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In praise of politics

Your rectorial election memories paint a vivid picture of protest, participation and incident which, we hope, inspire as the upcoming election approaches.

Previous rectors

Last month we asked graduates to send memories of previous rectorial elections.

Thanks to everyone who responded either via email or by posting on the Edinburgh Alumni Facebook page.

Flower power

Mathematics graduate, John Matthews remembers the controversy that accompanied the election of journalist, author and satirist Malcolm Muggeridge in 1966.

It was, John recalls, an era of student protest, flower power and free love and the then editor of The Student, Anna Coote orchestrated a, bating campaign against Muggeridge who they saw as hopelessly old fashioned.

The key issue was a recent motion from the Students' Representative Council (SRC) asking that contraceptives should be freely available from the Student Health service which Muggeridge interpreted as a demand for free contraceptives and used a sermon at St. Giles' Cathedral in January 1968 to resign his position.

John, as secretary of the SRC, organised the installation of Muggeridge’s replacement, the broadcaster and naturalist, Kenneth Allsop.

Quad 1960

A memorable maul

Professor Michael Dixon’s memories are equally colourful, with tales of a 1960s Old College quad battle that accompanied the election of Liberal politician Jo Grimond.

The melee included, flour bombs and an occasional fish head, but Michael insists that all was in good humour and that the battle, was more like a glorified maul transferred from the rugby pitch.

At a recent lecture to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Grimond’s birth which Michael attended, another Edinburgh Rector, David Steel quoted Grimonds rectorial address.

 

 

I urge all of you to become politicians […]. I urge you because politics are important, because politics are rewarding, but, most of all, because politics are one of the greatest, most natural and most enjoyable of human activities.

From Jo Grimond's rectorial addressQuoted by the Rt Hon Lord (David) Steel of Aikwood KT KBE

Part of the process

The rewarding nature of life on the campaign trail was also highlighted by a number of alumni including Madeline Patterson whose late husband, Dr John Patterson, campaigned enthusiastically, with humour and success, for the election of Alastair Sim as Rector in the late 1940s.

Another alumnus, Jim Eccleston was an unexpected campaign manager when a letter sent (with fellow student Steve Foley) to the Scottish football commentator Archie McPherson, was received extremely positively and in no time at all, we were having a pint with him to discuss strategy in a pub in Rose Street!.

Inspiring current students

Thanks again to everyone who contacted us with their memories of elections past.

We hope that our current students are inspired to make the rectorial elections a part of their own Edinburgh experience and that staff are equally motivated to get involved.