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From the archives: Shearer celebrated, socialists succeed, and Condom Olympics come to campus

Written by News

Grace Dean looks through the Courier archives to trace the more memorable moments of Newcastle’s history.

67 years ago – Courier goes rogue

In 1952, the Courier went a bit rogue when the editorial team decided to produce a pullout, known as the Scourier, which parodied the student news of the day in what was claimed to be “a light-hearted mirror if its more intellectual prototype”. This included a surrealist account of a flying saucer visiting the Union, an account of a student allegedly being decapitated, and a series of dark-humoured mock adverts, with one promising that “You can get robbed at Manky’s Bank” whilst another argued: “Why not shave by SHAVO? You don’t need blades, brush, soap. Just blood”.

46 years ago – Courier suffers socialist takeover

Following years of rising tensions between the Courier, the sabbatical officers and the then-powerful Socialist Society, the Editor of the Courier was replaced with a socialist candidate

Then Editor Richard Elsy was accused by Socialist Society of poor-quality journalism and political bias, and after narrowly surviving multiple votes of no confidence at Student Council, he resigned from the role in December 1973. Back then the Editor of the Courier was a position elected by Student Council, which at the time was a battle between political ideologies. Although the Courier’s editorial team put forwards a News Editor to replace Elsy, the Socialist Society, who dominated Council at the time, proposed their own candidate who was ultimately voted in and became the new Editor. From January 1974 onwards, the Courier was ran by Socialist Society as an “editorial collective” containing lengthy editorials criticising “international capitalism” and the Tory government.

20 years ago – Condom Olympics come to campus

An article titled “you silly willy”, published in the paper in December 1999, described how “a Friday night of revelry in the Union came to a sticky end with a performance of the Condom Olympics”. The event, organised as part of World AIDS Day, included contenders putting their partners in as many different positions as possible in just sixty seconds. The paper described how “the winning couple came to a bug end scooping a six-foot tall willie punch bag”, which was described as “ri-dick-ulous”.

Image: the Courier archives

That week the paper also claimed that “Newcastle could become the first University to be run by students” as a second year Physics student announced his plans to run for Vice-Chancellor. Highlights of Dave Wilkinson’s radical agenda included banning the University from ever charging top-up fees, axing the “widely hated” semester system, and assessing work based on research rather than through exams. He argued that “it’s about time that somebody with modern experience of the system – who didn’t leave University 40 years ago – got the job. Now that students are consumers of education, paying for the privilege, it is important that the University does not overlook us in order to concentrate on research”.

10 years ago – Shearer celebrated

In December 2009, Sir Liam Donaldson, then Chief Medical Officer for England, was officially inaugurated as Chancellor of the University. Prior to his role commencing, Sir Liam attracted attention by speaking out against “irresponsible” club promoters. Following on from controversially proposing a minimum price per unit for alcohol in March of that year, Sir Liam furthered this with his outspoken criticism of then city centre bar Linker’s for selling shots for just 1p. Sir Liam voiced the health reasons behind his comments and also discussed the peer pressure behind many drinking situations, which he criticised as being a part of the “deep-seated Northern European culture”.

Sir Liam was one of the most senior officials in the NHS and was knighted in 2002 for his contributions to health. During his 14 year period as Chief Medical Officer for England, he was celebrated for his contributions to developing new legislation to regulate stem cell research, and his influence in the introduction of the smoking ban in 2007.

His inauguration ceremony also included the presentation of four honorary degrees, one of which went to Geordie sporting hero Alan Shearer. The former Newcastle United striker and BBC presenter was awarded the title of Doctor of Civil Law, his second honorary degree after receiving one with the same title from Northumbria University in 2006.

December 2009 also saw Sir Paul McCartney take a day out of his European tour to speak to the European Parliament in Brussels to propose an official endorsement of “Meat-Free Mondays”. The Courier was critical of this, with one reporter arguing that “meat eaters will become alienated. Diners gorging on a steak will receive disgusted looks not dissimilar to those directed at smokers in the wake of the smoking ban. Profits at McDonalds will rapidly plummet as activist groups take over restaurants in the same way that Plane Stupid campaigners take over runways.” The writer, while praising McCartney’s intentions, concluded that “he’s going to have to get a lot more people on board than middle-class Prius drivers and those with a fondness for a bag for life.”

Last modified: 12th December 2019

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