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Abertay University Archives Oral History
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Interview with Sumant Mathure

Sumant Mathure speaks about his time as a research student in Mechanical Engineering at Dundee College of Technology, his journey from India to Dundee in January 1987, the work he did on continuous casting with precious metals, and meeting Prince Philip during the College’s centenary celebrations in 1988.

[0.00] Interview Preliminaries
[03:22] Interview starts
[04:20] Name & connection to University - Jan 1987-May 1991 at DIT
[04:44] Research into continuous casting with gold, silver copper; Working with Birmingham Mint & Rautomead; Student project working on unique relationship with manufacture & institution
[06:00] Already had a Bsc in chemistry (?) from India; Dr Robert W Johnson was his supervisor
[07:00] Degree in metallurgy (mentioned in Herald newspaper)
[08:00] Dr R W Johnson presented a paper on continuous casting in Mumbai at the Hotel Taj. This attracted him to studying in Dundee.
[10:00] Lots of profound memories from his “golden years”. Born in 1966 and arrived in Dundee 5th Jan 1987, only 20 years old, no internet, only letters and telephone to communicate. His Dad was in Dubai when he and his mother received the letter of acceptance from R W Johnson to attend at DIT. Courses started on 7th Jan
[11:53] First time travelling alone internationally. Arrived to the worst winter in the UK
[12:45] Not happy with the snow, weather or food.
[13:53] Met friends, started to feel Scottish
[14:50] Food – first 3 months were in halls of residence. He had to prove he was able to do his studies and so was often working on projects into the later hours. Meaning he’d miss his high tea at the halls and would be given cold salad to eat!
[15:50] Difficult to understand the Scottish accent
[16:15] Student council international food fest. Sumant insisted on 4 tables to represent India
[18:50] Had international housemates, from China, Egypt and Zambia.
[19:20] Duke of Edinburgh visit in 1989 to look at the gold project
[22:00] Gold project. Only a few people were able to enter the mechanical engineering room where the gold project was taking place. Needed a pass to get in. Felt very proud that he was one of the students who had access
[23:30] Sumant ran the demo for Duke of Edinburgh. Metal heated to 1100 degrees C – needed to be very careful and was his responsibility to make sure the demo ran smoothly!
[24:20] Duke of Edinburgh comments on India and how pleased he was with the presence of international students
[25:10] Felt honored as a student to be there
[26:36] Becoming a university in 1992-1994. Had to scrap the mechanical engineering degree.
[28:50] He also did consultancies under R W Johnson and 2 scholarships
[29:20] Joined his father in India after graduating in 1991. 1994 – got married. 1995 – made director of his Dad's company.
[31:00] Over 400 clients, very popular and well-reputed company in India.
[31:40] Still maintained contact with R W Johnson and others.
[31:46] Interview Recording ends

Sumant Mathure

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

Interview with Alexander (Sandy) Robertson

Alexander (Sandy) Robertson shared his memories of studying Mechanical and Production Engineering at Dundee Technical College, including his accommodation in "digs", and using early computers. He shares anecdotes about lectures and various lecturers during his time there.

0.00 Interview started
0.20 Studied Mechanical and Production Engineering – father owned a garage in Nairn
1.10 Showed us his certificate
1.25 Donald Macgregor, his friend from Nairn, did civil engineering
1.50 Things going on at the time - Vietnam War. NCR (National Cash Registers) laying off staff in Dundee
2.30 Talked about new technology that he used – showed a slide rule that he used as a calculator.
3.40 “Everything was new technology to me”
4.20 Funny memories – filling out form for new course, someone wrote “occupation - Poet Laureate”, so he was challenged to recite a poem to everyone else.
5.30 There were hundreds of engineers but they all had to do a common course in Chemistry. Chemists don’t normally do complicated formulae (unlike physicists and engineers), but one day when Dr Hargreaves did, the engineering students all cheered. Dr Hargreaves turned around and said “Don’t cheer! Just throw cigarettes!”
6.40 Tutorials – one student trying to impress his tutor, trying fancy equations to solve a problem – nothing worked. An old tutor in “Plus fours” (trousers tucking into socks) suggested using Ohms Law – “you’ve tried everything else, even though it won’t work you might as well try it.”
8.00 Meeting a support tutor, who asks the students how they’re doing. One student had no problems, but the support Tutor kept asking, “Are you sure?”. Eventually, in desperation – “Maybe you could listen to some of my problems.”.
8.50 1966 college computer. I remember a lab on programming the digital computer. Paper tape of an inch wide, punched with a programme. Basic stuff. Another computer we used more and earlier – an analogue computer. More of a continuous computer, plugging in wires to create circuits (like an old telephone exchange).
11.20 At Aston in Birmingham, he used a computer with punch cards. In early days in Dundee, the computer was huge – filled a whole room.
12.20 AR asked Stuart and Aaron if they used computers much. They used computers a lot – for technology, and English for example.
13.30 Societies – “I had friends that played rugby. I don’t remember being in any societies. We had parties, get togethers, played golf. Societies were not something we had in the 60s.”
14.40 Accommodation – we had to find our own accommodation. Stayed in a Church of Scotland Hostel on Hilltown. Had a cubicle. Amongst other people – bakers, plumbers etc. The baker made the porridge early in the morning – hard once they got to it. Then he stayed in an apartment (flat) with his friend Donald MacGregor, then he was in digs (shared rented accommodation) with a schoolteacher at Kirktown Secondary School, Miss Wallace – Kirktown won Top of the Form in 1967 – she coached that team. Knowledgeable person that helped him get through his final year at the College
17.20 Not been back in Dundee since 1970. He thinks the accommodation has changed. Courses have changed. Very different now.

Alexander Robertson

Interview with Jenny McNeill

Jenny McNeill speaks about her experiences as one of the first nursing degree students at Dundee College of Technology in 1975, and her subsequent career.

Jenny McNeill

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