The 70's

David Clark, contributing in August 2012, writes as follows.

Although my football-playing days are long over, I still have happy memories of the succession of 5-a-side football teams (1969-1983) from the Clark research group that competed in the University league at Maiden Castle. I also played regularly in the University staff's 11-a-side team, with a special memory from 1981-1982, when the team won league and cup medals. At that time, the Department boasted many supporters of national football teams, overwhelmingly Newcastle (tackems) or Sunderland (mackems). The latter generally held the upper hand numerically, led by the redoubtable Tommy Argument (see below). As a long-standing tackem season-ticket holder, I came in for a salvo of colourful banter every Monday, particularly dark if Sunderland had lost a match over the previous weekend.

Memories of a different nature surface from many years as a member of the University promotions committee. The University Grants Committee, the funding body for universities during my time in Durham, used its quota system to impose a strict limit on promotions. No more than 40% of the University's permanent academic staff could be above the grade of lecturer, which thereby became the career grade. In consequence, competition for promotion was intense, both within departments and between departments in different faculties. Senior lectureships, readerships and especially professorships were attained through criteria that could vary among faculties, so a committee member had to work very hard to achieve fairness towards candidates from widely differing backgrounds. [For more of David Clark's recollections, see David Clark's Research Group.]

A contribution (2013, February-May) from Joe Howard adds insight to the character of a legendary Chemistry Department figure. [See Support Staff.]


Newly arrived in Durham, I was in the second year organic chemistry practical lab in my first experience as a “demonstrator”. We were short of a piece of glassware so, after finding the stores, I pressed the buzzer and asked the storekeeper for the item. My request was met with a look of absolute amazement, a deeply furrowing brow and the never-to-be-forgotten “I cannay gi ye that, I only have one and someone might need it”. This was my first experience of Tommy. When I told the other demonstrator what happened, he said “That’s just Tommy Argument”. I thought “Argument” was his (appropriate!) nickname and it was weeks before I learned my mistake.

I came to know Tommy very well. In the very best sense, I found him to be a proud man and also an astute observer of human nature. Tommy knew how to separate “need” from “want”. While he was extremely vocal in looking after the interests (budget) of the Department, he was also quietly very committed to helping people succeed. Many times, when items I needed were not available in the store, I found that they would later “mysteriously appear” on my desk or in my lab. I know for sure that he would use his encyclopaedic memory to go and retrieve items from other researchers, or even borrow from other departments. My research included extensive experimentation away from Durham at central research facilities. Funding was often approved within just days of the facilities' allocated experimental time. Without the pro-active, “can do” attitudes and behaviour of both Tommy Argument and Tom Caygill in facilitating access to chemicals and equipment, I would undoubtedly have regularly missed the opportunity to complete experimental work in the UK, France and the USA.

I visited Tommy several times at his immaculate double allotment. It was his pride and joy and I can still picture him sitting near his shed surrounded by freshly planted hanging baskets.

On Tommy’s retirement, David Clark arranged an evening celebration and dinner in Durham for Tommy that was attended by the many ex-Durham graduates working at ICI’s Wilton Centre. There were short speeches recounting people’s experiences with Tommy, and the presentation of numerous “suitably chosen” gifts. I presented him with a gold-painted garden spade. Tommy clearly relished being centre stage and hearing the many anecdotes about himself. It was a terrific laughter-filled evening. I got to take Tommy home. As we walked through his front door, he announced to his wife “You don’t realize how lucky you are - you married one hell of a guy!” How right he was - he was “one hell of a guy”. [For more of Joe Howard's recollections, see Tom Waddington's Research Group and Joe Howard's Research Group.]


In the seventies, the Chemistry Department began to show interest in occasional social mixing of its instinctive sub-groups: lecturing staff, support staff (technicians, laboratory attendants, administrators and secretaries) and research groups (postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers). An annual self-funded Sunday coach trip, supported strongly by the Department's administrator, would visit such venues as Ullswater, Ambleside, Ribblesdale, Coquetdale and Buttermere (1974-8), stopping at various points to leave and collect passengers undertaking walks from the gentle to the vigorous. Among the stronger walkers an interest in self-catering weekends developed: after a toe-in-the-water weekend in Scotland (1977, May; for four; see the Postgraduates outdoors photograph below), that interest was acknowledged fully in December 1977 with the hiring of Troutbeck School, an outdoor-pursuits centre near the southern foot of the Kirkstone Pass capable of housing 24. More such visits feature in The 80's, Images from the 90's and 2000-2009.

Photos in the 70s

The rugby team of staff and postgraduates in 1973 (March or April) at Maiden Castle, ready to take on undergraduates in the annual fixture of the times. Left to right: Don Reid [postgraduate (=pg), George Kohnstam research group (=GK gp)], Mike Jones [senior experimental officer (=SEO), mass spectrometry (=ms)], David Clark (reader), Jack Yarwood [lecturer (=L)], Mike Harris [postdoctoral research assistant (=PDRA), Tom Waddington (=TCW) gp], Dave Nevins [technician (=T), ms], Dave Younger (pg, TCW gp), Dave Sowerby [former pg, Harry Shearer (=HMMS) gp], Tom Inglis [PDRA, Mel Kilner (=MK) gp], Ray Matthews (SEO, NMR spectroscopy), John Parkinson (T, organofluorine research), John Tomkinson (pg, TCW gp), Mick Gribble (PDRA, Dick Chambers (=RDC) gp], Lyn Williams (L), Barry Gregory (former senior demonstrator, GK gp).

Mary's Formal 1976 with Prof Garman and a couple of other Chemists.

Graduating in 1970 - Chemistry (68-69 photo); click 1970 to enlarge.

Graduating in 1971 - Chemistry (69-70 photo); click 1971 to enlarge.

Graduating in 1972 - Chemistry/Joint Honours Chemistry* (70-71 photo); click 1972 to enlarge.

[*Only K.H. Holmes (Chemistry&Geology) on photo.]

Click here for more pictures in the 70's

Anyone with questions about these images, kindly submitted by alumni, should contact

decades/70_s.txt · Last modified: 2017/10/17 20:17 by euan
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