Patrick Taylor is professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia. His Irish Country series of novels have been both New York Times and Toronto Globe and Mail best sellers. He can be reached at his website

Dr Patrick J Thompson, MC, BCh, BAO 1957

I arrived in Queen’s in 1951, to start the 6 years course for a degree in Medicine. My earliest recollection is of meeting several of my fellow students-to-be. I do remember that the very first of these, who came up to me and introduced himself, was Joe Hendron, later Dr Hendron, MP.

My father – also a Queen’s Graduate, came with me to the (old) Student Union, and introduced me to William Fulton, who was the Union Steward for many years.

I have vivid memories of many of our Professors and Lecturers. The professor of Botany was the redoubtable Professor Small. I expect every medical student of those days remembers “Jimmy Small’s cards” – I think there were eight – which had to be memorised for 1st MB.

Ours was the first class after the retirement of Thomas Walmsley – Professor of Anatomy for many years – so I never did meet that very well known and well remembered teacher.

After 3 years, of course, we Medical Students all migrated to the “Royal” or the “Mater” for our clinical years. I have many memories of that time – there was Professor Mayrs of Pharmacology (Nausea, vomiting and skin rashes!), and, of course the great John Henry Biggart, Dean of Medicine, and Professor of Pathology, Frank Pantridge and Professor MacAfee – Obstetrics and Gynaecology, to name just a few. Probably most of these are no longer with us, but surely live on in the memories of students of the day.

Other features of our Student days were the “Corps” – at that time the UTC – later reverted to the old name – OTC, and the “Literific” The Corps was very popular in our time, and most members of our “year” joined. I was very keen on the Literific in my first 2-3 years – in fact I was on the Committee and got to represent Queen’s at a debate in Aberystwyth in Wales.

Later we all attended the VERY disorderly meetings of the Belfast Medical Student’s Association, which were highly entertaining.

Another pleasurable recollection was the 3 years which I spent in the old Queen’s Elms – then the male student’s Residence Hall. I was sad, on a recent visit to Belfast to see that that dignified old building had been pulled down to make way for what, to me, was a rather unattractive utilitarian edifice – the new Student’s Union.

The Elms was a great place to live - it was comfortable with pleasant rooms. The food – for which we all had to troop over to the old Student Union dining hall – was terrible, but the other amenities made up for that!

I arrived in Queen’s fresh from an English Public School, and for some time had to put up with some “ribbing” – pretty well all good natured – about my “English” accent!

Looking back overall, they were good days, and we had a lot of fun; however I think we all eventually grew tired of being Medical Students, and most of us were relieved when we met with John Henry Biggart in the Quad in July 1957 to hear the results of our finals!

Marion von Sivers (Mandy Boyd), LLB 1966

On the first day, walking towards the Law Faculty and wondering what lay before me, a large west African came dancing out of the door of James Andrews House and said
“Hi! I’m Ani N’gubi. Do you have any Beatles records?”

Meeting somehow who never managed to hear the Beatles (in Ulster in 1962) I wondered if I was going to face such demanding questions for the next four years. The answer was yes!

Professor Montrose, Professor Newark, Professor Sheridan and all their colleagues (sorry that I cannot name you all) spent the next years pumping questions into me, to which I never knew the answer - and pumping information into me, which I never knew existed.

The questions asked, and the wisdom imparted, have ever since given grist to my mill, without which I would never have been able to make ‘music’ with the information pumped into me.

Married to a German, I have spent my professional life in Munich, where my interaction with German law has been of paramount importance.

Philip Harris (partner for many years in a respected firm of London solicitors) and I have often talked about the tremendous privilege which we had in our legal education at Queen’s.  We have had an interesting professional relationship, with a number of cases which ricocheted between Germany and England and around the continent. We have never ceased to be thankful for, and thankful to, our common basis and enviable legal education at Queens.

I speak of Philip, but remember so many other friends from that time - Clover, Moya, Bee Lin, Asien, Valerie, Hilary, Sean, Michael, Horace, Richard, Ed ….. I want to name you all, not to mention all the other experiences at Queens, but must hold my fingers back from the computer keys. It was a happy time. Please each of you accept my kindest regards and fondest memories. You are not forgotten - and certainly not Ani. And Ani what are you doing now?

J M Wesley Starr, BSc Physics 1952

The first lecture I attended in 1949 was by the redoubtable James Small the professor of Botany. It was a relatively large class for those days made up of first-year medical students as well as first-year members of the science faculty.   

