One last outing for the Old Lags

There’s something to be said about keeping in touch with old acquaintances. It’s not always easy, but when it happens, it’s extremely worthwhile. SUMDOLS is a prime example of reunions done well. The Sheffield University Metallurgy Department Old Lags Society have been getting together since 2000, but their 3 day reunion from Tuesday 12 to Thursday 14 September 2017 marks the end of an era. The Old Lags have decided to call it a day.

SUMDOLS Alumni meet in the Turner Museum SUMDOLS Alumni visit a lab in the Diamond SUMDOLS Alumni in the Quarrell Laboratory

The Society is made up of 59 alumni and staff who were part of the Department of Metallurgy at the University in the late 1950s and 1960s. This includes a number of influential and distinguished people from business and academia. Dr Trid Mukherjee, past CEO of Tata Steel in India and the UK and his predecessor Dr Jim Irani are attending, as is Dr Malcolm Gray, recently honoured by the University during their 2017 Graduation Ceremony. Dr Gray is a leading researcher in microalloyed high strength steels, and in 2016, was presented a top Chinese government award - the Foreign Expert Friendship Award - by Vice Premier Ma Kai in recognition of his services to the steel and pipeline industries.

The group gathered periodically to reminisce about studying in Sheffield, look at what has changed over the years, and visit local engineering companies, to maintain their interest in the subject they studied all those years ago. 'We locally based “old lags” conceived the idea of our first reunion in 1999', said Cllr. Dr Trevor Bagshaw. 'I was privileged to have been elected Lord Mayor of Sheffield (1999 -2000) and keen to see closer engagement between our world class steel industry and our universities. A visit to the Town hall was a great success and still today the close engagement between “town and gown” is important for the future of our city.'

This year’s programme of events included a tour of the Sir Robert Hadfield Building, current home of the Department, a tour of The Diamond, the University’s award-winning, state-of-the-art Engineering facility for interdisciplinary teaching and learning, and a visit to local company ITM Power, who develop hydrogen engines.
They also spent time at Haddon Hall, Poole Cavern in Buxton and enjoyed two celebratory dinners at Hassop Hall. Following a guided tour of Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet on Thursday 14th September, the members of the Society said a fond farewell to each other.

SUMDOLS Alumni meet in the Turner Musuem SUMDOLS Alumni enjoy themselves at Hassop Hall SUMDOLS Back in the day

‘It’s bound to be an emotional day, when we all go our separate ways’, observed Chris Moore, a founder member of SUMDOLS, former Chair of the Stainless Steel Wire Industry Association, and organiser of the reunion as members started to gather, ‘although none of our number will want to admit it. It’s been wonderful to stay in touch with everyone over the years, and keep up to date with what everyone has been up to. Members of the Society have been dedicated to keeping in touch, traveling from all over the world, from Canada, the USA and India, as well as from across the UK.’

Looking back at his time at the University, Dr Gray commented, ‘The facilities may not have been as advanced and plentiful in our day, but early in my career, I came to realise that I had benefitted from perhaps the best metallurgical education available at the time. This is clear to see now when you take into account what the Department’s graduates of the time have gone on to achieve.’

Professor Neil Hyatt, Head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, commented, ‘Inevitably, a number of the Old Lags will stay in touch with each other. After all, old habits die hard. However, this will be done on an informal basis. Everyone from the Department and the University wishes the Old Lags well. As they depart the event, they can rest assured that they will always be welcome to visit, and see what new and exciting developments happen in the years to come.’

The success of the Society has been helped enormously by the University’s Alumni Relations Team who make sure that everyone who had graduated from the University is kept abreast of University news and events. So while SUMDOLS is disbanding, the Alumni Relations Team will remain in contact with the Old Lags, inviting them to future alumni events and activities, keeping the networking opportunities alive.