Birth of a whodunit

Nearly a decade ago, I began a book which started my new career as a writer of campus detective stories. Here’s the original blog published in Leaders We Deserve.

10th September 20th 2013

“The unexplained death of a scientist and a surge of drugs on campus force Vice Chancellor Wendy Lockinge to return reluctantly to her skills as a senior police officer. Her daughter Jessica who wants to become a detective thinks she could become involved and could can do better…”

So begins the marketing blurb I wrote on the unpublished book The Chronicles of Leadership and posted on my blog  Dilemmas of Leadership earlier today. You can still read the post along with the one thousand earlier ones in the blog’s archives.

“The story moves from the fictional University of Urmston to the scientist’s laboratory,” the blurb and post continued “and to a local zoo whose animals are under threat from a mysterious visitor. Wendy recruits a team which includes a student activist, an expert in theories of everything, and a researcher into leadership who has his own secrets to conceal, including his relationship with an ambitious local journalist and Pythagoras the performing python.   The team unearths a criminal scheme that has to be stopped before its shattering consequences are felt around the world.”

A few years ago I thought that the six hundred posts already published through the Leaders We Deserve blog would make an promising basis for a book. Since then, the project has changed. The Chronicles of Leadership turned into a detective story.  Perhaps I should explain why it is so difficult for me to begin and the beginning…

To Begin at the beginning

Long ago, someone came up with a brilliant starting line for a book: ‘In the beginning was the word’.  Any author would be proud to have come up with that.  I could have borrowed that wonderful bit of scripting, but it would not be quite right for me in this time.  Maybe ‘In the beginning was my word’, or ‘My word, that was some beginning’ ?

One of my literary heroes is Dylan Thomas.  He began his verse play Under Milk Wood  ‘To begin at the beginning’ as if there were no other place to start.  The King, in Alice in Wonderland, explained to Alice how she should ‘begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.’

I have always been suspicious of beginnings and endings.  In business, a project begins when it receives a project number and the project team can start work in a properly-costed fashion.  But a project has a social existence before it is granted organizational legitimacy.  It’s known as front-loading, which is a euphemism for unofficial work which somehow gets done without corporate approval. As for endings, many stories tell of a journey in which a heroic figure sets off, has adventures, and then returns to the place at which the story starts.  This is a far cry from the travel advice the King offered to Alice.

So, I ask myself, was the beginning for The Chronicles of Leadership when I decided to write a factual account of the great leadership stories of the 21st Century?  Or was it the labour of love that had produced a thousand examples that can now be found in the blog Leaders We Deserve?   Or was when I started writing a detective story in which a fictional character believes he has found a secret of Da Vinci code proportions hidden away in the works of John Maynard Keynes?  Or was it even later, when I saw that both projects were inextricably tangled, two pythons each intent on devouring the other.

By then, I had encountered another well-documented and widely-shared experience among writers. The characters in ‘my’ story are fictional, but they occupy space and time with non-fictional characters whose stories I had been chronicling on a daily basis. Fact and fiction merge into what one character refers to as a truth sandwich.

I can affirm that the characters in The Chronicles are inventions of mine,  But they also find themselves sharing time and space with leaders we have come to believe in as real people and whose actions shape our world.  The author is  taken over by the characters in the story.  [And yes, I know I am far from the first author to be muscled out of the text by other voices.]

So there you have it.  I will shortly be handing over the story to be told by the insistent voices of others.  You will hear a lot from John Keane, an academic on a mission and Jessica Lockinge, a precocious schoolgirl detective.  Then there is Jessica’s mother, Wendy the Vice- Chancellor of Urmston University and an expert on psychopathy, Susie Yup, a journalist who has a knack of asking killer questions, Dando the Dark a student activist,  and the mysterious Deep Throat whose whispered information raises more questions than it answers.

Before these and other voices take over, I want to squeeze in my own first and last thoughts about fact and fiction, truth and falsehood, and how the biggest question ends not with a satisfactory answer but with a cosmic question mark.

The Cosmic Question Mark

In the beginning was the cosmic question mark.  Shortly afterwards, the search began for the cosmic answer.  Strictly speaking, there was no before or after, no beginning or ending to the search. The cosmic question mark was not in time, nor was it out of time, nor did it punctuate time.   But I will leave such thoughts to philosophers and cosmic cab drivers.

The cosmic question mark could not have come at dusk, because dusk was yet to be invented.  Nor was it at dawn, for the same reason. It was accompanied by no big bang, no gentle breeze, not even a whimper.  Later, with the arrival of what became known as time, the cosmic question mark became the birthmark of the first leaders who boldly went to the deep end of the Universe in a quest for the cosmic question and for answers to it.

