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My Cardiff

Eileen Thomas

Eileen Thomas (nee Jarman), the Student Union Vice–President from 1954 –1955 describes her year in office.

Eileen Thomas

Eileen Thomas

The year in which I was Vice–President of the Students’ Union in Cardiff was a memorable one indeed.

During my year of office an attempt was made to gain permission for a bar to be established in the Union Building. In spite of a fine speech by the President, Emrys Roberts, the University Court refused permission.

Many of the Students’ Unions in other universities sent invitations to the President and Vice-President to attend their important functions, usually a Dinner and Ball. These included invitations from the universities of Manchester, Liverpool and the constituent colleges of the University of Wales. Sometimes I accompanied the President, and at other times I was accompanied by my fiancé, David Vivian Thomas, now my husband. One visit stands out as being particularly interesting.

A debate admisison card

A debate admisison card

In April 1955 I received an invitation to speak at a debate held by the University Women’s Union, Cambridge. The motion was “Women’s Place is in this House”. The significance of the motion was, I believe, related to the admission of women into the Cambridge Union. The “Foundation Feast” was held in the Lion Hotel, Cambridge, before the debate. Madame Pandit, Nehru’s sister, was also a speaker. Richard Dimbleby was there for the BBC. and the debate was recorded for television and shown at a later date. Unfortunately, I was unable to see the debate, but my parents were able to do so at a neighbour’s house. Television was quite rare in most homes in those days!

Another event which stands out in my memory was the visit in 1954 of the Duke of Edinburgh to Cardiff and to the Students’ Union Building. We were taught how to bow and curtsy by the Principal! A red carpet was laid out for the Prince to walk from the car to the entrance of the Students’ Union. After the initial introductions Emrys accompanied him into the building. I followed alone, and behind me was a long entourage which included Principal Steel and the Lord Mayor of Cardiff. On the way to the Hall where the Prince was to address the students, the Duke wanted to take off his coat and was duly assisted by Emrys who turned and gave the coat to me! I tried the same tactic, but there was no one behind me willing to help, and so I lost my place in the procession whilst seeking a suitable place to put the coat. In the end I placed it on a radiator! Then I raced back to take my official position. When I reached the steps to the platform to take my place next to the President in the front row the Lord Mayor tried to push me out of the way to get past me. However, I knew where I had to be, so I held my ground with some difficulty. This must have been noticed because, later, I received a letter from Principal Steel apologizing for the treatment of the Vice-President, but also saying that I more than held my own on that occasion!! He did not know about the incident with the coat and blamed himself for my predicament!

In November 1954 I was responsible for organizing a meeting of the National Union of Students Council in Cardiff. Delegations of students came from universities and colleges all over this country and abroad. There were over 100 students who needed accommodation in Cardiff on this special occasion. I’m happy to say that it was a great success and I received many personal letters of appreciation following this important student event.

Eileen’s husband, David Vivian Thomas recounts his memories of the University in the next ‘My Cardiff’ story.

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