Hey everyone 15 years ago today I graduated from the University of Strathclyde gaining a joint honours degree in Geography and Politics with a 2/2 grading. As I stepped up to collect my degree I realised that as soon as I left the reception for the graduates of the class of 99 I would have written this chapter of my story and it would be time to turn a fresh page and start writing the next chapter in my life.
The day itself is no more than a distant memory but those who shared it most certainly are not. The memories of the struggles we shared, and the support we gave each other are far more vivid than any recollections of the actual day itself and you know, sometimes in my quieter moments I reflect on my memories and find myself asking the question I wonder what became of us The Class of 99
Maybe it is the ticking of the biological clock but when I look back on my years at Strathclyde I seem to remember that every day and for that matter night, was so action packed I never had a single spare minute. From freshers week to final exams there was seldom a day went by which could be ever described as ordinary. There was or at least so it seemed at the time always something interesting going on. From early morning lectures on 1st year Monday’s not good for those recovering from a heavy weekend of it, to busy Thursday’s where there was a heady variety of activities from lectures, to matters of faith at the Christian union followed by debates drinks and sometimes very bad dancing. I cherish all memories made in times of struggle.
In many ways my journey through my university years is similar to my involvement in politics and especially the referendum campaign. Like my university years the campaign has had a beginning, a middle, and is now rapidly approaching its end. Another similarity is the fact that like my university years I have made many friendships which will survive the test of time. This news will I think surprise nobody as the best friendships are based on shared interests.
Like all different periods of my life my university years were not without there downside. There were difficult days only a fool would deny this. There were days when I wondered if I would ever get that essay done or if I had done enough preparation for my tutorial despite burning the midnight oil for three nights in a row after having studied for hours at the library.
There would also be an odd situation when some wee pompous posh boy who had too much to drink and far too high an opinion of themselves would ask how I could possibly have got a higher mark than them in an essay or exam and without a trace of irony would say I’m younger and taller than you and I went to a better school.
These people would usually be rescued later by our emergency services who would with great difficulty manage to remove their head from their arse. The really bizarre thing about it was that 99% of them were not on my course and many of them I would guess around 90% did not even attend my university or for that matter any university but went to one of the local colleges and drank in our student union to give the appearance of intelligence they simply did not have. I have to say I always took great pleasure in shattering their egos into so many little pieces that it really would be easier to put humpty dumpty back together rather than their fragile little attitudes.
However for every halfwit I met I was lucky to encounter 99 others who were good decent people who provided me not only with memories which have lasted over a decade and will stay with me for a lifetime, but also friendships some of which survive to the present day.
At this time I think not only on Ailsa King, Carolyn Black, Katrina Cuthbertson, nee (Gibson) Russell Auld, and Simon Mawson, and Jo Muir all of whom I remain in touch with, but also those who I may not have heard of for a while but who on this day each year return to my thoughts and will never be totally forgotten.
I think of all who shared those four years with me. For example the best student president our university has ever had I refer of course to the force of nature that was and always will be the amazing Kirsty O’Brien. I remember those who shared my journeys in both my Geography and Politics classes and friends from all the different societies I joined during my four year rollercoaster ride. Friends such as my graduation guest Charissa Montgomery now Ferguson who was perhaps my closest confidant of all after meeting in our first ever Sociology tutorial we saw each other all way through to our graduation days. I attended her ceremony two days after she had been guest of honour at mine. You know, the really great thing about that Sociology group is that it gave me two real top quality friends. I verify this by saying that it was in this group where I first met Blackie aka Carolyn who is probably the friend from those that I see most often of all.
I also recall long nights in libraries and marathon sessions particularly during exam times and when essay deadlines were coming up. It was at times like this when you could really sense the bonds between us and the strongest bonds are those which are made in adversity. It was usually at lunch time or during evening break we would meet friends to make arrangements for later as to whether or not we would head across to the union for one or go to another city centre venue to unwind and in the mid to late 1990’s we had plenty of choice within five to ten minutes walk from campus.
When it comes to favourite memories of my times at Strathclyde the names of Nicola MacFarlane and Nicola Whightman are never far away from them and the same can be said of Paul O’Hagen, Kenny MacEachran, Kirsty Wilson, Tommy McGuigan, who now works as a sports journalist in the only job he ever really wanted and Ruth Gorman who Tommy used to wind up saying that she looked like Posh Spice.
This would drive Ruth in to an almost apoplectic rage and she would demand to be told by whoever was nearest that she was better looking than that as she as so diplomatically and eloquently put it.
The names of Claire Woodhead, Sarah King, Judy MacDonald, my secret role model Joanne Black, Laura Martin, Julie Robertson, and all who shared time with me on Geography field trips to Newcastle, and The Netherlands will also be remembered fondly. Those field trips were good we worked hard but my abiding memory of Newcastle was being dumped with Grant Presley, Paul Corrigan, Vinnie Rodgers and others in a picturesque village at around 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning after being at the legendary Big Market till almost 3am the night before. This was not good and the fresh air may not have helped some people’s hangovers.
I have to say however that my field trips did not end at the Netherlands or even with the Geography department. Remember this is me we are talking about here, and I have this uncanny ability to as my former boss once put it ‘get a piece at anyone’s door’ This included the door of the English Department who decided that since I was a performance poet and provided I could get access to the money I could attend their creative writing weekend to Arran. This I have to say was a brilliant experience which I must admit I really enjoyed.
Having mentioned earlier the names of Nicola MacFarlane and Nicola Whightman I should perhaps say that both of them deserve to be singled out as having a wee place in my heart as unlike the guys or indeed a number of the girls they were able to get me to open up about personal stuff which I was a lot more reluctant to share in the 1990’s than is the case now. I wonder if they will ever truly know how helpful they actually were to me in my journey to becoming the woman I am today. I hope they do and I hope should they read this they will see for themselves the work they did by planting seeds of hope has come like a flower to bloom.
You know, flowers take time to bloom and so do people. It is my hope and belief that though we will all have grown older and most cases wiser and many of us will undergone more than a few changes in my case includes a change of gender, I still think we are essentially the same people in a lot of ways and we will have held true to our principles and values we learned not only from books, but from our lecturers, and of course each other.
You know the world is a very different place than it was on the 30th June 1999. On the day when after four long years of intensive study and even more intensive socialising we finally graduated as the class of 99. We have a place in history, not only as graduates but as the last graduates of the last century and indeed the last millenium. As we said our goodbyes we looked forward to the future with hope in our hearts and belief in our dreams. The world was ours or so seemed. So on this day I remember with both affection and pride all of you, my fellow classmates and sum up by quoting the words of Elle Woods from the greatest feel good movie ever made. Yes I do mean Legally Blonde. ‘Congratulations Class of 99 We Did It’
Love And Best Wishes