With love from York: 1980–90

Generations of York love

Moving on from the 1970s, the next generation of tales in our Love from York series comes from a class who graduated between the years of 1980-90. Times were changing and the expectation to be married before you could live together was certainly wearing away.

On again, off again.. on again!

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Roger Holding (Economics & Politics, Alcuin, 1982) and Penny Wilson (Psychology, Alcuin, 1982) at their wedding on the Amalfi coast

Roger Holding (Economics & Politics, Alcuin, 1982) and Penny Wilson (Psychology, Alcuin, 1982) met through a fellow first year, he lived on the same corridor in Alcuin as Penny and Roger had met him on the JCR Rose and Crown drinks evening during Freshers’ Week. They might have been part of the same social circle but didn’t become an item until Penny suggested Roger take her to the Rugby Club end of season social at the Windmill.

Six months after graduation Penny moved to Cheshire to start a career in the police and their relationship came to an end. However, in 2007 they got back in touch through an e- mail. By this time Penny was a Superintendent in Cheshire Police and Roger had been living in Australia for 11 years and was Deputy CEO of Corrections in Western Australia.

Their start may have been shaky but the end is solid. Roger proposed to Penny on Valentine’s Day 2010 and they were married on the Amalfi coast year –a contingent of Alcuin Yorkies were present too. They live in Cheshire but a future life in Australia should not been ruled out.

Finding love in familiar places

It wasn’t a Freshers’ week romance, or even a second year settling down that marked the start of Gabrielle (Chemistry with resources & environment, Derwent, 1987) and Simon’s (Sociology, Langwith, 1987) romance. Both had been at University for two years and neither had ever set eyes on one another until the first day of their third year when they moved into B house in Eden’s Court.

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Gabrielle (Chemistry with resources & environment, Derwent, 1987) and Simon’s (Sociology, Langwith, 1987) five children

Gabrielle had had a tempestuous second year, with troubles involving work, love and a deep commitment to the production of “Hanging on”, written by Sally Wainwright (who has reached stratospheric heights with her creative talents since then). Her focus was getting back on track and achieving a decent degree, definitely not looking for a relationship.

Simon meanwhile was already in a long-term relationship with his girlfriend who was studying Nursing in Leeds. In Gabrielle’s words: “He had a massive chip on his shoulder and as a Northern man from a family with no previous history of HE in a house full of rather “arty” women from the south he used to simultaneously hold court (we were the harem) and dismiss our intellectual pretensions. I couldn’t stand his ambivalent approach to all issues.”

However, after about 6 months Gabrielle came round to the idea that he was the man for her, so engineered “accidental meetings” outside the library and other places on campus. She finally persuaded him to come on a 3-week hitch-hiking holiday to a friend’s house in the South of France following their graduation in 1987.

“In short it worked. I took up my first teaching job near Brighton and Simon with a fellow Langwith friend moved down to live in a dossers hostel! Eventually we moved in to a shared house together, had a baby, bought a house, got married and had 4 more children. As the university Aspire tutor at a large sixth form college I draw on my wonderful time at York to persuade my A2 students of the joys of Higher Education.”

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Angus (Physics, Langwith, 1984) and Beryl (Psychology, Langwith, 1984) Weir just knew it. They moved into rooms next door in C block, Langwith. Beryl met Angus on arrival day and two days later she asked him to marry her. They went on to have a son Cameron who graduated last summer. Who says the course of true love never does run smooth?

Pedalling into the sunset

Here is another Freshers’ couple, with an immediate attraction just not as quick a proposal. Martin (History, Wentworth, 1983) and Carole Anne (History, Wentworth, 1983) met at a Wentworth Freshers’ event. It was a disco; one of those nights where everyone was trying to get to know as many people as possible.

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Martin (History, Wentworth, 1983) and Carole Anne Bull (History, Wentworth, 1983)

They soon found out that they were both on the ground floor of the old Wentworth C Block building.  They first meet up as part of a group who regularly went for a drink in the evening.

They bonded over walks into York, the call of the pub and the theatre; seldom socialising at the university as they preferred to enjoy the city of York, with its great beers and if they had enough money, a meal at Plunkett’s burger restaurant.

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Martin and Carole Anne cycling again!

Martin recalls: “snowy and romantic walks back from the City through the Shambles. However, it is fair to say that Carole did need to pass a number of tests. The first was that she was willing on occasions to get up at an unearthly hour to go swimming at the Barbican Baths, which I did every morning. The second was that she had to get a bike and take up cycling. Her first bike was a sit up shopper with a basket.”