The medics had a reputation for rowdy behaviour and Prof Small was a strict disciplinarian. Each student was assigned a numbered seat and each lecture began with the injunction "Cover your numbers or you'll be marked absent."    Most students dressed in what might be described as a 'Gordon Brown' relaxed style with a shirt, tie and relatively formal 'sports jacket'. In addition, we wore short black undergraduate gowns. The best tribute I can pay to Professor Small is that I can still remember the theme of his first lecture: "The flower is a seed-producing mechanism"!
The Students’ Union for men was located in what is now the Music Department, while women students had their own house in University Square. The Union had the quiet atmosphere of a men's club with, among other luxuries, a comfortable and much used reading room. Women were permitted to have lunch in the dining room - now the Harty Room - but were unwelcome in any other part of the building.

Seán Stitt, PhD Social Studies 1989

My predominant experiences of studying for a PhD include:

- Sitting in a damp attic room in a slum house

- The other doctoral students in the house – who were all from working class backgrounds like myself & we bonded quite well. In particular, one student was from the Lower Falls area of Belfast, & we had a lot in common. She stayed at Queens after she got her Ph.D. & has since become a Professor

- My supervisor who largely left me to my own resources - which is the way it should be. He was an excellent supervisor who was always there for me when I encountered what seemed to me at the time to be insurmountable problems which he deal with in a quiet, logical way. He is still teaching at Queen’s

- The graduation ceremony for postgraduate students was full of pomp and ceremony. My gown was pink & purple - I kid you not - and I couldn't wait to get out of it, while most other graduates were parading around the streets of the University, showing off their achievements. I think that was the first year that Queen’s did not play the British national anthem at the ceremony. I was prepared to sit down or even walk out in protest if they had. (I was almost disappointed when they did not play it and I had gathered up all my strength to show my protest which, no doubt, would have been followed my many, if not most, of the other graduates, making a nonsense of the whole ceremony.

- I particularly enjoyed being able to walk into the Senior Common Room. One of the bar staff was a member of a particular political party whom I detest and I felt great being able to click my fingers at him to order drinks. I could see that he hated it, so the more angry he became, the more aggressive I became in ordering drinks. I left him a tip at the end of the night - 1p!
I am now teaching at a University in Britain but I'll never forget my experiences at Queen’s.

Norman Young, BSc 1964 PhD 1968

I remember my time at Queen's as one of enormous change and development. I went up in October 1960 and left in summer 1966 - 4 years for an honours BSc in Chemistry followed by the first two of a PhD, before moving to Bradford where my supervisor got a professorship as it was elevated to University status that year.

When I arrived I think student numbers were about 2500 and had doubled to about 5000 6 years later. The Keir building (the home of Chemistry) was the newest building on campus and in the next 6 years it was followed by the Engineering (Ashby) building, the Physics building, the South Dining Hall, the Pre-Clinical building on the Lisburn Road, and, at the back of the Quad, new buildings for Administration and Social Studies ("Sciences" is a bit of a misnomer) where the old Chemistry and Medical buildings had been. Also outdoor sports moved from the old Cherryvale site to the new Dub Lane Malone area.

The Students' organisations were overhauled; the SRC which was then the students' political and admin representatives, merged with the old Union (more or less a men's club) and WSH or Women Students'Hall to form the Students’ Union as it is now.

I was treasurer of the SRC in my last year and part of the team which created and negotiated the constitution of the new body, although by the time the new Union building opened in Autumn 1966 I was off to Bradford. One feature of that constitution was  the creation of the sabbatical Vice President (I think you have about 5 of these now with the enormous growth in student numbers) whose main job was to look after the new Union and its professional administrator. The first of these was Hugh Bevan; the first VP was Jack Strong.

Another key feature was the very relaxed atmosphere of the time. The terrorism had not started…external politics of any kind, not just the tribal, barely impinged on the University at all, although by the end of my time the first stirrings were observable of what later became "people's democracy" who I think thought they were starting a Martin Luther King movement of innocent emancipation.

Among playing Rugby and other sports, involvement in the SRC/Union, as well as doing a reasonable academic bit and having a good social life, I was having a great time at Queen's, such that I think in retrospect it was good to get torn out of my "comfort zone" by the move to Bradford. I might have just stayed on the pleasant conveyor belt and wound up as a mediocre academic.  But I would not have missed those 6 years at Queen's for anything.


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