University of Newcastle upon Tyne
In 1974 Robert Habbick and I boarded the train for our big adventure. We were off up North to Newcastle upon Tyne. Neither of us had been much further north than London, hence for us Southern boys going up North was a huge adventure. I had previously got a taste for this when I went up for my interview the previous autumn. But now it was late August early September 1974. I got myself ready and packed up all my gear, we were off on our big adventure.
We arrived in Newcastle, which was a bit like Mecca for us. We already knew what to expect, we knew about the brewery and the blue star, Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, St James’ Park, the Hay market. We knew we were in for an interesting time. I remember the trepidation I felt as I walked into the Halls of Residence. I always feel a bit shaky when I do something new, because everything is different, but I usually very quickly settle into the pattern. Yet I still wondered, what I was doing there?
We settled in and straightaway went down to find the bar. We lived in Castle Leases, on the town moor. We used to call it Leasditz Castle because we imagined it to be a bit like Colditz. Three huge tower block complexes, three Halls of Residence all in a circle, surrounded by a wall just up from Richardson Road where the student flats were for the Second and Third Year students. Then towards the city centre there was the Royal Victoria Infirmary and the university campus. All within walking distance.
We were in Freemans Hall, which appeared to be the last Hall of the three built. Eustace Percy was the posh one most of the girls were in there. Havelock was the intermediate one that was fairly civilised and had furniture and fittings and Freemans Hall seemed to be where they stuck all the agricultural students as the accommodation was somewhat basic, especially the bar. But, it's not the surroundings that count it's the people you are with. Straightaway I took my guitar down to the bar and started playing some songs with Robert. Very quickly we made friends with lots of other like-minded individuals. We found that we all got on. We had about a week to settle in and went to the Freshers Party at the Students Union Building and signed up for various activities and got to know each other, mainly through drinking in the evenings.
This set the pattern and very quickly we formed relationships. There was Ian Henderson from Warkworth in Northumberland, Frank Carr from Malham in Yorkshire and Philip Moore from Norwich in East Anglia. Ian's dad was a dentist in Bedlington and Ian lived about 30 miles up the road towards Lindisfarne, he was totally eccentric, with a wickedly chaotic sense of humour. He had a friend called Stuart B Easdon who had been to Whitley Bay Grammar School with him, so they were the local lads. We all got on instantly.
Another guy called Gerry Price, who became one of my best friends, was on the same course as me. He was also very interested in folk music and played the guitar. There were also Roy and Kevin, who were friends of Robert, all in the same communal Halls of Residence. We quickly became a unit and our adventures began.
I think I can honestly say that university is the best three years of anybody's life. I didn‟t have a lot of money in my pocket, but I didn‟t have any worries, apart from the feeling of insecurity with Pauline and you can buy a heck of a lot of drinks, even on a student grant! At the time inflation was starting to rocket through the economy, because of the oil crisis of the previous year, so we were paying quite a lot of money at the start in our Halls of Residence. Other people were laughing; saying we could get a cheaper deal outside in a flat, but by the end of the year it was actually cheaper in the halls. Inflation had risen four times during the year, due to the oil crisis and the other students were finding it extremely difficult outside. We had fixed rates for the year so we actually did very well.