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Robert Lyn

(Mechanical Engineering, 1973)
remembers Elton John and Deep Purple performing at Imperial

Listen to the interview here

Robert Lyn I had quite an interesting time here actually. I came at the end of ’68 and I studied Mechanical Engineering, but I had to repeat some years, so I actually graduated in ’73. I have since worked in the Mechanical Engineering industry and still do, so it was all very successful.

Interviewer: How did you meet?

Mrs Lyn Well, I was a nurse at Westminster Hospital that is now part of Imperial College and we met. We had friends that were mutual friends, I had a friend who went here who was a friend of yours.

RL Yes, and I had a friend who was a nurse that was a friend of yours, so it was mutual friends meeting.

ML We met in February 1973, and got married in October 1973.

RL We did.

ML And we are still happily together, I think.

RL Still, yeah.

ML We've also got three daughters, and our middle daughter was a student here as well.

RL Yes she's in the Royal School of Mines and she recently got married, didn’t she?

ML Yeah.

RL Two weeks ago. She had a great time here. She stayed in Southside; I stayed in Garden Hall for I think it was two years.

Interviewer: And how was life in the Halls?

Rock ConcertRL There was a lot of emphasis on music. We had a lot of concerts here, the entertainment department. I was telling one of the ladies that took us up the tower; I came to see Elton John, when they opened the Great Hall here and the Sherfield Building. The first concert I think was Deep Purple and I remember sitting on the bank, and it was so noisy, your ear drums were going like this, and then we had Elton John came, that must have been in ’72 or ’73. He was supposed to start at eight o’clock but he didn’t roll up until about nine, or nine thirty even, and of course the Bursar, I can't remember the name, he was trying to run the thing like a ship and when Elton came in he started playing and it was a fantastic concert and when it got to eleven o’clock and the Bursar wanted to close the concert down, Elton just carried on playing and the Bursar got up and was walking up and down in front of the stage…

ML Looking at his clock.

RL Going like this, looking at his clock, and nobody took any notice of him and the concert went on until gone midnight I think. So it was all very amusing.

ML It was fun being a student in London though in the ‘70s.

RL Yeah it was.

ML Lots of parties, lots of dances…

RL That’s right, yes.

ML And there weren’t many girls were there, at Imperial College in those days?

RL No. We had a thing called the University of South Kensington that was created to try and help the situation, but there weren’t many girls. So the Institute Francais was part of it and various training schools and then they used to… Imperial always had the best social functions, so there was a lot of distraction from work and of course the work was very hard. Because we used to study everything in great depth, there was lots of lectures and problem sheets and everything, but there were lots of distractions, and all these concerts we were talking about, the parties that my wife was talking about, yes, it was difficult to balance work and play, I think.

ML But the problem that still seems to continue, speaking to some of the students now, is the accommodation. Trying to find a flat, always having to be ahead of yourself, trying to find somewhere to live and I think that is still a problem today.

RL It is, yes. And that was a problem, because you would end up in Wimbledon or somewhere, so it was…

ML Or sleeping on somebody’s floor. Didn’t think you would do that.

RL No, no, I was quite fortunate actually. Probably the furthest out was West Ken which was quite good.

ML You should say about the triple room.

RL Oh yes…

ML When you started here.

Garden HallRL Oh yes. There was a triple room in Garden Hall. There were three of us in one room and a large bathroom next door that had a big cast iron bathtub that we had to share with the Warden. Well, not at the same time, obviously. And it was very Victorian style, or Edwardian style décor in the bathroom I remember.

ML And three of you sharing a room.

RL Yes, that was quite difficult really. When you are trying to study in shared rooms… in fact when my daughter came she didn’t share. So I found that quite difficult with studying actually being in a room probably the size of this room, with three people. .

RL We used to have Hall parties and then for Hall photographs somebody would just decide, let's all dress up, so we just found some crazy things to wear. Improvised really; one guy went as a pirate and he borrowed the broomstick from the cleaning lady and then put his leg up behind and put the broom down, so he got one leg and then he made a parrot out of an old sock, or something.

RL One thing when I was at Imperial, there were a lot of, because everyone used to get full grants then I think there was a very broad social spectrum. Obviously you had to get good exam results to get in, but there were people from mining families up north, in all social spectrums from all over the UK because there were full grants for them to come. And I remember some of my friends who had come down from areas up north, and they had never been to London before, even though we had been out drinking on a Saturday night, they would be up early on a Sunday to go to Carnaby Street and Petticoat Lane, buy all these old army coats and things, to look trendy. Because we all had long hair and stuff, but I could never get into that really. Even though I used to live quite near to London, I never used to get up and go to these things. I don’t think I saw many mornings at the weekend really.

ML We used to think it was very safe here, I don’t know whether you feel London is safe now? We used to feel very safe, although post boxes used to be closed off because there was always a threat of IRA Irish bombers, but there was no sort of hint of terrorism or people frightened to go on the undergrounds

RL Or street crime. There was no street crime then really.

ML Or unless we just didn’t know about it. But as a female, a woman, you could easily… when I was doing nightshifts at the hospital, Westminster, you just walked along the streets for your break at two o’clock in the morning and never ever thought about it. So I don’t know whether it really was safer, but it felt safe. And there was a lot of fashion being the centre of things and I never ever felt particularly poor then.

ML Although we would go to the bank and you would get out five pounds and it would last forever. Imagine now. I always felt as though I had money for…

RL Doing things.

ML Doing what I wanted to do. It's different today though. If you went to a pop concert or whatever now, it would cost you a lot more, proportionately, an awful lot more. But it was just memories of good times, good friends…

RL That’s right.

Filming by Barbara Axt Portella.

  © 2007 Imperial College London

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