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Sheila Wilkie (Leeds, 1953-1978)
“What is she like?”
At the beginning of every University session the same question was asked in the Wilkie household: “What is she like?” – ‘She’ (it was always a ‘she’ in those days) referred to the new Lektorin in the German Department. Over the years, from the arrival of Brigitte Hahn in 1956 to our departure from Leeds in 1978, we had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know a long line of young students who contributed greatly to the Department, not only linguistically but also with their different gifts and interests (music, politics, theology) as representatives of their country. They became friends of ours and of other colleagues, and many remain so to this day. I remember outings in their company, plays, concerts and, in particular, the rehearsals held in our house of the German Choir preparing for the annual Carol Concert. These contacts were continued when we visited Tübingen, where we received great hospitality from the Lektorinnen and their families and were made welcome in Baden-Württemberg.

Through this link with Tübingen we also came to know Professor Hildegard Gauger who had, by then, retired from the Englisches Seminar. She had played a significant part in the success of the Exchange. Professor Gauger knew and kept in touch with many of her students, particularly those who had come to Leeds as Lektorinnen. Latterly she lived as an invalid in a flat in Brunsstraße; her telephone was her life-line, and many Sunday afternoons were enlivened for her friends by a kindly, stimulating call. A visit to her flat, up a flight of highly polished stairs, was memorable for the welcome, the serving of tea (Professor Gauger was a connoisseur of teas), and the discussion of writers from Jane Austen to Philip Larkin.

As we left Leeds many years ago now, I cannot speak of the more recent arrivals to the German Department, but it is good to know that the tradition of scholarship and friendship continues to flourish.