The leaders were accompanied by a monstrous regiment of regicides; charabancs of charletons; cab-driving philosophers; celebrities of motley shapes, sizes, and colours including puce and all shades of grey. And with them came the chroniclers, noting and reporting what they had seen.   Some were paid to write the chronicles in the way that the leaders wanted.  Others sought to reveal the vile actions of tyrants, or to destroy the reputations of the enemies of tyrants.

To begin at the beginning is to tell the tales of everyman, sung through the arc of time by the great story tellers.  These stories have been told and retold with infinite variations.  Odysseus is transmuted and ends up as Leonard Bloom in Joyce’s masterpiece, and Luke Skywalker in Spielberg’s movies.   Beowulf’s monstrous enemy Grendel becomes Tom Harris’s Hannibal Lector.

So don’t ask me what is truth, or even what is my version of truth. Inside my truth are my falsehoods.  Inside my delusions and fantasies are various kinds of truth, layer upon layer, voice over voices, puzzles, dilemmas, and conundrums.  And so on. In which case there is no reason why we should not hear next from John Keane, a scientist who is the narrator in the book, grappling with what he calls The Keynesian Conundrum.

The Keynesian Conundrum 

John Keane

When I began studying economics, I became fascinated by the ideas of my near namesake John Maynard Keynes.   At the start of his most influential book, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, he wrote something which lies at the heart of everything he believed in.  It reads:

‘The ideas here expressed so laboriously are extremely simple and should be obvious. The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas but in escaping from the old ones which ramify, for those of us brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds.’

A few years ago, a complete stranger made an outrageous suggestion to me about a secret that was concealed in the works of John Maynard Keynes that could exceed in significance all of great man’s other political and economic contributions to the course of events in the last century. At first I did not take this seriously.  I returned to study Keynes, mainly to remove the ridiculous possibility from my mind, where it had become uncomfortably stuck like an unwelcome jingle.

To my astonishment, the harder I looked, the more I accepted that I was not refuting the suggestion, but confirming it.  Taken with evidence I found confirmed through other sources, I now believe that Keynes in his later years was the guardian of a secret of the highest importance for future generations. He and a small group of the World’s most influential leaders had agreed on the danger of revealing prematurely what they knew. With great care, clues were concealed by Keynes until the timing was ripe for their disclosure. Keynes was not someone to express a view without directing his considerable intellect to guarantee its merits and accuracy.  This would have been particularly the case in the remarks he made by way of introduction to his masterpiece.

My research had been carried out during the time of my appointment at Urmston University.  However, it has suffered severe hold-ups when I was forced to take a period of medical leave. Worse, on returning to work, I became aware of that I lost confidence in my research capabilities.  The result is unwillingness on my part to present such a controversial idea to others as evidence backed up by scholarly research.

I sometimes use my friend Susie Yup as a sounding board because of her journalistic skills at asking the most penetrating question that needs to be answered.  But I cannot expect her to be available as often as I need her.  My confidence in carrying out serious scholarly research into the Keynesian Conundrum has been severely weakened.  It is not easy to conceal this in professional life.  My publishing productivity has dropped, and has not gone unnoticed by my colleagues.

I retain hope that solving The Keynesian Conundrum will restore my academic fortunes.   I know all too well that I may just another among the multitude of scientists who have glimpsed something anomalous in a set of experimental results. The distinguished American scientist Robert Millikan found an accurate measure of charge on the electron by discarding results which did not fit the pattern he was looking for. He went on to win the Nobel Prize. My conclusions may be based on a measuring artifact which I should discard.  However, even Professor Millikan was criticized for being too cavalier in discarding the results he didn’t like as errors.  There is still the possibility that I have detected a signal, not noise.

Keynes was already an important figure when he wrote his General Theory.  His views had influenced global leaders in shaping a new order after the World War of 1914-1918.  It was said that he had helped save the world from a global dictatorship, and rescued the entire fabric of capitalism. His ideas reshaped economic theory.

If I am right, he had also discovered something so powerful that he found himself a fearful dilemma.  He knew that the world faced threats of reigns of terror imposed by despotic leaders.  He and a small group of associates could help avert the immediate dangers but he realized this would only be temporary.  Other plans would be needed.   But the group dared not reveal their conclusions until the time was right, or they and their ideas would be swiftly destroyed.

I believe the time has come when it is an imperative for the secret to be revealed. The Keynesian Conundrum is now also my conundrum.  If I am right, and I chose to continue, I may well be facing the same sort of peril that Keynes faced eighty years ago.

Sir Geoffrey’s Hong Kong Moment

John Keane

October 22nd 2005

John Keane

“That’s me finished.”  The surgeon unpeeled his latex gloves and dropped them into a receptacle.

