UCL SSEES: Past and Present
SSEES - MEMORIES OF THE COLLEGE IN THE EARLY 1960s
These recollections of life and people at SSEES in the early 1960s were written by Martin and Anna Hansford (née Grieves) and Peter Seagrave. At that time the college was located on the 2nd floor only of the North Wing of Senate House with some staff rooms and the common rooms in 28 Russell Square (staff on the ground floor and students on the first floor).
In the early 1960s the Cold War was very real - the Berlin Wall went up overnight in August 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis followed in 1963. Post-war National Service, whereby young men were called up for a compulsory period of military service, was being phased out, but many who had been selected for Russian language training in uniform then chose to pursue it further. When we arrived in 1961 the vast majority of SSEES' 100 students had been ex-Forces, but this was coming to an end.
Martin and Peter had both learnt Russian in the RAF, gaining A level passes during their initial course at the Joint Services School for Linguists at Crail, East Fife, before going on to serve in Berlin. Anna belonged to the growing element that had learnt Russian at school. SSEES was then a small independent college of the University of London (only the Jews College had a smaller annual intake). Located in Senate House; it had the flavour, particularly at its student dances, of being very much an ex-Forces drinking club. Thus, the new Students Union Committee, elected in 1962, set about trying to improve the dances socially and financially; this was important, as the Students Union had been losing money for some time. The new committee had Martin as President, Peter as Vice-President and Treasurer, Anna as Secretary, Nick Wynn as Social Secretary plus Ron Stewart, John Holman and Colin Davis on the Committee. The dances they organized proved very popular, attracting students from other colleges like SOAS, Birkbeck, the Institute of Education and even Kings and UCL. To collect the booze for the dances Martin, Peter and Nick usually drove in Martin's vintage Riley to Fuller, Smith and Turner's brewery at Chiswick - very educational, especially the visits afterwards to the brewery's hospitality room!
One of the significant things about SSEES was the camaraderie built up amongst the students and with the staff. As President of the Student Union Martin spent many hours in the Director's office hotly debating student issues with the Director (who seemed to welcome their exchanges). A major introduction at each term's dance was a cabaret for which we wrote songs and sketches about ourselves and the staff. The presence of various staff members at these dances was very gratifying, but particularly delightful and amusing were the wonderful piano duets by George Cushing (lecturer in Hungarian) and Harry Leeming (linguistics, incl. Slavonic Philology and Old Church Slavonic). They were hilarious and usually started with a toss for ends - "Thanks, Iíll take the deep end!" In the songs and sketches we lampooned many of the staff, who took the jokes very well. They included Mr. Whitworth (ex-army College Registrar, famous for walking with enormous strides), Mr. Tappe (lecturer in Romanian, famous for his tea parties with students), Charles Drage (phonetics, famous for his tuning fork, morphemes & phonemes), George Bolsover (ex-Foreign Office School Director, a dour but kind Lancastrian, who brought his daughter to the dances), Dr Harry Leeming, Dr George Cushing, Prof. Auty, Dr Vivian de S. Pinto (an occasional lecturer in Bulgarian but better known for selling his eggs and tomatoes to his colleagues) and a librarian, Arthur Helliwell, who sometimes had a crush on pretty girl students, notably the beautiful Masha Leontowich.
We also remember with fondness the chain-smoking Georgette Donchin (a delightful lady who taught Russian literature, particularly Pushkin and Gogol, always with a cigarette hanging dangerously from her lips) and Peter Norman (lecturer in Russian, and a man very sympathetic to students' problems). Students invited home to tea with Peter and his charming wife, Natasha, had to speak Russian to his mother-in-law, a formidable widow from Imperialist Russia whose husband had been the famous philosopher Simeon Frank.
Other memories include the Masaryk Hall (named after Thomas Masaryk, president of Czechoslovakia, the new state created after the 1914-18 war) which was the hub of the college. Larger tutorials and lectures and, of course, the dances were held there. We also had, for a short time, a Slavonic choir, directed by Harry Leeming. We learnt Czech and Polish carols and sang these in local hospitals, much to the patients' amazement.
