Dr Sydney Holgate, CBE
Master: 1959 — 1980
Syd was the College
Eddie Newcombe (Freshman: 1959)
Sydney, or Syd Holgate, was born in Nottingham in 1918, the son of a local government officer, having schooled at Henry Mellish Grammar School,in Bulwell (the same school also later provided the Grey Senior Man for 3 consecutive years), he won a scholarship to Hatfield College during which he held the position of senior man and graduated in 1940 wit a First Class Honours Degree in Mathematics. Following the war Syd was invited to work in the university and in 1958 was appointed as Master of Grey College, a position which he was to hold for 32 years.
As the Master of a newly formed college Syd was first responsible for recruiting staff and admitting new students. Syd also drew up the first rules for the college and guided the college through its early years and the completion of its building work.
Syd was throughout his life, analytical and incredibly thorough in his thinking and often supplied sage academic and professional advice to all those he came in to contact with. He was also thought of by those in the college as a fatherly figure, with a calm voice and a level head, a keen cricketer amongst number of other interests, the former secretary of the association (Jim Haile) remembers him giving a spin bowling lesson in Elvet small gardens. It was this keen interest in not only the academic development of his students and colleagues that helped him foster the college as he envisaged and ultimately left a lasting mark on Grey College, which I am sure still resonated through the much changed student life of the present day.
In 1980 Syd retired from his position of Master of Grey College, he went to perform a review of the University's academic structure in which he summarized that the colleges were: "not teaching institutions but they are educational communities." He continued to live with his wife Belle, in Durham, until the time of his death in 2003, attending many college functions including the opening of Holgate House in 1996 and the Associations Reunion on a handful of occasions.
Memories of Syd:
As a member of the successful Grey cricket which won the intercollegiate trophy for the first time I recall presenting the trophy to a very proud Syd at dinner, it was the first time Grey had won one of the prestigious intercollegiate competitions and In Syd's favourite sport. Additionally, Alex Rae said: As a fellow Nottinghamian it was always great to talk to Syd about cricket. He was a good cricketer and had batted against both Larwood and Tyson: but he said that for a couple of years in the mid 1950s, Frank Tyson was the fastest bowler he'd ever come across. The slip fielders were posted on the boundary!
Syd loved bridge, very occasionally members of the bridge team would make up a four with Syd. These were enjoyable, competitive and took place in an atmosphere composed mostly of Gold Leaf cigarette smoke, very little of it contributed by the student members of the gathering!
Syd could seem a bit aloof and remote, but he was deeply concerned about those in his charge. On one occasion in the late 60's, the father of a Greyman died while the young man was sitting one of his Finals papers. On getting the news in a phone call from the family, Syd wnet down to Palace Green. He waited outside the exam room, so that he could break the news personally to the lad.
Much more information on Syd Holgate and his involvement in the history of Grey College can be found in From the Ashes by Nigel Watson, without which the above would not have been possible.