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End of an era: Senate House bids farewell to porters

The notorious three: from left to right, George Dench, George Iles and Mike Hancock

The notorious three: from left to right, George Dench, George Iles and Mike Hancock Paula Anstey

22 August 2006

July was a busy month for retirements in Site Services, with three Senate House porters choosing the same day to hang up their hats.

Everybody knew George Iles, Senior Porter at Senate House. After 30 years in the police force he joined the University in November 1991 as a part-time porter/cleaner, becoming Senior Porter in 1995. While he never missed the early days of the job when he had to clean the toilets, he will miss the people. ‘You get an insight into people’s personalities by the way they behave when they come into work in the morning. You know the ones you can have a joke with.’ Nevertheless, he is looking forward to retirement – watching the cricket, taking the grandchildren out and collecting stamps. Most abiding memory of working at the University: ‘I once freed a female colleague from the lift when the door got stuck. She was so grateful she threw herself into my arms – it’s the only time that’s ever happened to me in my lifetime’.

Mike Hancock started his working life as an apprentice in ship-repairing on the docks. He became a blacksmith, eventually joining the University as a part-time late porter in June 1997. His easy-going manner made him a hit with the staff straight away. He is planning to enjoy every day of his retirement. ‘I have no particular plans, as you never know what’s going to happen,’ he said. ‘I’m just going to take each day as it comes and enjoy it.’ He’s looking forward to doing a bit of gardening and seeing more of his grandson. Most abiding memory: ‘Sir John Kingman [former Vice-Chancellor] standing at the number 9 bus stop with his robe folded over one arm. He had just come out of Dame Brenda Hale’s installation ceremony. I shouted: “Taxi not turned up again, then, Sir John?” – it had been a running joke between us when he was V-C because nine times out of ten when he ordered a taxi from Senate House it was either late or didn’t turn up at all.’

George Dench worked for the electricity board before joining the University in November 1995 as a part-time late porter. He soon moved to a full-time day shift. His organised, no-nonsense style was always an asset to the team in Senate House. Although he will miss the people at work, he is looking forward to relaxing in retirement and catching up on sleep (he used to get up at 4 am to get into work at 6 am). Most abiding memory: ‘The student occupation of Senate House in 1999 to protest against introduction of student fees. They seemed to fill up the whole building. They even went into a meeting where sandwiches were being served for lunch. There wasn’t much anyone could do except offer them some sandwiches.’

The trio plans to meet up once a month, keeping up the tradition of monthly outings to the pub on pay day.

Other Site Services staff who retired in July or earlier in the year are as follows.

Ted Sheppard started work at the University as a part-time cleaner in Senate House in May 1995. He soon took up an additional role as a Student House cleaner at Priory Road, eventually transferring completely to Student Houses and taking over the post at Rodney Place.

Mike Taylor started as a part-time cleaner in October 1996 in the Physics Building, where he remained for 10 years.

Nobby (Albert) Sharp started as a part-time cleaner in December 1997 at Student Health in Belgrave Road, moving to Social Sciences for the last few months of his working life here.

Alan Heyman worked for the University for 14 years as a part-time cleaner in Medical Sciences.

Pamela Bray joined the cleaning team in Biological Sciences in September 1998, later moving to Chemistry.

Phil Marshall joined the cleaning team in Social Sciences 15 years ago, also helping out in some of the Student Houses.

Ray Exon joined the University as a part-time cleaner in September 1988. He started in the long-gone Homeopathic Student accommodation, later moving to the Queen’s Building.

Bob Mead started as a late-shift porter in January 1996, working in various building including the Merchant Venturers Building and Biological Sciences. He moved over to day shifts and in January 2000 was promoted to Senior Porter at the Queen’s Building.

Paul England started 10 years ago in November 1996 as part-time late porter based in the Arts Faculty.

Bernie Burfitt started as a term-time only porter in May 1993, later becoming a permanent part-time porter based in Queen’s.

Terry Grady started work at the University as a cleaner, later making the switch to portering. From November 1995 he took up the position of full-time late porter. He worked in Physics, Biological Sciences and latterly Medical Sciences.

John King started as a part-time, term-time only porter in May 1993 at the Physics Building, moving to Biological Sciences and then to Senate House as a porter/driver. In 1999, he was promoted to Deputy Head Porter and in November 2001 became Assistant Site Services Manager.


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