Not heard of it?
Neither had I until the spring of 1993. I was in my last year of A Levels and had the opportunity to attend an open day. My parents and I made the epic journey from Sheffield (some 200 miles or so – a 4 hour journey, even with my dad’s ‘Lewis Hamilton’ style of driving…).
Come to think of it, despite applying for other universities, Lampeter was the only open day I attended. Perhaps, subliminally, I knew it was the place for me.
We had to look it up on a map first – sat nav wasn’t really a thing back then. If you drove anywhere of distance the passenger rode shotgun with an atlas, providing directions en route. Lampeter wasn’t a place many of my friends had heard of either. It was one of those places you had to look up to check that it actually existed.
I first heard about Lampeter from my old Classics teacher who recommended the place to me. Lampeter was one of the few universities that taught Classics and there was no question that this was what I wanted to do. Apparently my tutor knew one of the Classics lecturers at Lampeter (a certain Tony Brothers) through his work with the Open University.
I remember meeting Geoff Eatough, the head of department for Classics at that time. Geoff was a gritty northerner, like myself, and had a charm that I instantly warmed to. The Classics department was based in the Bryn, an amazing building. One the Classics department shared with the Philosophy department and was slightly off campus, giving it a unique sense of character. What really impressed me too was how approachable the lecturers were at Lampeter. I’ve been to other universities since where I’ve been one of many students in vast lecture halls. Lampeter wasn’t like that. All of the lecturers knew you by name. I even went out drinking in the evening with many of them and visited their homes. Something that I very much doubt happens elsewhere.
Due to the long journey I stayed in halls of residence for the night whilst my parents stayed in town. I had a room in Dawson (in the 90s this hall had a bit of a reputation!). Back then many of the halls were split into floors and corridors, with about eight students living on each corridor, sharing one bathroom, one kitchen and one toilet. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Mundane things like someone drinking your milk from the shared kitchen or running out of toilet rolls (!) were regular challenges to overcome and all part of the Lampy experience. Along with queueing for hours at the local phone box on Station Terrace to make a call back home.
No mobile phones and no wifi then, obviously.
I remember going out in the evening round the pubs in town with my parents. Back in the 90s the humble pub was in its heyday – most people went and they were a hive of activity and atmosphere. Lampeter was no different and had a good selection to choose from – I would get to know these quite well over the next five years or so! The locals were really friendly and I remember chatting with my parents to the landlady of the Ivy Bush. Every time my parents came back to visit me when I started my degree the landlady always remembered my parents. That was the kind of place Lampeter was. People took the time to get to know you and they remembered you.
I’ve painted a bit of a picture of somewhere remote, and Lampeter was remote, but that was also part of its charm. That little town nestled in the rolling hills of the Teifi valley was a place apart, very unique and the experiences the students had back then in the 90s were like no other university experience.
There are many fond memories I have of Lampeter and the people I’ve met there over the years (perhaps you, reader, are one of those people and share some of those memories too?), but I just wanted to share my first impressions from that open day.
I return to Lampeter most years and still catch up with the friends that I met there all those years ago and I’ve even made new friends on return visits. It’s hard to imagine that open day was nearly thirty years ago now and I daresay some of my recollections are filtered through rose-tinted glasses. Maybe I’m a bit of a nostalgia freak – or maybe I was just so lucky to have had my time there.
Thank you, my old A level Classics teacher, for recommending this magical place.
This blog post is part of the Lampeter Voices project, commemorating 200 years of university life at Lampeter.