Relationships blossomed at SSEES and some of these became permanent. Thus Martin was attracted to Anna on day one, and they were seen by all as a couple by the time Peter was de-mobbed to join him 7 weeks later! They married after graduation in 1964, had 2 boys and have been together for nearly 50 years. Colin Davis courted Ann, a pretty Russian Regional Studies student; they married, had 4 children and have lived in France for over 30 years. Roger Cockerell married Pat, another attractive co-student, and went on to teach Russian at Exeter University. Peter and Faith went out for about a year, and are still in touch today.
Students generally did not have cars but Peter had a VW Beetle bought during his RAF service in Berlin. This and Martin's ancient Riley were very popular for ferrying other students home after parties (8 in a Beetle is not impossible!). In 1964, Peter and Nick Wynn worked as Mr. Softy ice cream sellers at the start of the summer vacation and before embarking on an East Europe camping tour (6 weeks planned) in the Beetle. All necessary visas had been obtained but in Slovenia, on the 3rd day out, they had a crash with a locally made Fiat Zastawa 5 ton van. This put them in the Polyklinika Hospital in Ljubljana for 8 days and ended the holiday. Peter sent his mother a reassuring telegram from the hospital, but its English was hilariously corrupted in transit and it took her 3 hours to decipher it. Nick and Peter have shared less dramatic holidays since then, viz. camping in Ireland in 1966 and a visit to Sicily in 2011.
Because of the Cold War climate, it was not easy to visit Russia at this time, but Anna and Martin joined a small group led by her former teacher's daughter that was due to visit Leningrad and Moscow in the summer of 1963. They arrived in Leningrad by boat, but their leader became worried by the close attention its Russian captain had shown her and so asked Martin to stay visibly on hand. He joked that he would then be seen as the group's 'political commissar', and so was not too surprised to find himself allotted a room quite remote from the rest of the group at their Moscow hotel. One cocky young member of the group did pursue unauthorized contacts with Russians, which caused the friendly Intourist guide to be replaced suddenly by a veritable 'dragon' and the group to be re-routed prematurely from Moscow to Minsk! But on the return train through Poland Martin enjoyed buying refreshments for all with otherwise worthless East German marks left over from his RAF service in Berlin.
During vacations many got jobs to earn holiday money. Nick went to an Israeli Kibbutz in 1963, while Peter went to Poland for 6 weeks, including 3 weeks work on a state farm with foreign and Polish agricultural students, where he learnt some very useful Polish - including the phrase 'till we meet under the table' (meaning, 'until we are legless'). Peter, being a lazy devil, failed in 1964 but successfully repeated his final year in 1964/65, kindly supported by George Bolsover. In 1964 he was, the first recipient of the SSEESOSA (Old Students' Association) award for fostering relations between staff and students. That summer he worked for 13 weeks as a labourer on the Barbican site in London, but broke off for 3 weeks to take 38 students by train to Poland, Ukraine and Russia for the NUS!
After graduation in 1964, Martin went on to join the Foreign Office and completed foreign tours in Vienna (using his Russian on UN work there) and Johannesburg, before transferring to HM Treasury. Anna joined the British Council, but resigned to look after their children. She was later tempted into teaching (French and Russian) at school and university levels. Peter chose a career in export sales, starting with an East European focus at Perkins Diesels. There would appear to be little connection between his compulsory studies of Old Church Slavonic and his later career, but surprisingly, the obligation to purchase the two-volume grammar and reader (costing a massive 8 guineas (£8.40 in new money) out of the then grant of £215 p.a.) proved very useful in subsequent life, when Peter found himself doing an OCS blessing at business events!
We remember other students, particularly bright ones like Gerry Smith and Derek Humphreys. Both were ex-RAF; Gerry got a 1st, Derek a 2:1, in those days a minority achievement. We were envious of Gerry as he was also a fine jazz alto-sax player. He had to choose between jazz music or academia for his career; he chose the latter and became Professor of Russian at Oxford! Derek later successfully ran, with his Russian wife, the Russian courses at RAF North Luffenham.
