Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Swindon College, gone but not forgotten

This week saw the final demise of the old Swindon College, a place for which I have many reasons to be grateful.  Certainly not for it's architecture, or even for the fact that the wonderful XTC once played there, supporting Thin Lizzy.  No, this was the place that gave me the chance to get back into education, some years after I left school.

The received wisdom was that I would be lucky to get my O levels (younger readers are referred to Google at this point) and so I left school at 16.  A few years later, and unemployed, I turned up here to enroll for a couple of A levels at evening class.  I didn't have enough money to sign up so they asked me how much I could afford and accepted that.  I'm really grateful that they did that. 

I then spent from September to May going to two evening classes a week to study for a couple of A levels.  Most of the time I had a temporary full-time job and I studied in the evenings.  Looking back, I'm amazed that I had the dedication but I knew that I needed A levels to get into college to do something more interesting than accountancy, which I'd been doing for too long after school.

It was here that my English Literature lecturer told us this was a crash course and that if we worked hard we'd pass but we could forget about getting an A grade.  In all his years only one person had done this and she was a nun - like that proved something.  It was he who gave me a love for the poetry of John Donne.  He once broke a strike to teach us one week because he didn't feel it was fair on us part-timers trying to get back into education.  We went with him to The Beehive pub round the corner.  Quality fellow.   

It was here that my Sociology lecturer persuaded a group of us that there was no reason we couldn't apply to a university.  None of us believed him.  I played safe and had a couple of offers from teaching colleges for any kind of grades.

I collected my results with my aunt, who had registered for Sociology too.  We celebrated with cream cakes.  I got a C in Sociology and emulated the nun in Eng. Lit.  

Looking back I don't quite know how I managed it.  I wish I could thank the people that helped me on my way, without them I don't know what I'd be doing now.  As it was I got to university, met my favourite parishioner, and got to do similar kind of work as the nun. 

Swindon College, you were an ugly thing but I couldn't have done it without you.  Thank you.    


  1. Hi,
    I did my access course and English was part of that. Did Dave Lamb teach you or John? Can you remember John's name? I know it began with an H:)

    ps after my access course I moved to Durham to attend University, best bloody thing I ever did and like you, didn't think I had the dedication.

  2. Hi Ruth

    Yes, it was Dave Lamb. Because I was only going up two evenings a week I think I only ever met two members of staff!

    Well done on the access course, Durham is a BIG achievement, you win! I made it to Lancaster, quite happy with that though.

  3. Wow. Had no idea it had been demolished, haven't been back to Swindon for 20 years. I have so many thanks to that place and both Dave Lamb and John Hollis.