Oxford University Cave Club

50th Anniversary: 1957 - 2007

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OUCC 50th Anniversary

Blasts from the Past

This is a bit ad-hoc at present: what I'm putting here are copies of communications from old members who can't make the 50th celebrations for one reason or another. Or maybe even if they can. We'll see how it shapes up.

Roger Jones

(St Peter's Hall 1955)

I have just heard about the OUCC meeting from Brian Weston (also SPH), who went to school with 'Prof' Ford. He was instrumental in fixing a caving trip for me with a group from SEH in spring 1956, led by Prof. We did about 4 Mendip caves, of which Eastwater and Swildons were the most memorable (i.e. are remembered by me). Old clothes and bicycle torches were the order of dress. Personnel included my brother Tony and Alan (?) Twycross, both SEH. Perhaps we can claim to be inadvertent founder members.

Regards - hope your meeting goes well. Roger Jones

 Jim Thomson

 (Pembroke 1963)

Dear Steve, I won't be with you on Saturday but send you and all those present all good wishes. And may I say what an excellent website you've created - a great browse!

I just had my second and third years with OUCC, ie 1964-1966. I took part in the 1966 Spanish expedition, the only one not written up......

Basically an armchair caver since then. I ended up with nearly 5 years in S Korea, returning to UK and retirement at the start of last year. I had vain hopes of culminating my time there by visiting the newly discovered (~May 2005) 'pseudo limestone' cave, ie mixed limestone and lava, on Jeju Island, off the south coast. Pictures make it look like tiger stripes. Alas, it was not to be. Work intervened, not least the infamous Professor Hwang and the cloning scandal.

Anyway, have a good time. With all kind regards, Jim Thomson

Bryan Webber


Dear Steve, Yes you got the right person -- your message and website brought back some happy memories. Sorry I won't be able to make it to your events, but have a great time anyway.

The OUCC seems much bigger and better organised than in my day -- congratulations for that, and best wishes for many successful future explorations.

All the best, Bryan Webber

Bryan Webber FRS

Professor of Theoretical Physics University of Cambridge

Nick Coghlan and
Jenny Coghlan


Dear Steve, I'm very sorry but Jenny and I will not be able to make it to the OUCC reunion. We wish everyone well...and in the meantime here is some news and a few reminiscences...

I was secretary of the OUCC and Jenny (now my wife) was President, some time during the period 1973-77 - can't actually remember which years we held which posts, however! We got married in 1978, then went to live in Buenos Aires for three years, the last years of the military dictatorship. From there we emigrated to the west coast of Canada (Vancouver Island). We actually were able to do some caving there but were gradually seduced into sailing, and spent 1985-89 sailing around the world in our 27ft sloop, Tarka the Otter. After two more years in BC, I joined the Canadian foreign service, which took us first to Ottawa then to postings in Mexico City, Bogotá, Khartoum and Cape Town. South Africa was a bit too quiet for us though, so we set off on another sailing expedition: across the South Atlantic to Brazil and Argentina, winter in the Beagle Channel, then up the west coast of Chile and out into the South Pacific. This past (northern) summer we left the boat on an island west of Tahiti and I've now started a final two-year foreign service posting in Islamabad. Bombs go off most days and this morning a former Prime Minister was deported to Saudi Arabia, so it is not boring; last week I was up in the mountains looking across to Afghanistan. I've had a couple of books published: one on Colombia, the other on Sudan - proceeds to charity.

A few recollections:

  • Pushing a rather plump Libby Purves, then with Radio Oxford, through some of the narrower apertures of Swildon's;
  • The OUCC expedition to County Clare, Ireland, consisting of myself, Jenny, Martin Laverty and Brian Matthews, all packed into my mother's Fiat 500; we arrived across the Irish Sea only to find the pub closed; but the village policeman did invite us back to the station for a pint of real Guinness; much of the rest of the expedition was spent in the pub at Doolin;
  • Another OUCC expedition to Spain, again in the trusty Fiat; our main success was winning a general knowledge quiz on the ferry to Santander, but everyone booed when they heard we were from Oxford University; the Fiat made it back, via a detour to the Chourun des Aiguilles, in France, where we did do some serious caving with Clive Westlake, but we were passed by a milk float on the M6 returning home;
  • Yet another OUCC trip, to the Jura; the first night was spent camped on a roundabout near Beauvais; it snowed the rest of the time; Jason Clements had only running shoes, with no socks;
  • Several winter expeditions freezing in the bunkhouse at the Natl caving Centre at Dent, and a few more in the nearby Cold Comfort farm, where it was always ten degrees cooler than outside; the farmer was like one of those crusty characters in last of the Summer Wine;
  • Cooking one of the cave club annual dinners ourselves (held at Wolfson College), then dining out on the proceeds at the Elizabeth Restaurant - then the best restaurant in Oxford (cost: a staggering five pounds a head, but to put it into perspective a pint at the Kings Arms was 10p);
  • Pie and beans lunches once a week on Keble Road, and OUCC discos: free for girls, 25 pence for the boys - we had the reputation of being one of the best discos in Oxford;
  • Solemnly sitting on the floor of the upstairs room in Keble Road smoking a joint passed around by Robin Willis; and no, I didn't inhale;
  • Jim Sheppard's famous bus conductor's hat and his infamously patched wetsuits;

Jim, Robin, Bill Collis, Peter Friend, Martin Laverty, Dot Toft, Brian Matthews, Martin Buckland, Tony Moult, Steve Tarrant, Dave Kelsey...are any of you out there???!! Jason: have you got any socks yet??