We do hope these memories prove of interest to readers and that they may encourage other former students to put pen to paper with other interesting recollections.
Martin & Anna Hansford
Stirrings in Sport: SSEES 1966...
As everyone knows 1966 was a glorious year in the annals of English football; few, however, realise it was also the year when the SSEES football team burst onto the stage after, allegedly, an eternal hiatus.
I seem to remember it all began over a quiet game of darts in the Junior Common Room on the ground floor of 21/22 Russell Square one Wednesday afternoon, which in those days was designated as a "sports half-day". Quiet because in the same room one of the interminable bridge sessions was in progress and its members would soon turn snootily towards us if anything disturbed their concentration, or even threatened their prowess as SSEES' Number One sport.
We were discussing football when my opponent, who had played at schoolboy county level, asked me as Sports Secretary (rather an honorific title), if we could get up a team; and so the piece of paper was born onto which some ten names crawled.
I discovered that SSEES, in a link with Birkbeck College, was entitled to play on its ground at Greenford. I remember that they were slightly surprised at my insistence that we had the right to play there but agreed we could do so as long as it did not conflict with their games. Of course, they got their revenge by giving us the worst pitch there, with a ditch, full of leaves and stagnant water, running just behind the touch line.
We fixed a date for a trial and secured some money from the Student Union Treasurer to buy some kit and a ball. SSEES colours were sky blue, gold and black, but the cheapest we could get was royal blue with gold sleeves, a bit like Chelsea with a dash of Wolverhampton Wanderers. One of the incipient team's WAGS undertook to stitch numbers on the back of eleven shirts, no iron-ons or subs in those days, and dramatically - a team was born. We enlisted the playing/coaching expertise of one of the Polish lecturers, Mr Mazur, and at last we were ready to begin.
Duly armed, with our number now increased to fifteen, we completed a trial and then went to look for some fixtures. It was too late to register for one of the leagues so we had a succession of 'friendlies', seven or eight from memory.
The first was against SOAS - nothing like starting with a derby. I sometimes wonder just what Babel of languages we had out there that day. On a day when the pitch was like a gluepot in the penalty areas and one wing like a paddy field we outclassed a lacklustre SOAS 6-l, even managing, humbly, to score two myself. There followed losses to Slough Technical College, on Slough Town's ground, the first and only time we played in a real stadium, and Hatfield Polytechnic, on their notorious 45 degree sloping pitch, as well as a 4-1 thrashing from UCL's fourth string. We managed a few more draws and the season came to a close.
Unfortunately, the next year a number of our best players were involved in examinations and job interviews, or gripped by general apathy, declining to join the team again, so that we gently faded away.
However, it had been a burst of sports activity unknown for many years and incomprehensible to some of our esteemed lecturers. We even had a slight following: the college mascot at the time, the head of a bull representing the pagan Slav god Velesh, being dragged to the SOAS match and after several attempts, hoisted high in triumph.
Thereafter, although some students played for ULU teams, football was the only sport where college identity had been declared to the waiting world outside. Peace once more returned to Wednesday afternoons, just the thump of darts hitting the target disturbing the calls of the bridge devotees, but life was never the same from then on. SSEES had appeared on the football and sporting map.
- Chris Feetam
Apart from Chris, who was in the team? If you know, or were one of the glorious few, or even better have a team photo, please help us to reconstitute the sporting history of SSEES. Send your information please to: email@example.com
SSEES AFC 2005 - 2010
When I joined SSEES in 2005, SSEES AFC was at a low ebb, in the University of London Division 4 and on the brink of disaffiliation. The generation that had re-formed the club in 2003 had graduated as a whole, leaving just one member, their captain Yuichiro Yasui. I remember his lukewarm response when I approached him at the Fresher's Fayre, proudly declaring that it would be an honour to represent SSEES, being told to write down my e-mail address and await further instructions (which never came). My debut, courtesy of a chance meeting with the team's new goalkeeper outside an Introduction to Politics lecture, was a 3-0 win against Royal Veterinary College 2nds, with Oliver "Headband" Saunders scoring a hat-trick. The club at this point had changed its colours to red and black after winning an essay-writing competition sponsored by KPMG, and had changed the club's badge alongside it to a white star with a hammer and sickle, all inside a black shield, while picking up the new nickname, the "Red Army". The season finished, however, with the team minutes from being forcibly disbanded by UCL Union followed by a fiery match against rivals SOAS, which ended 8-3 to our opponents.
