Keele Icons – Chris Southcombe
In an era when Keele was blessed with more than its fair share of extroverts – step forward Rich Needle, Zeb Taylor, Timothy Peter Pollard Grose and many others – its fair to say that Chris Southcombe was the extrovert’s extrovert
‘The Commander,’ as Chris was known, because of his previous career in the Royal Navy, stood out from the herd in more ways that one. In an era defined by long hair, tie-dye T-shirts, afghan coats, loons the width of the Union building and Doc Martens or similar, Chris, a mature student (though still in his twenties, I think,) had short, tidy hair, wore shirt, jacket and cravat, straight leg cavalry twill trousers and desert boots. Unfailingly cheerful, he’d usually greet you as ‘old boy’
There were many rumours concerning his Navy career, one being that he’d been discharged for crashing his ship while under the influence, another that he’d won a bet by jumping off one side of the ship, swimming under it, and emerging on the other!
His Keele career (1969-73) was no less spectacular. These are stories I know of – there are undoubtedly many, many more (if you have any, please share!):
I first ‘met’ Chris when, early in FY a few of us were having some nonsensical drink-fuelled debate in Danny Lorenc’s room in Horwood D block. Note that Danny’s room was on the second floor. As we talked there was a polite knock on the window. It was Chris, dangling upside down from the roof using only his feet to keep him alive. He only wanted to say hi!
For a while he held the world record for drinking a pint of beer standing on his head (there’s a theme emerging here!) He did it in just over four seconds I think, and could drink faster that way up than on his feet. He may still hold that record for all I know. He also did fire breathing using paraffin, a trick that once came a cropper when diesel fuel was used by mistake! As ever, Chris survived to tell the tale
One morning the campus awoke to find their way into the library blocked by a Mini. Chris had driven said Mini up two small flights of stairs and parked it slap bang in front of the main doors, which opened outward, no mean feat given what I can only assume was a massive amount of alcohol sloshing around inside him. I don’t think too many students were inconvenienced by not being able to get into the library that morning!
On another morning one and all were amused to see the word CAFE apparently painted on the Chapel roof. Not paint, but cut up bed sheets and a daring climb by the Commander
But the apogee surely had to be the day he and I and a couple of others were sitting in the snack bar, Chris holding court as usual. His Finals were over and his time at Keele was coming to an end. As we chatted Dr Collinson, a rather shifty looking Geology lecturer, sidled up to us.
“Excuse me, Mr Southcombe,” quoth he. All the lecturers called him Mr Southcombe
“What is it, old boy,” came Chris’ reply
“I’m afraid there’s a problem with your dissertation. You need to submit at least two photographs, and you’ve only submitted one”
“Anyone got a pair of scissors?” Chris called out to the assembled masses. A pair of scissors was swiftly produced and, with a show of great seriousness, Chris took his single picture, cut it in half and returned it to the astonished academic with a cheery “There you are, old boy. Now bugger off and leave me in peace!”
Needless to say Chris only got a third, and was, I suspect, lucky to get that, but I’m sure it didn’t bother him in the slightest
What a character! I wonder what he’s doing now?