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Hope Busák Oral History
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Interview with Richard Irvine

Richard Irvine speaks about his course and career at Dundee Institute of Technology. He spoke about his work as a research student and subsequent member of staff working on developing environmentally sustainable compost, and then acting as an intermediary between industry and the university when he worked for the Abertay Centre for the Environment. After the centre closed he was made redundant and he subsequently worked as a teacher / lecturer periodically for the University.
He speaks about his experience waiting on the Queen when she opened the new library building in 1998, which included speaking to her and helping her when the proceedings got a bit confused.
He talks about his feelings about the change of attitude amongst some staff concerning the change to university status.

0.00 Interview started
0.50 Use of Doctors terms previously, but titles are not used now.
2.15 Got to end of school – wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Flowed into Dundee Institute of Technology. No specific reason to come here.
3.15 HND BioSciences course 1989 – Biotechnology started then. Got HND and got the Young Prize then went into 3rd year of the degree programme. Graduated 1993.
4.30 “Best time of my life” – really good group. All worked really well.
5.10 Studied at Nottingham Trent but didn’t work out. Came back. Friend researching here. Kevin Gartland was working on plant Biotech – stopping Dutch Elm disease. At same time working on waste products – Richard worked on sewage sludge. It can produce compost.
7.20 The University got European Regional Development Fund grant for sustainable environment research institute. It also got its labs refurbished for this. Richard was a Biowaste scientist. He acted as a conduit between the university and general public on environmental issues. It went on for 4 years. Kevin then went to Glasgow Caledonian University, and Richard was made redundant.
9.20 He’s been teaching on and off over the years.
10.20 He remembers great work with a company in Fife during the sustainable environment work – Andrew Cook in Methil / Glenrothes. He helped with composting. The work went on after the end of the project. He travelled round country into factories / yards / caravan sites in remote locations. Not really worrying about the funding, unusually.
13.10 Opening of the Library – 1998. The University was doing lots of fancy dinners for VIP visitors and hon grads and also graduation lunches. Not enough staff. Doris Kinnison? Asked research students if they wanted some extra money to help in these. Royal opening came – Research Student catering staff were first in line for being involved. We just turned up as normal – carparks were cleared. Every draincover was open, looking for explosives. "We winged it!" The Queen arrived, she came in the main door, up to the Principals office, small drinks reception, "we had to wheel along all the alcohol the uni could muster". The Queen was briefed on what would happen, then she went to the library, cut the ribbon, had a tour, she then went back across to the Kydd Building and she had the lunch in the old journal area of the old library which was turned into a reception and dining area. Richard served the Queen and Prince Philip with their Dubonnay and lemonade using the white gloves – the ladies were terrified of dropping it. Everyone filtered away apart from the Queen and Prince Philip. She asked Richard what to do next – he told her to go through the double door. Prince Philip was “playing with the sockets”. She was joking away. Dinner was from students of Dundee and Angus College? Then they lined up and the Queen walked past to leave.
24.20 He has his student and staff cards from his time at the university. Enamel badge for the nursing course that he rescued (does it have a number on it?!). He has a 1950 prospectus. He has a lot of books from when the library was moving. He has material on jute too.
27.40 He talks about the display of jute shuttles in the main building that has disappeared.
28.40 After university status, he feels nothing really changed in the buildings. He thinks there were changes in how the staff perceived the institution – wanted to be more university-like. He thinks there was more university stuff, but less of what it had been doing. DIT had a good record and image of what it was doing – it was just a name change, he feels it shouldn’t have made any difference. On Wednesday afternoons there were never any scheduled classes so you could do clubs, but that faded out in the 1990s.
32.30 He says he is a bit of a collector, hence why he has some good material saved from being thrown out.
35.50 He feels the HND in Biosciences was a really good course. Very positive way of getting into the degree. Strong vocational course. Well put together. Very talented individuals, lecturers, and technicians. They were not into research, but dedicated to teaching. Sometimes their talent was overlooked, and not always respected.

Richard Irvine