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For all of these years: Alexander Gillies (Professor and HoD: 1945-72). John Wilkie.

For a period: Lionel Thomas. Lilias Brebner. Mark Boulby. Raymond Hargreaves. Keith Pollard. Hugh Rorrison. John Tailby. Douglas Cossar. Richard Byrn. Petra Böse. Sydney Donald. Jill Berman. Fred Bridgham.

Lektorinnen: Brigitte Hahn (Reischle). Käte Behr (Kuhn). Ruth Dieterich. Traude Heckel. Rosemarie Krockenberger. Helga Romstedt. Gerda Gamerdinger. Gretel Sterkel. Petra Böse (Hölzel). Brigitte Wittmann. Gudrun von Andrian (Kitidis). Erika Drude (Hancock). Regina Wettern. Dagmar Döldissen.


1957 Lionel Thomas (ed.), Friedrich Halm: "Die Marzipan-Lise"
1957 Alexander Gillies, Goethe’s "Faust": an interpretation
1957 Translation by Lionel Thomas, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff "The Jew’s beech"
1969 Alexander Gillies, A Hebridean in Goethe’s Weimar
1969 Alexander Gillies (ed.), Herder: "Über die neuere deutsche Literatur"
1970 John R. Wilkie and W.Walker Chambers, A short history of the German language

Sample Graduation numbers:





Special Studies German:





Mod. Lang. & Comb. Stud’s German:





General Studies German:





Subsidiary German:





Language component (+Oral) in Finals:




Special Studies German:

40% (400/1000)

(no change)

(no change)

Mod.Lang.& Comb. Stud’s German:

50% (300/600)

(no change)

(no change)

Fifty years ago Latin and Greek occupied pride of place in the curriculum of all the Public Schools and the old-established Grammar Schools. A knowledge of the Classics was considered the hall-mark of education, and the mental discipline and understanding of human nature acquired in studying them were thought essential to the development of intellectual integrity. Today Modern Languages have taken their place […] the Modern Language Teacher can do much to overcome the so-called "insular arrogance" of the British.
(Memorandum on Modern Language Teaching, London, 1956).

In the years following WW2, the war-time motive for learning German still played a significant part, i.e. "know your enemy!" – and the best way to know him was through knowing his language. (A somewhat macabre joke doing the rounds during the late 1950s went: "Optimists are learning Russian these days. Pessimists, Chinese.") — We Teachers of German who prefer to make peace reflect gratefully that that motive no longer dominates our work, though goodness knows, the image of Germany still presented in our media, exaggerated every time there is a football match between the two countries (to say nothing of the incident this spring when a group of visiting German schoolchildren found themselves stoned and accused of being Nazis while out walking) makes clear that there is still much to be done towards achieving real reconciliation.

How, though, should we teach the language? By weekly Prose Composition & Translation? By ‘Grammar classes’? By using German in all classes and lectures? — The arguments may still continue, but there is universal agreement, and always has been, that the input of native-speakers is essential. And it is also most valuable for students to have a substantial period of residence in the country itself. In Gillies’s day, however, a decade had to pass before he was able to employ a native German on the staff, and some 18 more years passed before the ‘Year Abroad’ became a course requirement – a ‘substantial period of residence’ meant in post-war days "please try to organise yourself at least six continuous weeks in the country".

The ‘term abroad’, spent at a partner University during the summer term of the second year, became the standard element in the 3-year BA Languages degree during these years (and it remains standard for our present-day two-language programmes).

There were no Part I Finals in those days either: the exam at the end of the first year was ‘a qualifying examination’ – entitling a student to proceed to Finals two years later. When Finals did arrive, of course, they were something of a marathon, covering a two-year syllabus of study interrupted by the watershed ‘term abroad’. (Part I Finals were not introduced until the 1980s.)

At Finals there were three language papers: respectively, Prose Composition, Unseen Translation, Essay; plus an Oral. The essay paper offered a choice of general topics; and that paper was always ‘taught’ by the LektorInnen – as fondly recalled by several of our contributors.

Alexander Gillies (‘Der Herr von Knaresburg’) dominated these years – an Authority from a mould now broken. He had high standards in scholarship (BA Sheffield, DPhil Göttingen), he worked for the Control Commission briefly before coming to Leeds later in 1945, and he was not afraid to make enemies. So right-thinking was he that – at least when talking to students – civil servants of every hue were derided as ‘servants of Moscow’. Socialism was dismissed as ‘institutionalised envy’. And, following the introduction of PAYE (which he regarded as an infringement of personal liberty), he once interrupted a lecture after 20 minutes with the comment: "That was for the taxman. The rest is for myself."

But he was also a much respected and effective teacher. His formal lectures were delivered fluently and cogently from a script prepared down to the last word. His prose classes (always Final Year) would start by going over the passage corrected for that day – of course – but he always made time during the hour to start a fresh passage and sometimes even a third.

He combined his teaching at Leeds with much editorial work. For a period he was General Editor of the Modern Language Review and also of the Blackwell’s German Texts Series. And he was also deeply committed to fostering German in schools, making time to work for the Oxford & Cambridge Schools Examining Board (Chief Examiner for German) and for the Northern Universities Joint Matriculation Board (latterly as Chairman).

His advice to a young examiner of A-level Literature is worth repeating: "If the answer sticks to the question, it deserves to pass. If it also shows a good knowledge of the text, it deserves a good mark. And if it also shows independence of thought – not just regurgitating some ill-digested ideas from an Introduction – it deserves very good marks indeed."