"In the Beginning"

By John Willmott, September 2010 

I was appointed to the first Lectureship in Computation, as the department was called initially, in the autumn of 1967. Towards the end of the interview, Lord James, the Vice-Chancellor threw his legs over the side of his chair and proceeded to smoke his pipe. In a short while, the interview was called to a close and I was informed that the Registrar would be writing to me in due course. Upon walking back to the Department across the campus from Heslington Hall, the Head of Department (DGBH at that time) told me that I had secured the job and what the VC had done was to tell the other interviewers that he had made up his mind that I should be appointed. And indeed, in the middle of the next week, I received an offer of the post from John West-Taylor, the then Registrar.

All that remained was for me to resign my lectureship at UMIST and to serve the necessary notice. I arrived in the Department in March 1968 to begin what was 30 years service.

The department was located in a single story block of offices next to what became later the Computer Service Department. As I recall, the building housed a “library”    (it never had any books in it), the toilets, a large room (whose initial purpose I cannot recall), the Secretaries’ Office with an inner sanctum where the HoD had his office and then two rows of offices for lecturers, on either side of a corridor. At the bottom of the corridor was a small cubicle where tea and coffee could be made (we made our own) and where we could wash our mugs or cups. In addition, there was a so-called seminar room.

In the autumn of 1968, we were joined by another lecturer, Dr Ron Thomas, who came with me from UMIST.  He had been on our MSc course in Computation at UMIST. Gradually, this small building filled up as the new HoD, Professor Ian Pyle, who arrived in about 1974, appointed more staff. It was Professor Pyle who, upon his arrival, changed the name of the department to Computer Science.

Professor Ian Wand had joined the staff, as a lecturer, in about 1970 from IBM. So full did the building become that two lecturers, including myself moved into temporary offices in the then new Wentworth College.  I took with me a couple of my research students including Professor Alan Burns. I seem to remember that Ian Wand and his Ada team moved into premises in the Chemistry Department. These moves proved to be the beginning of the end of the old building which was knocked down eventually in the 1990’s to be replaced a row of shops!

All in all, I worked in five different buildings including one that became the Careers Service, another which later housed the Environment Department and of course, finally, that big building next to the University Library. All this reflected that our department was growing and required larger accommodation. I retired in 1998.