Geoff Dowling

Bradford College alumnus, army veteran and champion race walker, who was recently honoured by the Korean Government, taught printing, typography and general studies at Bradford College from 1963 until 1994.

Geoff DowlingGeoff was born in Morecambe and after leaving school aged fourteen; he went to work for an undertaker and blind-maker. His long career in printing began when he heard of an opening in a chance meeting with an apprentice printer at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day in 1946. Geoff was able to take the place of an apprentice who had just been called up for National Service, until he was called up himself in 1951.
He had suffered rheumatic fever as a child and a resulting heart murmur would have exempted him from duty if he wished, 
but he wanted to play his part. At the age of eighteen Geoff was sent to Korea. At the end of that year, he escaped certain death when mortar bombs landing dropping around him failed to explode. He endured dreadful conditions and mourned the loss of friends, but he enjoyed camaraderie and adventure. The experience, which he considered a “rollercoaster”, was to shape the rest of his life.
After being demobbed in 1953, Geoff finished his apprenticeship at the Morecambe Visitor, and then joined a greetings card printers in Hyde before moving to Bradford. He came to study at College in 1954 when he started work at Lund Humphries, spending three evenings per week on letterpress printing and doing a City & Guilds in print management.  He has vivid memories of our most famous alumnus, who was a full-time student when Geoff was a part-timer. “David Hockney was very flamboyant with jet black hair and a red dickey bow tie. The printing students were supervised to print the art students’ work for their portfolios as part of their experience. I remember printing his fish shop print in litho.”
In 1963, he was working as a shift overseer at John Waddington’s in Leeds when he saw an advertisement in the paper for a printing teacher in the Regional College of Art. He said “I taught at College for over thirty years. When I began the Students’ Union was very strong and used to have a ball each year at the Queen’s Hall. The theme of the first one I went to was Piltdown and the group was the Rolling Stones! I printed the large posters for it. There was an explosion of day-release and evening classes in the 1960s. I developed a general printing course comprising science, letterpress, Geoff with Hockney printcomposing and bookbinding.”

Geoff was initially based in the Regional College of Art (now Grove Building) and later moved to Junction Mills. As printing courses declined, he worked on the newly introduced general studies course. He recalled, “It was during the time of Albert Hunt and his avant garde happenings. Quite a few
employers were not keen on paying for lads to run around the streets of Bradford re-enacting the Russian Revolution, so I took on general studies for printers.” Geoff also started doing textile printing and he developed a ROSLA (Raising the School Leaving Age) course. Later, when David Hockney was experimenting with complex prints using photocopiers he faxed a composite picture to Hutton School in Eccleshill, close to his old family home. Geoff was asked to assemble and frame this, but when he arrived at the school the images were nowhere to be seen. It transpired that as Hockney was faxing from Los Angeles, the time difference meant they arrived in the night and when a cleaner had found a large pile of fax paper on the floor the next morning, it was screwed up and thrown in the bin! Hockney kindly sent them again and Geoff duly framed it.

Geoff athletics coachGeoff has always been incredibly energetic and enthusiastic – whilst teaching – and during retirement. His army service continued with the Territorial Army for a further 39 years after national service, and he became a pay sergeant in the Territorial Army at Belle Vue barracks, and also served in Cyprus, Denmark, Germany and Northern Ireland. He was a youth leader and athletics coach at Sedbergh Boys Club, athletics team manager for Yorkshire Boys Clubs, and has volunteered in a local school.Geoff is President of Yorkshire Race Walking Club. In 1977 he attended Roubaix with the Lord Mayor Paul Hockney (former College lecturer and brother of David) for a twin town occasion and participated in the Roubaix International 28 hour race walkingNational Service leaflet championship. He represented Great Britain in the 2005 European Masters in Portugal, winning a gold medal. Geoff still competes, but not as often as he would like, and still wins gold medals in the over-75s category. He is a keen on amateur dramatics and performs with three local companies. He is also an active member of the association of former College staff.

Geoff said, “I was lucky that everything gelled together. In those days you just had to know all about something to be able to lecture. Being in the army gave me the confidence to face a class of high-spirited lads.” His positive feelings about his service meant that he seized the opportunity to apply for his army record when he read about it in a magazine. This prompted him to have a booklet printed: National Service or An Awfully Big Adventure, which recountedhis experiences, and in August 2013 he was presented with a trophy at Korean Embassy and invited to spend ten days in Korea as an ambassador representing the men who had served in the Korean war at the 60th Anniversary commemorations. Geoff was given a medal for his contribution in the conflict.