The following season I was proud to lead the club to the final of the University of London shield, the highlight of the cup run being the semi-final 2-1 win against an Imperial team from the 3rd division near Heathrow airport, with a superb winner from Robert Ward. Disappointment was to follow though, as our arch rivals SOAS 2nds won 4-1 in the final at Fulham's New Malden training ground, and also went on to take the league title, with SSEES missing out on promotion to Division 3 by just 1 point.
In 2008 the club were not to be denied, and won the league. Led by Thomas Woolley, SSEES AFC lost one game the entire season and won through with a dramatic late equaliser from the team's Albanian centre midfielder Gentian Shehu against LSE, who needed a win to take top spot from the Red Army. On a personal note, it was also my most prolific season as striker, notching up 29 goals in 20 games. The following year, led by Gabriel Erturk, SSEES AFC celebrated back-to-back promotions, finally gaining revenge over SOAS, dumping them out of the cup and completing the double over them in the league. The team's star player for this season was a mercurial Italian by the name of Andrea Perticarari, who had inadvertently missed the UCL team's bus and formed an affection for SSEES. His mazy dribbling skills and wicked shot helped fire the team to success.
The 09/10 season was in many ways the zenith of the club's recent history. Playing in the University of London Division 2, SSEES AFC won promotion for the third consecutive season, meaning that within 3 years we had climbed the to the top of the ULU football ladder. Many of the club's veteran players, like Malcolm Lesley, myself and former captains Woolley and Erturk were in their final year, but we finished on a high, hammering the UCL 7ths 6-1 on our way to finishing second in the league, leaving old rivals SOAS and Goldsmiths far behind. Moreover, interest in the club had been so high that we were shortlisted for UCL Union's "Most Improved Club" and affiliated a second team, who competed well in the ULU division 4.
SSEES AFC meant a lot to me during my time at SSEES. Whether it was standing in the driving rain watching our midfielder talk to an opposition player in fluent Albanian, battling at Regent's Park against SOAS or going in to the Junior Common Room on a Monday morning and updating the results board, for me the club was the backbone of the SSEES student community over the past 5 years and long may it continue to be. Its progress is detailed on its website http://www.sseesafc.com
In view of the team's reputation for unshakeable team spirit, the logical conclusion to this was the creation of an alumni team. SSEES Academicals Football Club will compete in 2010 in the Camden Sunday League, playing our home games at Regents Park. We are on the lookout for more players. If you are interested, even if you didn't play for the SSEES team while you were at UCL, see http://sseesacademicals.weebly.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or ring David on 07787 884862.
The Red Army Marches on!!!
- David Edwards
Back Row, Left to Right: Alexi Ozioro (Year 2 SSEES History); Tom Huxter (Year 2 Politics and EES); James Noel (Year 2 SSEES History); Ben Rutledge (MA Russian Studies); Nick Gardner (Year 2 Politics & EES); Naveed Kiyani (Year 2 SSEES History); Malcolm Lesley (MA Translation, BA Hungarian & EES); Tom Woolley (MA History, BA SSEES History); Michael Fadel (Year 1 SSEES History); Patrick Hinman (Year 1 Politics & EES);
Front Row, Left to Right: Matt Thompson (Year 2 Archaeology); George Baggaley (Year 3 SSEES History); John Lowes (Year 3 SSEES History); Dave Edwards (IMESS, BA Politics & EES)
This page last modified
Tuesday 16 August 2011.