Harry Harrison, the college engineer
Towards the end of 2013 the alumni office received an email from Paul Hodgson, a Librarian at the Manchester Metropolitan University. Paul explained that his grandfather, Harry Harrison, was the College Engineer at the Lancaster campus (when it was St Martin’s College) for 24 years from 1965 – 1989 and he wondered if we had any archive materials on him.
Harry is pictured on the left with his dog walking through campus.
Harry was such a valued member of the St Martin’s team that he even had his own bungalow on campus, and his memorial plaque can still be found on the side of the Chapel where some trees were planted after he passed away. Harry is fondly remembered by staff and students alike and also, of course, by his family. Here, Paul and his mother Jenny share their memories of Harry and life on the Lancaster campus.
Jenny explains that her father was known as the College Engineer, looking after the Maintenance Department. "He put many extra hours in. Once I remember him appearing from the boiler room having repaired the massive boiler. He was absolutely black, just like a coalman! But he fixed it!"
Paul adds that Harry also took a great deal of interest in sporting life at the College, coaching the football team.
The Bungalow, or ‘Harrison Lodge’ as it was later known, was built around 1969. Harry moved in along with his wife and two daughters, Jenny and Elizabeth. Jenny worked at St Martin’s in the Finance Department until her marriage.
Paul said of the bungalow, "Over time a conservatory was added to the three bedroom bungalow (very modern then) and granddad used to grow fabulous begonias and other plants (he had very green fingers)."
Paul remembers the bungalow as a very modernist building. "My granddad always seemed to be progressive in his tastes; he had a collection of modern art and ceramics, most of which I imagine he procured from the College. My mum and dad still have several pieces that lived in the bungalow - all still stylish in a mid-century modern way."
Paul and his brother spent many summers in Lancaster staying with their grandparents in Harrison Lodge on campus. "We were sport mad and used to spend most of our time playing sport in and around the campus. There was a tennis court just below the bungalow and we used to play for hours," Paul reminisced. "It seemed, as it does when you are young, that the summers were all roasting hot and would last forever. It may have been a week's respite for my parents, but I remember it as a long and happy summer perfecting my tennis serve."
Jenny shared information about her father’s memorial stone at the College. The original stone commemorating his time at College was outside the bungalow where a memorial garden was named after him.
The bungalow originally overlooked the tennis courts, so Paul’s parents used to play any time they liked. Paul said, "I remember one time Aunty Elizabeth’s mini ended up halfway down the slope to the courts, having left the handbrake off!”
Jenny and her husband, Paul’s parents, were married at the Chapel in 1974 (at that time, the construction for the new Library was just taking shape).
Paul’s Aunty Elizabeth was married in the Chapel the following year in September. Jenny was a Cub Leader at the time and all her cubs turned out as a guard of honour. The College Chaplain, Revd Birnham Nottingham, married both couples and he also baptised Paul and his brother.
Paul said, "I remember my granddad and my time on the campus fondly. He used to spoil my brother and I rotten. He used to go down to the bakery before we were even up and buy us fresh bread for breakfast. We used to follow him around campus occasionally and it seemed that he knew everyone. I think I was young enough to believe that he owned the whole campus - he certainly had access to all of it."
Paul’s fondness for all things modernist stems from his memories of St Martin’s. "I love the library building and I have a soft spot for the Church. I can’t help but think that my positive memories of university life and the library in particular have had a strong bearing on my career path as a University Librarian. I now work on a campus very similar to that at St Martin’s: Didsbury Campus, Manchester Metropolitan University."
Paul provided us with some wonderful family photographs of the campus, and he wanted to particularly thank Kim McGowan who works in the library and Joanne Lusher from the Alumni Office. "They have both been spectacularly helpful." It’s been a pleasure to be in contact with Paul and his mum Jenny, and to hear their memories.
If you have any particularly fond memories of life on any University of Cumbria campuses, we would love to hear from you.
Article by Rosina Kermani, final year BA (Hons) Journalism