By the end of second year Carole was ready to undergo the next initiation by agreeing to go with Martin on a cycle tour of Devon and Cornwall. “She did not give up and she proved, as she has continued to prove ever since, that she is much more strongly willed than I am.” After the finals they hired a tandem (called ‘Stan and Hilda’) from a cycle shop on Lawrence Street and went up into the Dales for a weekend. They certainly knew how to celebrate!

The proposal didn’t come till 1983 – they left their wedding reception on a tandem, complete with balloons and tin cans and a big sign saying ‘Oxford or Bust’. They cycled off to their honeymoon suite, before heading to Oxford and on to the Cotswolds. However, they did end their tour by returning to York.

Romance in the freezing cold

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Alison (Psychology, Alcuin, 1985) and David Footitt (Electronic Engineering, Vanbrugh, 1985)

Another story of this class is from Alison (Psychology, Alcuin, 1985) and David Footitt (Electronic Engineering, Vanbrugh, 1985) this July they will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary and it all began in York! They met in 1983 in a mutual friend’s college room, and often bumped into each other around the campus from then on. Romance slowly grew and stood the test of freezing cycle rides across the city to meet in 2nd year as they had houses at opposite sides of town. From York they moved to Sussex and then to the Highlands of Scotland where they now reside with three children. Alison enthused,

“Memories of York are so happy, it was the place we met, we had great times there and we made fantastic friends. Now our son is 17 and applying to university, lucky thing to be heading off to that wonderful time, wonder who he will meet?!”


More stories from the decade …

John Watt (Computer Science, Goodricke, 1982) and Katherine (Kate) Watt (Sociology/Education, Wentworth, 1981)
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John Watt (Computer Science, Goodricke, 1982) and Katherine (Kate) Watt (Sociology/Education, Wentworth, 1981)
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John and Kate at graduation!

Winter 1979 was bitterly cold. The lake froze, and students didn’t only walk across it, but set out on it tables, chairs and food for evening meals. Dire Straits had recently played in concert at the University, a new and relatively unheard-of band. We met in the January of that year, at the bus stop by Wentworth College, in a group of students off to watch the first of the Christopher Reeve ‘Superman’ films. Walking back afterwards, via Jimmy`s fish and chip shop at Walmgate, the group split up, and I went with a few others back to Kate’s room. When she went into the kitchen to make another pot of tea I followed, and asked her out. As a couple, we went the next evening to The Willow Chinese restaurant in York, and have remained a couple ever since, marrying in 1981, just before Kate started her PGCE at St John’s, and I entered into a 4th year of study. My best man was fellow student Edward Rosenfield, the friend who’d introduced us at the bus stop! Our first home was on West Moor Lane in Heslington, where we lived for a year before moving to Norton, Malton.Over the years we’ve lived in the north and south of the country, as well as spending time in Saudi Arabia.  Currently we’re settled in Buckinghamshire  We have two amazing children who’ve now both flown the nest.

Andrew Christophers (English & Related Literature, Wentworth, 1983) and Helen Jeffreys (Social Policy & Administration, Wentworth, 1984)andrew christophers

We both stood for election to the Wentworth College Junior Common Room Committee in 1982 – Helen because she liked another candidate (Tarquin Desoutter) who was standing against me for College Chair.  But I was elected as Chair, and she as Press & Publicity Officer. Gradually she got over the shock, and we started going out together.  We were married in York in 1987, and are still married (with 3 children) 27 years later.  Thank goodness for the university’s democratic voting system!

Christopher Potter (Electronics, Goodricke, 1983) and Diane Potter (nee Moss) (History, Vanbrugh, 1983)

Diane and I first met only a few days after the start of our first term at York. My next-door-neighbour (Steve Pipe) introduced us. Steve and I were in Goodricke, as it was (now part of Eric Milner-White court) and he had made some new friends in Vanbrugh and we all met in Vanbrugh bar. We gradually got to know each other. One of my most successful tactics was to repair the heater in Diane’s room. I recently read that the Eric A and B block are not in perfect order anymore, but even 30 years ago, not everything worked as it should. Most rooms on campus had a small radiator that included a fan blowing over the hot part. Inevitably, all moving parts seize up, and I’d discovered how to unlock the cover and apply some oil to the motor. I was destined to be an engineer of some kind from an early age. Maybe health and safety is a better enforced now, but back then, possessing a toolbox on campus turned out to be a good icebreaker. I mended several radiators, including Diane’s. The rest is history (that’s what she was studying, anyway).

