Re-living the golden Sunderland college days of the 1960s

Students from the college collecting for rag day in 1968.
Students from the college collecting for rag day in 1968.
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It’s a golden time for a group of former Sunderland College of Education students.

Those who left 50 years ago in 1969 are meeting up again for a reunion dinner which will be held at the Stadium of Light in July.

Roker Park turned Cec Lowry into an SAFC fan for life.

Roker Park turned Cec Lowry into an SAFC fan for life.

And the good news is ... you’re still very welcome to join the fun even if that wasn’t your era at the college.

The event has been organised by former students Cec Lowry and Bridget Andrews (nee O’Hara).

They are appealing to any former students of the college to come along and join them on July 6. Around 60 people have already confirmed they will be there for what promises to be a great occasion.

Cec told us: “The dinner is not only for students who left in 1969 but any old students of the college regardless of the years they attended.”

Despite the passing of years, memories and friends made at Langham Tower still remain strong for many alumni of Sunderland College of Education

Cec Lowry

From a small town in Northern Ireland, Cec Lowry arrived in Sunderland on September 23, 1966, where he studied with 200 other students.

It was a bit of a culture shock for the young Irish boy, but it did not take long for him to become a fully-fledged Mackem.

Cec remembered his first visit to Roker Park for a floodlit game and said: “It simply blew me away and I became red and white for life.

“During my second year, I met a lovely lass from just down the road in Shotton Colliery who is now my wife.”

On graduating in 1969, Cec obtained a post teaching PE in the newly opened Ryhope Comprehensive school where he taught for a year before moving on to teach in a school in Bishop Auckland.

Despite moving several times over the past 50 years, the city of Sunderland still holds precious memories for him and he said: “I am looking forward to meeting my fellow students again, aptly, in the Stadium of Light.”

Cec went on to tell us more about the college where he studied.

“From it’s modest foundations as Sunderland Teacher Training College – where 70 students first enrolled in 1908 at a cost of £10, the college went on to become one of the foremost teacher training establishments in England. It began its life in Westfield House in Green Terrace on Ryhope Road.”

In 1922, the Training College moved into the Langham Towers building and became women only, remaining that way until 1959 before admitting men.

Under its last principal, Mr H Armstrong James, the Sunderland College of Education reached its zenith with 820 students and 80 staff in 1969.

Langham Towers built for William Adamson, the son of a prominent Sunderland shipbuilder and shipowner, as a private house in 1891. After his death the building changed hands several times and was rented by the Vaux family at one point, before becoming home to the college.

Over the next fifty years, a number of other buildings were added to the college. Most were former private houses, but in 1962 a new library block (Armstrong James Building) was built in the garden of Langham itself.

In 1975 the College of Education was merged with Sunderland Polytechnic and for three years Langham remained the centre of the Faculty of Education, until further changes in 1979 saw it adapted for use as an administrative centre.

Cec added: “Despite the passing of years, memories and friends made at Langham Tower still remain strong for many alumni of Sunderland College of Education.”

Now, he would love to hear from friends of years gone by to reminisce on the great old days.

Cec can be contacted on 07523881358 or email ceclowry@btinternet.com for further details.

Do you have schoolday memories you would love to share?

Are you planning a reunion and would love to spread the word through our Wearside Echoes feature page.

Or is there a former workplace you would love to remember, and perhaps renew acquaintances with colleagues of old. Get in touch and share the memories by emailing chris.cordner@jpimedia.co.uk. Let’s reflect on wonderful times.