I have a feeling that this is yet another RAG event that has long disappeared. The Chariot Race down Oxford Street from Speaker’s Corner was last referenced in FELIX way back in 1976 and has not been mentioned since. Well, until today of course because we have some silent 8mm film once again shot by STOIC. This was yet another item featured in their weekly news programme TOPIC. This particular item has suffered from the ‘home processing’ that was carried out on these black and white films. I think that a combination of over exposure and dodgy processing has resulted in rather poor quality. However, it is a wonderful record of what Imperial students used to get up to to raise money during RAG week 50 years ago.
This 8mm film that we have is from 1972 and is not even listed in the STOIC archive index. That is simply because the original videotape in which the film was used no longer exists. In this case I cannot find any corresponding audio, which I assume was added during the recording of TOPIC, so it will appear silent.
The Inter-CCU Raft Race across the Serpentine in 1979 is yet another part of college history that’s very difficult to find anything about. I can certainly find several references to the event in Felix, but nothing about why it started. What I can tell you is that this 1979 race is the first I found mentioned, so it could have been the first race to happen and the reason why STOIC recorded it.
Of the listings in FELIX, there are only mentions of the fact that it’s happening or that it had already happened and which CCU won it (photo on right). Just one tiny extra piece I found was this ‘thanks’ from the Union President who said after the 1979 race: “Thanks to the Underwater Club for giving up their Sunday Lie-In to ensure the safety of the Raft Race“. And there was one photo in Felix announcing that RCS had won the race.
So sit back and enjoy this brief coverage of what may have been the very first Raft Race across the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park. It started in Prince’s Garden and then up the roads to Hyde Park.
Well, who remembers the Great Tartan Race? Other references that I’ve found also called it the Great Tartan Barrel Race, either way it seemed to involve beer! This news item from STOIC’s 8 June 1973 TOPIC programme is missed from the card index because it was shot well before the index was started. The original videotape is long gone, so this item would have been forgotten. But, once again I found this gem in the collection of 8mm films that I’m currently digitising. If you remember, film was the only way for the programme to provide coverage of events outside of the college TV studio. Sadly this film is all that now remains of the programme so I’ve had to revert to a news clipping from FELIX dated 3 May 1973. (And yes you will have noticed a month’s difference between when it was shot and actually used in the programme)
“A team consisting of two members each from City and Guilds’ Union and Royal School of Mines Union were outright winners in their class in the Great Tartan Race, run annually by Scottish and Newcastle Breweries. The race involves transporting an (empty) keg of Tartan beer from Edinburgh to London, and the various classes of entry are for the most novel way of doing this, the team collecting most money for their nominated charity and for the team completing the distance in the shortest time. The IC team made the trip in a tartan-liveried Morris Minor accompanied by tartan-clad dolly birds, and collected for Action for the Crippled Child. The Tartan Race was entered by teams from universities and colleges throughout Britain.”
Coverage of the race was not only from STOIC it would seem, but also from British Movietone News. I didn’t realise that news for the cinema was still running in 1973, but at least STOIC’s was shot in colour (although seen in black and white). You’ll also spot that I found not only the used footage from the programme, but also the off cuts. These I’ve also included to show all that is still available in the archive collection. And when you look at the British Movietone News coverage does anyone recognise the voice doing the commentary? It’s the first presenter of BBC Television in 1936, Leslie Mitchell.
Today I’ve unearthed an unusual interview, it’s with Chris Sleap, who at the time of this interview in May 1979, was RSM Union President Elect. However, on further research I find that in FELIX dated October 1979 Chris Sleap had failed his exams. FELIX also states that papers will go back up for this (and other failed Union posts) shortly.
I’ve not been able to find out who did actually take on this roll, later that year. This then is a somewhat unique interview. Mark Foley was the interviewer in the college TV Studio. We’d still not gone fully into colour, so interviews were still in black and white.
In 1957 Imperial College was celebrating its 50 year half century. Many events took place that year, none of them were recorded visually and only some recorded onto audio tape or disc. One item that does survive is a presentation given by Dr S.W. Smith on the History of the Royal School of Mines up to that time. When I digitised the tape a few years ago I heard one or two things that stood out.
There is mention of attending a lecture in 1897 and the astonishing thing that he heard suggested. And on 13th March 1901 he was present at the RSM half-century celebrations, the formal dinner for which, was delayed due to the death of Queen Victoria. Fascinating to hear a college alumni talking about what was happening in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
In the summer of 1984 I was asked by Peter Burridge the Telecoms Manager, to make a special video to alert all members of Imperial College to the fact that we were about to put into service a new electronic telephone exchange. Until this time we had two systems running side by side: an internal automatic exchange and an external (BT) manually operated switchboard.
The original internal exchange, installed sometime around 1959, was located in the basement of the Royal School of Mines, whilst the external switchboard was installed in the Sherfield Building around 1969. This was probably to coincide with the opening of the building that year. For those only familiar with how things operate these days, the old system now seems very ancient. It required two telephones on a desk, internal and external. You called via the internal exchange with very old dial phones (in some cases), whilst to make an external call you picked up the receiver of the other phone and waited for the operator to answer.
You then had to request an ‘outside line’ and from there you could dial your call. All incoming calls to Imperial were answered by the operator and then put through to the extension in question. There were no connections between the two systems! So if a location only had an internal phone there was no way to contact them from outside of the college. The internal exchange catered for some 2,500 extensions whilst the external catered for 1,500 extensions.
The new system was deemed so “new” that training sessions were put into place at various locations around college. These were designed for either staff or students and some even took place in the Great Hall. It may seem odd, but at that time most secretaries, for example, were using normal electric golf-ball typewriters and few people had contact with computers unless they were academic. So, having to press button combination’s to achieve things like two way calling or call transfer had some people a bit stumped, thus the training sessions were arranged. As this concerned all of college there was great publicity and this can be seen from this mid-summer edition of the student newspaper Felix from 17 August 1984 (pages 4 & 5).
The colour stills of both the 1950’s exchange and switchboard are taken from the videotape I shot. So far, I’ve not located any other images of, what was, a major part of the daily unseen operation of Imperial College. I suspect that these sequences in the video may have been the first time that some people had seen any of these background services operating. I was also one of the first to experience the new system.
A few weeks before operation began I was asked if I’d wait by my current internal phone at around 6pm one evening whilst it was manually switched from the old to the new system. I then received a call via the new exchange to test all functionality and quality of sound. The rest is now part of college history as we all take the new systems as part of normal daily college life. But is was just a little bit different when you picked up the external phone and knew the person on the switchboard and had a short conversation before saying…”can I have an outside line please?”.
It’s funny how things happen by chance. This months entry is a bit like that. I thought it was about time I made use of some of the footage that we have of the college’s Tywarnhale mine in Cornwall, when I looked at the label on the tapes I noticed that it was 30 years ago this month, April 1980 that I went down to Cormwall. The mine and surrounding land (purchased in 1909/11 with extra land purchased in 1912) was sold by Imperial in about 2005. Here’s a BBC Cornwall web page about the sale dated 15th October 2005. As we couldn’t find any real photos of it in the college’s archives, the picture of the RSM sign is from one of the videotapes I shot. Here’s a brief history of the mine from the “Cornwall Calling” website. Please click on MORE to continue…(more…)