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Christopher Potter (Electronics, Goodricke, 1983) and Diane Potter (nee Moss) (History, Vanbrugh, 1983)
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Christopher and Diane Potter on their wedding day

Our group of friends stayed together throughout our years at York. In the second year, 5 of the group, Diane included, rented a flat in Priory Street in the city. I was a frequent visitor. One Valentine’s day I borrowed Steve’s guitar and serenaded my love from the doorway to the basement. The Romeo and Juliet moment lasted until I was forced inside to avoid further annoyance to the neighbours. Apparently I can’t sing or play the guitar. Oh well.

When the final year was upon us, it was time for big decisions, and Diane and I got engaged on Valentines day 1983. We married in July that year. We have two lovely children who have grown up and now at university themselves. I hope they have a fabulous time too. We still look back fondly on those happy times at York. Happily, Steve also met his future wife at York, he and Carol were married in 1984. Must be something else in the lake-water besides ducks.

Peter Thomson (English Literature, Goodricke, 1983) and Sally Thomson (nee Spence) (Sociology and Education, Goodricke, 1981)peter thomson1

We were both members of Goodricke JCR committee and spent far too much time in Goodricke snack bar and bar. We started “going out” at a party at Jack & Jill’s nightclub in York (remember that, anyone?). We were engaged during Pete’s final year at York and married in 1984. 30 years later we have three beautiful daughters, all of whom are either at university or have graduated – but sadly none of them chose to study at York. Perhaps that is because they all know we are far too attached to “our” university, and Goodricke in particular, for them to ever be able to feel they could make it their own.

Jonathan Empson (Computer Science, Langwith, 1986) and Sue Wallace (Linguistics, Derwent, 1987)

We actually met in Tubingen, Germany, in 1985, through mutual friend and fellow alumnus Julie Redfern. Sue was doing her year out, I was InteRailing. We didn’t get together then and I don’t think it would have worked if we had, but we became friends.

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Jonathan Empson (Computer Science, Langwith, 1986) and Sue Wallace (Linguistics, Derwent, 1987)

After university, oddly enough, Sue (the linguist) became a computer programmer and I (the computer scientist) went into publishing. I moved to Australia in 1995 to edit a car magazine. Sue had switched to teaching, but was burnt out by 2002. She sold up and did a round-the-world trip, visiting me in Sydney, and that’s when we finally took the relationship step. We knew we could potentially ruin our long friendship by doing so, but we thought it was worth the risk.

I relocated to the UK in 2004, Sue got her visa, and we moved back to Sydney in 2005. We got married in 2009 in the lowest-key ceremony ever (just us and two witnesses – surprised friends lured to the register office under false pretences). Sue now works for a corporate training company, designing courses, and I’m a writer.I’m currently developing a children’s TV series called Dangerously Smart for Australian and Singaporean producers, and completing a YA novel. The risk paid off…

Tony Dolton (Computer Science, Derwent, 1987) and Nicky Day (Economic andtony dolton1 Social History, Derwent, 1987)
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Tony Dolton (Computer Science, Derwent, 1987) and Nicky Day (Economic and Social History, Derwent, 1987)

Nicky was in the room above me in Derwent D Block in the first year. The first time she spoke to me was to complain about my playing Status Quo very loudly while she was struggling to read the Communist Manifesto for a sociology module. A few weeks later a group of D Blockers happened to meet in the Charles XII and four of us ended up staying up all night, including a walk around campus at 3am (we still have the photo!). After that there were regular walks to feed the ducks and by the end of the first term we were definitely a couple. I used to knock on the ceiling to see if she was in – handy in the days before mobile phones!

We got married a year after graduating, have two lovely sons, and recently celebrated our silver wedding anniversary.

Liz Wilde (nee Hester) (History, Langwith, 1989) and Bob Wilde (Economics, Langwith, 1989)

We met in the first few weeks of our first year, at the York Ski club get together for new members.  Although we became friends we didn’t start seeing each other until our third year.  We went on the York Ski club trip to Les Menuires in December 1988 as part of the English and Welsh Universities Ski Championships.  By this time Bob was Captain of the club and Liz was the President. York distinguished themselves by only winning non-Ski events, sledging! As part of 600 other students skiing that week the resort was very lively and we found each other.

Returning to York in January our relationship continued and we have been together ever since. We married in 1995 and our best man, Duncan Carter, and bridesmaid, Siobhan Boultard were amongst many York friends at our wedding.  We are still in touch with lots of our York friends and see them often (Dorcas Podger, Matt Southall, Guy Bainbridge, Geoff Richardson, Kirsty Low to name a few) . We have often holidayed together, including the occasional ski trip.

We now have three children and live in Herts. We have taken our children to visit York on a few occasions, and of course taken them skiing virtually every year that we could – Liz even skied when pregnant with our first child. Our eldest is beginning to think about university places so maybe she will come to York too…