Lucely Speaking – the birth and infancy of the College magazine

by Judith Roberts on 25 February 2016

Lucely Speaking – the birth and infancy of the College magazine

To see the full article with scans from the original magazine please click here.

Lucely SpeakingThe idea for a College magazine came in 1973 from the Student President Judith Ennew who, along with her colleagues Tricia Wright and Margaret Hirst, produced the first edition of Lucely Speaking later that year.

The earliest editions were A5 size and produced on a roneo machine, a device that pre-dated the modern photocopier and worked by forcing ink through a stencil made by (in this case) the editors on a typewriter. The paper was fed in and printed by manually turning a handle – so it was a very time-consuming to print even one copy!

From the outset, the tone was generally humorous and included personal accounts, poems and parodies. There were many in-jokes, the meanings of which have been lost in time, but perhaps some of Nautilus’s Alumnae readers may recognise the allusions.

By 1974 and Volume 2, the magazine had grown to A4 size and new people had been co-opted onto the editorial board. However, as we can see from the editor’s comments, students’ concerns have changed little over the ensuing years.

These were interesting times: Harold Wilson became Prime Minister for the second time, Richard Nixon resigned as the President of the USA after the Watergate scandal, Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’ and Lord Lucan disappeared after the murder of his children’s nanny.

Inflation was rife and prices were increasing faster than wages, a cause of national unrest. In 1974 Lucely Speaking Volume 1 was priced at 2p – a first class stamp cost 3p and a pint of lager cost 20p! The average weekly wage was just £32. By 1975 inflationary forces had hit even the sheltered world of Lucy Cavendish publishing and the magazine went up to 5p a copy.

The content continued to be varied and creative with Joan Simms on Education, Beryl Wattles on Dyslexia, reviews of books, recipes, accounts of treks abroad and skiing trips, with poems (serious and light-hearted) punctuating the pages. There were now small ads too: “a 1972 Mini in bronze yellow 33,000 miles, £550’ and ‘size 3 football boots £1’ or ‘brand new off-white lampshade cost £4.40 - offers please’.  The bar committee gratefully received donations and in Volume 2 no 4 announced that they were looking for a cupboard that could serve as a bar.

Pithy advice, preferably with a humour, was always forthcoming, as with this offering from ‘Cassandra’ for those taking exams:

You are advised to be careful Lucely Speaking Christmas Editorial

Of becoming tearful.

The human frame consists all but a quarter

Of water.                                                                                                                           

Christmas 1974 witnessed a Christmas entertainment, Lucy in Wonderland. If you remember that event, or were one of the participants we’d love to hear your memories. Please click here to see a full cast list for 'Lucy in Wonderland'.

The script of the show has survived as three faded roneo-d pages, printed both sides. There are plenty of opportunities for audience participation – boos, hisses and groans indicated.

In Volume 2 no 5 (1975) Phyllis Giles provided an analysis of the Lucy Cavendish armorial bearings, as she was present at some of the initial discussions with the designer. In the same edition you could read a review of a book about prehistoric rock-engravings of the Pacific North West, by Beth Hill a Lucy Cavendish Certificate of Archaeology student from 1969-70. You could also learn how to make Gazpacho – a new entrant to English cooking in the seventies – and May Week pudding, with ginger biscuits, sherry, brandy and lots of cream.

In 1976 Volume 3 no 2 ran to 14 pages and no 3 to 20 pages. By then the editorial team had changed and Margaret Bevan, Clare Campbell, Harriet Crawford, Juliet Pollet and Victoria Walker had taken the reins. The content continued to be an eclectic mix of serious articles, humorous pieces a cartoon strip and tributes to Marion Clegg, the first Founding Fellow to die. Cambridge University politics entered Lucely’s pages in the form of an animal rights plea by ‘C.C.’ and a response by ‘A.N.W.’ the founder-chairman of the Huntingdon Research Centre.

The final Lucely Speaking that we have in our recently-acquired archive is June 1976, with an updated food guide, a piece about taking relatives around Cambridge, and an article about the University Library. It also includes the following poem that perhaps sums up what many Lucy Cavendish students still feel as they leave the College for the world beyond.

Judith Roberts