Wow - a visitor from 1974!
I rarely get the chance to meet former students, so it was nice to welcome Jon Griffin to my home in July 2022 -- nearly 50 years after he left college. You can see him on the group photo below . . . second from left on the middle row, (he's got a lot of hair and a slightly worried expression!)
Visiting Derbyshire with friends for the weekend, he decided to call on me. A couple of weeks later he sent me an account of the visit. You can read it below the picture caption.
Here’s the 1974/5 group. Jon remembered the names of most of them, and I’ve managed to fill in the gaps with a bit of research in old documents and a little help from Nigel Pickover (at the end of the middle row . . . now retired editor-in-chief of Eastern Daily Press) and Colin Sykes (middle of the top row, now retired from BBC television news in Manchester).
TOP ROW: Bev Simmons, Kathy Leeds, Andy Chapman, Bill Riley, Colin Sykes, Pete Bailey,Josie Decker, Gary Moran, Hylda Taylor; MIDDLE ROW: Trevor Bevins, Jon Griffin, Richard Horsley, Dave Parnell, Nik Wood, Simon Mills, Paul Calverley, Ian Ross, Nigel Pickover; FRONT ROW: Judith Spivey, Anne-Marie Kinsey, Jo Cracknell, Laura Seale, Jayne Clucas, Maureen Barrett, Vicky Holmes. (There was a Liz Hardy too, but she must have been absent that day!)
Jon Griffin writes . . .
Thanks to this page, three of these old classmates are now in touch -- Jon Griffin, Nigel Pickover and Colin Sykes.
'I'm really pleased about that,' says Gerry.
When our paths last crossed, I was just 19 and Gerry was 41. But the years melted away as the man who countless journalism students will remember from those far-off days in Sheffield opened the door of the charming home he shares with wife Una in the shadow of the Peak District's beautiful Heights of Abraham in Matlock Bath.
Gerry, full of life and memories, is now nearly 89. I am officially a state pensioner at the age of 66. The last time we were in contact as lecturer and student, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, the Suez Canal had just re-opened, West Ham had won the FA Cup, the West Indies had won cricket's first World Cup and Windsor Davies and Don Estelle topped the charts with Whispering Grass.
How times change across nearly five decades. But a mutual love of journalism – which defined both our lives -- ensured that some things never change. For more than two hours we chatted merrily away, the memories flooding back to the college on the hill. And what memories we share.
Gerry - I don't recall anybody ever calling him Mr Kreibich - recalled his 18 years as journalism lecturer at Richmond, colleagues such as Ron Eyley, Lyn Cooke, that stickler for grammar Frank Littlewood, Richmond alumni such as Jeremy Clarkson, former East Anglian based editor Nigel Pickover, my old housemate Ian Ross, who made it to Fleet Street as a football writer, our very first bylines as contributors to Britain's smallest newspaper the Richmond Reporter, mutual journalistic friends such as the irrepressible Nick Hudson (who once recruited Gerry to help produce the Burton Trader), his days editing the Matlock Mercury and so much more.
There were smiles at the memory of the public administration lecturer Richard Totterdell, mercilessly teased by some of the more raucous elements of the college intake of 1974-75. Richard was once bemused to hear a disembodied voice shouting 'let me out' from a cupboard. Opening the doors to much hilarity he discovered a tape recording. It was Richmond's very own Watergate moment…
During a trip to the Yorkshire Dales, Richard, driving the minibus, was persuaded to turn on the hazard warning lights on the dubious grounds that it would save petrol….glorious memories…
And of course there were the parties at Robinson Road close to Sheffield city centre and home to some of the students.
Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, Wishbone Ash's Blowin' Free, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird, Wings' Band on the Run blasting out of a 1970s turntable, Andy Chapman (later on Fleet Street) taking his clothes off, the stunned moment in November 1974 as the party stopped when we heard that bombers had struck in Birmingham.
But the party didn't stop for very long back in 1974-75, notwithstanding that horrific night in the city which would eventually become my journalistic home. And, when we weren't partying, we were working on our shorthand, learning the fundamentals of law and local government, getting hands-on experience as observers at Sheffield Crown Court and Derbyshire County Council, visiting the Eckington district office of the Sheffield Star and the Derbyshire Times at Chesterfield, all of us preparing for careers in the crazy, incomparable world of mid-1970s newspapers.
Personally, I have no doubt that Richmond College helped shape my entire life in what became my most formative year. Gerry agreed that I was 'one of the quieter ones' and my sheltered upbringing at home had left me unprepared for the culture shock that was the journalism class of 74-75 at Sheffield.
But I stuck it through a freezing winter in the lodgings of our dear old landlady Miss Morley (remember the breakfast fishcakes we secretly threw on her shed roof?), occasionally through gritted teeth, and Richmond gave me the passport to a quite wonderful, if also often maddening, lifetime in journalism. It even gave me a wife, but while that love affair didn't last, my lifelong love of journalism has never left me.
Journalism - and specifically the now endangered world of print - gave me a backstage pass to the party of a lifetime. The millions of memories and the sheer fun of it - not to mention the job satisfaction - has never really gone away. Once a hack, always a hack, I guess.
And I have Gerry and his colleagues -- from that distant Sheffield past of freezing winters and inedible fishcakes -- to thank for that.
*Jon joined the Peterborough Evening Telegraph on leaving college, and later worked on the Wolverhampton Express and Star for 16 years. He then worked on the Birmingham Post and Mail for 20 years, most of that time as business editor. He is still a busy freelance writer on business matters in the west midlands