Grace Dean looks through the archives to trace Newcastle’s campus history.
1976 – pissed or pissing?
The behaviour of a Sheffield University football team almost caused Union staff to strike. Arriving at Newcastle, the team wreaked havoc in the Union building, including throwing a pint glass full of urine at the Ladies’ Cloakroom Attendant. Although they didn’t manage to hit their desired target, one girl slipped on the yellow liquid and “her clothes were soaked through”. The Vice-President of the Union, who was Duty Officer that night, was punched in the face and had a pint of beer poured over his head, while one of the porters was threatened with a broken glass and spat on. It seems that no one was spared the chaos; one member of the Sheffield team was also found “urinating over the Bun Room balcony onto some of his friends in the bar below. He ran away but a few minutes later another was seen exposing himself in full view of the barmaids in the Lower Bun Room”.
1979 – Union set alight
The so-called Winter of Discontent spread across Britain, which saw widespread strikes by public sector trade unions demanding pay rises during what was the coldest winter since 1963. On campus, piles of rubbish had been began to build up by the back entrance of the Students’ Union as refuse collectors also went on strike. What initially was merely an eyesight to campus’ façade soon become a grave danger, however, as the piles of rubbish went up in flames. Students drinking in the Union assisted staff members in extinguishing the fire, including directing a fire hose from a higher window. The fire brigade ultimately put the fire out, but the rear of the building, which has since become Venue, was blackened, with several nearby windows cracking under the heat. Although no cause of the fire was ascertained, it was rumoured that the fire was started intentionally in light of numerous recent arson attempts in the building.
1988 – where have all the tampons gone?
A letter written “on behalf of all female students” was sent to the Courier expressing annoyance that the Union’s tampon machines were being replaced with condom machines. The student said that “fair enough, the availability of condoms is useful, but is it actually necessary to replace Tampax machines with them? After all sex is optional, periods are not. Not only is it extremely inconvenient if not embarrassing when ‘caught short’ but totally insulting that condom machines have priority to Tampax machines in the ladies’ toilets. Isn’t it time that the University showed respect and consideration to its female members?”
2001 – no laptop? You’re out
Students of 2001 feared that they could soon be required to buy their own laptops – or miss being kicked out of university. This followed the example of Warwick University, which had just announced plans to make laptops compulsory for all students by 2003. Newcastle higher-ups “refused to rule [this] out” as a possibility here, despite student representatives at both Newcastle and the NUS fearing that this would create yet another barrier to higher education access to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
2012 – mascot missing
Students were sickened to discover the loss of Team Newcastle mascot Rory Lion, who was abducted from the Students’ Union and replaced with a note reading: “We have Rory, give us the cup if u want 2 c him again”, made of letters cut out from magazines and newspapers. Though at first the absence was explained as a practical joke made by one of the Union’s sabbatical officers, a thorough interrogation cleared them of any suspicion. In the run up to Stan Calvert, the former varsity between Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, concerned staff and students searched avidly for Rory, with appeals being launched on Facebook and Twitter. A character profile described Mr Lion as follows: “Standing at approximately six-foot tall, Rory has a mane of longer ginger hair, large eyes, sharp teeth, whiskers and a tail. It is also thought he has a strong dislike for parrots and fondness of steak”. Rory had been a common fixture at Gateshead Stadium during the Stan Calvert Cup, and was looking forward to celebrating his fifth birthday at the time of his disappearance. During the 2009 Cup, however, he became a controversial campus character after rugby tackling and taking out a streaker during the Men’s Rugby Union fixture against the Poly.
Last modified: 17th February 2020