Alan Yates obituary
Born 1930, died 2012. A graduate of the Department of Geography (BA Geography 1951).
The University of Sheffield is very grateful to the family of Alan Yates for the donation they have made in his memory to support the Bradfield Field Research Centre managed by the Department of Geography.
The youngest of four children born to a cotton spinner and his wife in Bolton, Alan was the first in his family to go to university. In his diary, he recalled that he started to apply to Sheffield University in January 1948, but nothing came of it. Later that year he sat, for a second time, his higher school certificate exams. He noted the results – in Geography, History, English and Latin - were not as good as the previous year! In September, he returned to the Sixth Form, and was surprised to receive notice from Sheffield to attend.
After this opaque application process, his elder brother took him to Sheffield on a hot day in October. His landlady, Mrs Gladys Trotter of 13, Cardoness Road, charged him board and lodging of two pounds and five shillings. This was offset by a local authority grant of £172/5/0 each year.
He wanted to read geography, but it was Sheffield’s practice then for undergraduates to read more widely, before entering a final Honours School in the second year. So initially, he studied Geography alongside History, Economics and French. He would recall fondly even in the last months of his life impressive teaching by one lecturer in economic history. He remained a strong advocate of the need to study geography and history together to gain an understanding in either. He studied the physical geography of the States, and he fulfilled a life-long ambition of travelling there in two long holidays, soon after his retirement, in 1989 and 1990. He visited Albuquerque, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona initially, followed by California, the Grand Canyon, and San Franciso. Sadly, his wife’s health precluded further trips.
He kept his textbooks, maps and even revision notes from his time as an undergraduate. His study of meteorology fuelled his life-long passion with the study of the weather, and he had maps of North West England for reference laid out on his piano. He travelled throughout the UK and Europe, and was always an informative source on the geology and geography of the place. Even when I showed him photographs from my holidays, he would tell me more about the geographical features and geology than I had been aware of!
On leaving Sheffield in 1951 with an Upper Second, he turned down a job with the Nigerian Soil Association, which he told his family was a standard offer to all geography graduates at that time. After National Service, he joined the National Assistance Board, and his during his subsequent career in the Department of Health, we may rest assured that the Blood Transfusion service and civil defence planning for hospitals, among other areas, were competently administered.
He was proud when his grandson also became an undergraduate at Sheffield, recalling his own graduation in Firth Hall. Sadly, he was too ill to attend his grandson’s graduation, although he did visit him earlier in his studies. He began then to give to Sheffield’s alumni fund, recognizing how much the university had given to him and his family. His time there had given him so much pleasure, and formed a foundation for a lifetime of learning and intellectual curiosity.