College lecturer shares memories of life in Sheffield in the 70s and 80s

It was a time when the Yorkshire Ripper roamed the streets, mining disasters were sadly still happening and Sheffield was emerging out in the music scene. This walk down memory lane describes the Steel City and how it was not just for the students at the time but the firefighters, police, council workers and the visiting celebrities like Cliff Richard.

Friday, 11th December 2020, 12:30 pm
June 1972 - the academic-year students who worked on the first-ever Richmond Reporter.
June 1972 - the academic-year students who worked on the first-ever Richmond Reporter.

Gerry Kreibich was one of five journalism lecturers at Richmond College, Sheffield, throughout the 1970s and 1980s and over the years he imparted the basics of the craft to thousands of students.

It is now 30 years since he took early retirement in 1990 and he has taken a moment to reflect on his journey and explains he now has a website which brings former students together after decades apart.

Most of the website is of specifically journalistic interest he explains but said: “There are memories about parish councils, to the courts, to police and fire-brigade headquarters, to Parliament and down a coal mine. It is entertaining stuff.”

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1972-73 group was taken on a sunny June day before they left for jobs up and down the country

Part of the course was taking the students out to real life experiences so they would be prepared for life outside of the class room.

Gerry said: “I had no reservations about police and fire-service visits. Pre-entry students learned much that would be useful to them when they started work and always came away with high regard for these uniformed men and women who were clearly on top of their jobs.

"They were particularly impressed at fire-service headquarters when - as happened several times - the alarm suddenly drowned out conversation and the officer who was delivering an off-the-cuff lecture had to shout ‘Sorry’ and race away on a call.

"They were further impressed, as the giant doors slid open and firemen leapt aboard the engines, to see someone flick a switch that would cause all the traffic lights on the way to the blaze to change to green.”

The class of 1984

Before his life as a lecturer Gerry was on the front line and worked for the Warrington Guardian, which was interrupted by two years' national service in the R.A.F, Manchester City News, Matlock Mercury, sub on the Newark Advertiser, he then went back to Matlock as editor for three years, and later he was a Peak District man on the Derbyshire Times before he swapped his deadlines for exams and teaching aged 38.

Gerry recalls the importance of taking the students down the pits to meet the miners. He said: “The coal-mine visit will probably remain for longest in most students’ memories. As any miner (or, nowadays, any ex-miner) will confirm, journalists who report on pit emergencies nearly always paint an inaccurate picture. As one miner put it – ‘If they haven’t been down t’pit they dunna understand and they’re bound to get it all bloody wrong.’- “Located as we were in one of the country’s leading coalfields, we felt we ought to show our students the reality of life for these stalwart toilers underground.

"The mere idea troubled a few of our more timid youngsters and I used to try to explain beforehand what the trip would involve, recognising that it would have been foolish to drag along anyone who was seriously claustrophobic.”

As well as the exciting visits underground students were also taken to council meetings at parish and county level and even included a visit to Parliament.

"The visit to Parliament was a headache of a different sort. It’s a long way from Sheffield, for one thing, and much can go awry when twenty-odd students and a couple of lecturers go on an outing that starts soon after dawn and ends late at night,” he said.

"The press gallery was as interesting as the floor of the House - they could spot the familiar faces of political commentators they had seen many times on television.”The likes of Mike Corner, then the no-nonsense editor of the Sheffield Morning Telegraph, BBC television reporter Michael Sullivan, Colin Wright, a sub on the Daily Mail and Peter Holland, then deputy night news editor of the Daily Express where all guest lecturers who visited the college over the years to give students a perspective from a working newsroom.

Life in the 70s and 80s was very different to the world we live in and Gerry has vivid memories of the meeting the police officer who arrested the Yorkshire Ripper.

He said: “Female students, frightened to make their way home alone after lectures, used to congregate in the entrance hall and make sure that they left the building in groups of three or four. Once, on one of our visits to Sheffield’s police headquarters, the copper who was showing us round casually pointed to another officer and said ‘There’s the chap who arrested the Ripper’. Wow – all the girls could happily have hugged him!”

The journalism students were sent to interview the major stars of the day and these included two young starstruck women being able only whisper their questions to Cliff Richards and a 19-year-old woman being sent off to interview Jimmy Savile.

Gerry said: “Many years later, when the Savile revelations emerged, I felt slightly guilty for having sent 19-year-old Debbie on this mission and I contacted her to say so.”

Every few weeks, some former student spots Gerry’s webpage and decides to get in touch and his page is full of other students memories of that time at college as well as his own as a lecturer.

To check out more of his memories or the students correspondence – check out his webpage here

Have you joined The Star’s new retro Facebook group – full of memories and nostalgia from across the city – click here to find it

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