Happy caving and have a great party! Drop in next time you are passing though the Northwest Frontier Province... (sorry, no beer)

Nick Coghlan (Queens) and Jenny Coghlan nee Kirby (Wolfson college)

Richard Gowing (1957)

Dear Steve, I've just looked at the OUCC website - glad my photos have proved useful. I confirm my wish to attend the dinner at Teddy Hall on 29th Sept., as well as the talk in the afternoon. I don't see any other founding members in the list for the Dinner; I do hope that some will turn up!

It's quite a year for anniversaries: I was at the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Alpine Club in Zermatt in June, a most enjoyable return to the Alps. I even got up another 4000er, the Breithorn in a guided party from Klein Matterhorn - a bit of a cheat, really, but rewarding and enjoyable nevertheless. Next year will be the centenary of the OUMC, and I'm looking forward to that - I was at the half-centenary dinner when I was up.

You'll be pleased to learn that, at 73, I have also proved myself still an active potholer - I went down Bull Pot of the Witches recently in a YRC trip organised for us "oldies".

Best regards, Richard

Roy Taylor (1985)

Steve - have read the OUCC website, and thought I should drop you a line. I have some really great memories of my caving days in Oxford some 20 years ago, and the OUCC website brings back some very happy memories for me. I would love to attend some future OUCC events, but my family commitments could make attending the President Invite on 14-16 September difficult.

For your information, I am living in Reigate, married (to Angela) with a young boy Freddie, who is now 15 months old. He seems to take up all my time outside of work. I met Angela while I was working in Hong Kong, and we returned to the UK at the end of 2002. As you may have guessed, I have not been caving for years, and in fact I have done very little in the way of outdoor pursuits since Freddie was born (hopefully that will change soon).

All the best , Roy

Simon Willbourn (1969) Steve, Only just found time to read my Trinity edn. of OX-Today. I am free on 29th. Sept. and am tempted to join you, I see Jim Shep. is planning to do so and I will contact one or two others. Only snag is I have to be at work at 0900 Sunday morning so no post-dinner beer and bar-football for me.

Will be in touch again soonest, yours etc.

Simon Exeter 69-72, Expedition and co-editor Proc. 6 (I think)  - enjoying working my way through your website.

Russell Sunderland (1957) If my memory is not failing me, I am one of the veterans of the 1/12/57 meeting and I later found myself manoeuvred into taking the chair of the club. So it would be a shame to miss out on your celebrations. Although dinners always appeal, I am due to make a trip to Oxford in mid-October for a Gaudy at Queen's, and the Chapel-le Dale trip is unfortunately not possible, (despite my deep affection for that area where I began my caving in my early teens). So it looks like GB again, in December, provided I can find some gear from somewhere. Any ideas?!

It would be great to meet other members of the carbide brigade. Can Peter Crabtree be persuaded to come along? I'm afraid I don't have any contact details for Peter but I remember him as a really active secretary and a very good friend.

Regards, Russell

Geoff Dare (1968) I happened to see your article in Oxford Today - it's good to see the old Cave Club is still functioning. I was a member from 1968-1971 and went on two of the summer trips to Spain - I gather the record in Proceedings of OUCC are now archived somewhere.

Alas I've not been down a pot for many a long year but recall the trips with much pleasure; and still get that itch to explore when I see a new cave.

Best wishes for your future trips - perhaps you could let me know who's coming to the dinner & the anniversary trip and I'll see if I can make it.

Best wishes: Geoff Dare, Lincoln, 1968-1971 Quondam Treasurer & Chairman OUCC

 William Bagshaw (1973) Congratulations to OUCC on its half-century. I don't recall its stall at the '73 Freshers' Fair but unlike the Bibliophiles Society, which I joined, it has survived.

You are going to Chapel-le-Dale near White Scar Cave, which I have been running (from London!) for twenty years. I am indebted to Lancaster University Caving Club for their 1971 discovery of the Battlefield Cavern at White Scar.

Regards, William Bagshaw, Christ Church 1973

  Stephen Craven (1962)

Dear Mr. President,

I note from your notice in the latest Oxford Today 19. (3), 54 that later this year you are organising three celebratory events. Please accept my apologies for absence for geographical reasons.

I was a member 1962 - 1966, but not very active because we medical students were kept very busy. Although I attended your 1962 expedition to the Asturias, notable for the failure of the tackle to arrive, I did not attend subsequent expeditions because the 16 week summer recess facilitated travels further afield.

Nevertheless I did unexpectedly make contact in 1992. The late Marjorie Sweeting was appointed external examiner for my PhD. thesis at the University of Cape Town's Dept. of Environmental Science. I shewed that the commercial Cango Cave had been mismanaged for two centuries. You may like to read all about it in the Bulletin of the South African Spelaeological Association (1994) 34.

With best wishes for your celebrations. Dr. S.A. Craven