Newcastle
  Name:
Leslie Woodhall

  College: King's College
  Subject: French and German
  Class of: 1963








Memories of King’s College, Newcastle

A nesh West Midlander, I spent my (formative) student years (October 1959 to July 1963) reading Joint Honours in French and German at King’s College, Newcastle. Oh dear, it was so cold up there in the North-East, and that was just in summer. Many years later, I was warmer among the glaciers of Patagonia than I was playing soccer for King’s at Seaton Sluice on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of January, all the more so since the football club had recently acquired a set of high-fashion pale blue shirts with a V-neck and short sleeves! Crazy!

But I must get my priorities right: Sport; Studies; Matrimony. Alphabetical order (and the desire to avoid any unnecessary domestic aggro) dictates that I should begin by recording that I met my future wife at King’s very early on in October 1959. We were married in the summer of 1963 after graduation and celebrated our 57th wedding anniversary in August 2020.

My studies took me into the French and German Departments, at that time housed in somewhat dilapidated Victorian dwellings off the North Road, just south of Exhibition Park. The German Department, under Prof. Mennie, was in Sydenham Terrace, its French counterpart, under Prof. Girdlestone, in Devonshire Terrace – I think. My lecturers were all highly competent in their respective fields. I owe them a lot, and I did keep in touch with some of them for many years. Just one anecdote: Norman Suckling, a senior lecturer in French and man of many interests, departed in haste at the end of a lecture saying: “must dash, I’ve left my harpsichord on Barras Bridge”.

Student life in the early 1960s was much more sedate than would seem to be the case now, more than 50 years on. The occasional parties that were organised were strictly BYOB. That entailed a quick visit to the nearest off-licence to purchase a bottle of either “Spanish Sauternes” (arguably a white wine) or some red wine, the name of which (fortunately) escapes me. The wine was decanted from very large barrels into (empty and possibly washed) “Newky Broon” pint bottles and cost half-a-crown (=2/6d or + 12 post-1971 pence).

No record of this period would be complete without a reference to the Bun Room in the Students’ Union. Any readers who were there will need no further explanation, and anyone who wasn’t there wouldn’t believe me anyway. At lunchtime, the Barras Bridge refec offered for a pittance a wonderful Welsh rarebit, the like of which I have never tasted since. Those flush with money could even order baked beans on the side. Luxury!

After settling in at Eustace Percy Hall – the largest one-storey Hall of Residence in the entire Kingdom, or so we were told – my burning ambition was to claim the No 10 shirt for the KCAFC. I achieved that goal just before Easter 1960 and retained the shirt during my second year. My year abroad in France (61-62) interrupted my footballing career at King’s, but it was a privilege and pleasure to play with Matt McCargo, Dave Hookway, Bill Douglas, Dave Kidd, Max Haggett, John Scott, Dave Grogan …

I began this recital with a reference to how cold it was in Newcastle. The winter in my final year (62-63) was the coldest since 1947, or 1954, or whenever. People were actually skiing along Jesmond Road into the city centre.

Writing this piece has brought many more memories flooding into my brain, but I had better close this (for me) enjoyable trip down Memory Lane before I get really carried away.

Leslie Woodhall


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