I remember arriving at Pathfoot on the very first day to find the press waiting, including Hugh McDiarmid’s son Michael Grieve reporting for the Daily Record and an old colleague, Stirling Journal editor Alf Reilly, who said to me: “Hey, I thought I was covering for The Scotsman!” To which I replied: “You are Alf. I’ve left the paper – I’m here as a student.” “ Alf: “Good. You can do me a weekly column of campus news”. So I did, for the next three years.
In his memories, Paul Martin mentions many personalities who visited campus in those early years. I can add more and you will see what a great extra-mural, hands-on, brains-on, education we enjoyed:
- A lively and memorable dinner at the Cottrell's with Gwynfor Evans (Plaid Cymri MP), Dr Robert McIntyre (Provost of Stirling and erstwhile SNP MP), Professor Price (a Welshman and head of French), and my fellow students Norman Bowman and Vickie Prentice.
- Discussing South Africa with author and anti-apartheid activist Ruth First (later assassinated by parcel bomb in Mozambique) and the Biafra war with George (later Lord) Thomson (then Minister without Portfolio in the Wilson Government).
- Being educated on Czechoslovakia in 1968 by Dr Lumir Soukup (Glasgow University) who had been political secretary to prime minister Jan Masaryk (assassinated during the Soviet takeover in 1948) – Dr Soukop spoke to Stirling students about how best to help student refugees from the 1968 Soviet intervention.
- Other speakers I remember from 1967-71 include: Sir Keith Joseph (Mrs Thatcher’s guru), George Younger (later Minister of Defence), Jack Straw (then president of England’s NUS), Professor Liam Hudson from Edinburgh explaining how school lacklustres like Darwin and Einstein became geniuses, George Ivan Smith (senior UN civilian administrator in the Congo during the turbulent independence years), Minister of Overseas Development Reg Prentice, and a small-group discussion with Scottish socialists including Matt Lygate (later imprisoned for robbing a bank to fund the revolution – on campus he seemed a sincere guy, to me. But I suppose sincere robbery is still robbery).
One anecdote comes to mind from the early days:
In 1968 the students‘ first charity week was opened by Foreign Minister George Brown, who happened to be holidaying at a friend’s home in Denny. Accompanied by Mrs Brown, he drove up to Pathfoot in their gold-coloured Jaguar. No chauffeur, no aides, no spin doctor, no bodyguard. All very friendly and informal. And so a group of students accompanied the Browns on foot to Alangrange student/staff club (ah, the liberated era of shared social space).
Passing us in the opposite direction was an undergraduate named Brian, who called out: “Don’t know why you bothered to come to this place!“. Foreign Minister: “Why what’s wrong with it?“ Brian: “It’s too small“ Foreign Minister: “Never mind, like you it’ll grow up“. And, of course it did. Perhaps Brian did too.