Edinburgh University


Bob Sinclair

Queensland, Australia

Thank you to Bob Sinclair, now living in Queensland, Australia, who wrote:

Department of Natural Philosophy

The Turret

"As a youth, my first job was in Drummond Street within the confines of the Department of Natural Philosophy (the Nat Phil) or Physics Department.

Inside, there was a lift which went from the basement to the level below the square turret on top.  To get to the turret you had to take the lift to the top then climb a steep ladder, push open a fairly heavy solid 'skylight' and exit on to the turret, whose square area was good enough to let two bodies lie down and do some sunbathing.

We often heard the cry 'I know you are up there'.  We ignored it.  On one occasion, when somebody did try to climb up  the ladder, we sat on the 'skylight' which wouldn't budge.

Going down was not a problem, though.  People were waiting for us at the basement, ground and first floors lift doors.  But, on the second floor there was nothing but storage space so they didn't bother manning that door.

We found an alternative way down from the second floor, crawling over the rafters above one of the lecture theatres and out into one of the corridors.  You could send the lift down to any of the lower floors by pressing the internal button and exiting the lift quickly.  When it arrived at a lower floor, there was nobody in the lift.  We should have been illusionists.

Turning left half way along the corridor you usually came across  the senior technician who gave you a blast, but as you had a roving commission to do quite a few jobs.  Well, you were always somewhere else, never sunbathing.

Once, for a dare, I wandered round for a day and a half with a piece of paper in my hand. It took that long for the technical staff to tie me down to a spot from where I was told not to move."

Department of Applied Mathematics

The Lamplighter

"On the other side of the Road was the Department of Applied Mathematics where Max Born worked as Tait professor of Applied Mathematics, receiving a Nobel prize in 1954.

While I was going over there on an errand one winter in the late afternoon, I saw a Leerie going round with a pole lighting some of the gas lamps.  This was in the early 1950s.  One winter morning, I was in early and saw him putting the lamps out.

Heavy Water

On another occasion I was sent out for heavy water - a joke played on the young.  However I went along with it and was out for three hours looking for it.  Eventually I went back and with my boss red with rage, I told him that a Café about two miles away had given me some and that it really felt heavy now.  I kept a straight face and was never sent for it again

Happy days!"

Bob Sinclair, Queensland, Australia:  January 21, 2010


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