As Queen Elizabeth II marks 70 years on the throne, Abertay Archives volunteer, Niamh Quinn, delves into the history of the University to discover some of the changes that have happened here since the Queen took over as head of the Royal Family.
In the months before Elizabeth II ascended the throne, Dundee Institute of Art and Technology commemorated a hugely influential figure from our history, the late Dr. John S. Lumsden. Dr. Lumsden was the first Principal of the then Dundee Technical Institute from 1909-1929 and was commemorated on Saturday 6 September 1952 with a bronze plaque to mark his work and dedication to the Institute.
The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was certainly viewed as a reason to celebrate for the Dundee Institute of Art and Technology. Preparations began back in June 1952 when the Clerk and Treasurer approved the purchase of a new Union Jack as the one belonging to the Institute was badly worn. This request was approved by the Committee, who wanted a replacement found quickly in time for the Coronation the following year.
Perhaps one of the biggest indicators of how the world has changed during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign is the way that her Coronation was watched. In March 1953, the Technical College had three television sets on campus, and it was suggested that these should be reserved to allow the Governors to watch the Coronation Ceremony on Tuesday 2 June. Students from the School of Design played a huge part in producing decorations to celebrate the Coronation. Drapes were hung from the balconies of City Chambers and decorations were used in the Caird Hall for the Coronation Ball.
An important part of the University’s identity was established in March 1953 when the University Coat of Arms, as we understand it today, was created. The Former Students Association, alongside the Student Representative Council made a joint request to the Board of Governors for the coat of arms to be produced using their design. The designs showed the Dundee ‘pot of lilies’ in the centre, beside a lamp with a book on either side. However, the final design was adapted slightly to incorporate the pot of lilies with books at each side, below the central chevrons which represented technical work. The approval was granted on the 8 May 1953 and the £60 registration fee was duly paid to the Lord Lyon by the Students Representative Council and Former Students Association.
Our biggest connection with Queen Elizabeth II happened on June 30 1998 when Her Majesty and the late Prince Philip visited the University to mark the official opening of the Bernard King Library. Both undertook separate tours of the building, and spoke to staff and students, alongside inspecting samples of their work.
Richard Irvine remembered the visit in an interview that he did for the Abertay 25 Project. At the time he was a research student who was a waiter for the celebratory meal that was held in the old library area of the Kydd Building. He remembered serving the Queen and Prince Philip with their Dubonnay and lemonade using white gloves – he said everyone was terrified of dropping it because of the gloves. Then everyone unexpectedly filtered away apart from the Queen and Prince Philip. She asked Richard what to do next – he told her to go through the double door. It was a rare human moment - Prince Philip was “playing with the sockets” and Her Majesty was joking away.
The opening of the new library was a significant landmark in the development of the University. As Professor Bernard King himself highlighted, it provided the educational infrastructure for the knowledge society of the 21st century. In a speech, the Queen reinforced that Abertay had cemented its reputation as a modern facility and with the support of the new library, it would continue to pursue innovative teaching and learning methods for the next century.
Planning permission was granted in 2002 for the project that paved the way for the development of the new Student Centre. The previous Student Centre was a fair distance away from the rest of the main buildings and everyday life on campus, being located on the top floor of Marketgait House. The development of the new building aimed to address this, being located on the site of the old St James Church opposite the University Building in Bell Street.
In addition to providing more space and facilities for teaching and research, the Centre also provided an area for social and cultural activities to take place. It went on to host many events in the University’s calendar, including art exhibitions, society fares, and the Intervarsity prizegivings. The £6 million building was designed by Dundee based architects, Parr Partnership, the same company responsible for the designs of the Bernard King Library. It was opened in 2005 and quickly became the hub of social activity on campus.
Two decades on from the start of the project, it is now taking on a new role to house the Abertay cyberQuarter, a cybersecurity research and development centre based at Abertay, which opens this month (June 2022). The new centre provides a space for academics, students and industry to come together to work on global cybersecurity challenges.