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Anne Barrett

(The College Archivist)
reflects on G.C Lowry, who was part of the Imperial College Administration 1923-58

At Geoffrey Charles Lowry’s retirement dinner on 12th June 1958, the Rector warmly commended Mr Lowry and also his wife, saying:

“The Imperial College is 51 years old and Mr Lowry has served it for 35 of these 51. We are, I think, a College to which people become attached for long periods.”

Portrait of Mr LowryMr Lowry joined College in 1923 as Assistant to Mr Gow, the first Secretary. Suggesting that Lowry was something of a whirlwind, the Rector describes College and continues: ‘It was in this placid atmosphere that Mr Lowry descended upon the College. He soon made his mark. Almost at once he became Secretary to the Delegacy [to the City and Guilds College which did not become a constituent College of Imperial College immediately in 1907], then rapidly Second-in Command to C company of the O.T.C.; the Temporary Secretary of the Union and of the Refectory.
Photo right: Portrait of Mr Lowry

The cartoon depicting ten officials with the face of LowryThe next year he became registrar. Other offices followed and it was about this time that the celebrated cartoon appeared in Phoenix depicting a group of ten officials, each of which had the face of Lowry.’ In 1934 Lowry became College Secretary and apart from some Army service during WWII (he was released in 1941 at the request of the then Rector Sir Henry Tizard as being indispensable to the running of the College), remained in this post until 1958.
Photo above: Cartoon depicting ten officials each with the face of Lowry.

Lowry involved with Imperial College tug-of-warLowry took a very active part in College life, he and his wife becoming wardens of the new College Hostel and also later of Selkirk Hall. They were warmly thought of by students and staff. In his autobiography (Pearls Before Swine) Lowry recalls incidents during his Wardenship such as the students making illicit night time use of a working crane to give each other lifts from the pavement to the balcony of the Beit Building. A popular pastime was Warden baiting – mainly consisting of emptying a bucket of water over the Wardens’ head when he was entering or leaving the building, to the residents’ great amusement when this was achieved.
Photo right: Lowry involved with Imperial College tug-of-war.

He describes four royal visits and during that of 1945, describes the consternation he caused to the royal party by ‘inadvertently increasing the pace’ as they walked through a temporary covered way from the Albert Hall to the students union, so leaving them trailing behind.

Discussing colleagues, he mentions that the first College Secretary, Alexander Gow believed that he could get all his work completed - if he worked without interruptions – between 9am and 1pm and 2pm and 4pm! This he did, but it made him appear severe and unfriendly. For the first 6 months of Lowry’s working with him, Gow said only ‘good morning’ each day and nothing more. One very old fashioned Registrar, John Jones expected his staff to bow and take off their hats to him if they met him in the street or corridor – this tipped over into their behaviour for Lowry at first until he persuaded them not do so.

On his retirement, G.C. Lowry was to ‘undertake a study of the Governing Body papers for the period approximately of his service with the College. (1935-1953).’

In 1959 Lowry wrote to the next College Secretary J.M. Corin:

‘I have found this work so absorbing that I have crammed two years work into one. There are about 450-500 items on which I have written or will write monographs and I estimate that cross references will probably produce about 1000-2000 additional index headings. I look upon the completion of a fully-comprehensive Index as of the greatest importance, if the completed work is to be of real importance to the College Office.’

This remains in the College Archives, as a transfer case of documents indexed with references to extracts from the Governing Body, which have indeed proved very useful to the now many offices in College over the past years.

  © 2007 Imperial College London

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