Graduate's Speech: Professor Maurice Beresford, FBA, Doctor of Letters (DLitt)
Emeritus Professor of Economic History at the University of Leeds, Professor Maurice Beresford, FBA was awarded an honorary degree for his contribution to the study of local history. Professor Beresford's research has transformed the world of medieval archaeology and stimulated the study of landscape history. He received his honorary degree on Friday, July 12, during the afternoon degree ceremony. The following is an edited version of his response after the degree ceremony oration.
and graduates-to-be, and friends and visitors.
I am allowed through an infirmity to be able to sit through the rest of
the ceremony without, I hope, disrespect. Better
than that to show too much infirmity by falling over or something of that
kind. Sitting down like this and seeing faces in front of me is rather
therefore more like giving a tutorial than giving a lecture, although I rarely
lecture to quite so many people or so many who are at the moment so attentive.
Britain these weeks - with the excitement of finals and tennis being over -
the English are devoting themselves to this particular type of pageantry, with
generation after generation of students taking part in this sort of pageant
and procession with their families and with their teachers to receive their
degrees. In doing that they are already encircled by history - not least of
all by what we the graduates and graduands of today are wearing, that is, a
dress that is now a little outmoded for public use but which was once the
normal dress of the clerical of members of the clergy in Britain particularly
before the Reformation. Since then it has become much more an academic dress
I was reminded
by this by reading the reaction only last week of the mother of a well-known
honorary graduate - not of this University but much better known than me
anyway - and that is the mother of Sir Elton John.
When she went to see her son receive an honorary doctorate of the
University of London the week before last, the press asked her what her main
reaction was to seeing her son in full academic dress and surrounded by
undergraduates. She said that she had often seen Elton wearing a frock but it
was a surprise to see so many other males dressed the same way.
There is also
an aspect of history surrounding me. I am reminded that I have once been in
this hall before, and it was not this sort of occasion. It was to see and hear
Sir Thomas Beecham conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the days of
exile from London when regional centres like Leicester were receiving regular
concert performances from him. I have seen his characteristic figure many
times - portly, cheerful, joking, even retelling the same jokes but never less
retelling but never less joking, climbing on to his podium or the equivalent
of it to turn his back on you, the audience, to face his orchestra - and now
to come to magnificent sounds echoing here. It was in those years - the 40s
and early 50s - at Leicester that William Hoskins who made in every sense
Leicester, the University College and University as it was becoming at that
time - the real centre of local history for the whole of this country.
Last updated: 26 July 2002 17:00
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