Did I hear him say that? When?  Today? I turned my attention to the only reality I could still trust in, the news coming from the little TV screen above my bed.  A cricket match was about to start half way around the world.

I am still prone to periods of time when fact and fiction become blurred.   My work has never returned to the promise it was demonstrating before my illness.   Sometimes I feel I am on the road to recovery, sometimes all is bleak.  The only thing that spurs me on is a belief that I am may be on the verge of discovering one of the most profound secrets of the 21st Century.

If other skills of discovery and analysis have been blunted, I still have faith in the power of rational analysis. At worse, someone else will be able to pick up the work.  But for the moment I have reasons to suspect that I must take care to hold back and protect what I am working on, and which one day I hope to publish as The Chronicles of Leadership.

The former England captain strode out on to the field.  He was no longer in cricket whites, but dressed in a natty cream outfit and matching trilby as befits a TV pundit. He was about to report on the state of the wicket for a one-day tournament half way across the world, at the Kowloon Cricket Club, Hong Kong.

As I watched, something dreadful happened.  Geoffrey Boycott, for it was he, turned to camera, crouched down and plunged his car key into the pitch to demonstrate the playing conditions.  At that moment, he keeled over and passed away on the spot.  It seemed he had sustained a massive heart attack. I watched reports throughout the day as the sad story unfolded through the television screen above my bed.  The tributes from his fellow cricketers were fulsome. Then, in the evening something almost as strange happened.  There was no mention of his passing anywhere in the evening news bulletins or in the Manchester Evening News.

October 23rd 2005

Still haven’t heard what happened in Kowloon.  Nobody seems to have heard the news. Not as much access to television today, but no reference to cricket being played in Hong Kong or to the untimely passing of one of the greatest of modern openers for England.  I am beginning to wonder if there is a conspiracy of silence.  Maybe he is still alive and in a vegetative state?

Hospitalization and large doses of medication have seriously influenced my grasp of reality. Had I really seen the untimely demise of a well-known cricket commentator, ‘Sir’ Geoffrey Boycott?

We Had the Chief Rabbi in Yesterday

John Keane

It is clear now that for some time I have been mentally as well as physically unwell.  As I write, both forms of illness seem to be in remission.   This means that for the moment I can think clearly as I put down these notes.  Perhaps the side of effects of medication had produced the delusional episodes.  It took a few days for me to establish that Geoffrey Boycott may have been in Hong Kong to commentate on a cricket match, but no one else believes he keeled over on camera.

I assume the sighting of the chief Rabbi was also in all probability another delusional episode, although I have not attempted to check with the hospital records.   These incidents were so vivid.

“We had the chief Rabbi in yesterday” I told Susie Yup

I could see she did not believe me.  “They put special screens up.” I went on. “Maybe it was because of some form of religious obligation like keeping food kosher”.

“I don’t think they keep patients separate by religion” Susie replied, after a long pause.  I could see the logic to her remark.

Then after that, there was the incident of the wounded gunman and the armed policeman sitting patiently at the foot of the bed.  I had heard about the shooting in Hulme, which is a few miles away.  The gunman in the next bed to mine seemed to be unconscious, but I was quite agitated that he might be faking it, and would overpower his guard and run [a mock] down the ward.

Maybe some of these incidents really happened.  Was there really a medical consultation at the foot of my bed with clinical staff carrying out a risk analysis?  They were discussing the options of moving me to a high dependency unit or leaving me where I was.  I wanted to join in, but could not say anything.  That’s what makes me suspect it was just another delusion.   Which as far as I can understand is an illusion which you never accept as a trick, even when the magician shows you how it’s done.

The delusive episodes appear to be subsiding.   I am encouraged that I will soon be able to start work again on The Chronicles. 

My First Case: The Mysterious Secret of John Keane

Jessica Lockinge, Private Investigator

These case notes are written as personal and top secret, but will be made public if needed  so that they can be referred to as evidence.  Or they could be provided to Dr Keane of Urmston University if he agrees to become my first client.

Here are the key individuals in the case to date.  Where possible, I have added personal assessments of their potential as Murderers. [PM assessments]. In this I apply those intuitive leaps that a part of a detective’s skill set. The aliases also are also from such insights and may not have been used by anyone else.

Jessica Lockinge  [AKA myself].   In my next report I give more detailed  notes about myself,  that I originally intended to use as a Face Book page, before deciding that would be a v bad idea for a would-be confidential investigative agent.   No murder rating, but if anyone else rated me they would say I have low capability of becoming a murderer because of my respect for the sanctity of all life and my intention if I can is to combine detecting with becoming a practicing Buddhist and “taking refuge in the triple gem”.

John Keane.  [AKA my first client].  He does not know yet that I am investigating his case.  He is in desperate need of help to solve some important problem.  It could be said that he is my client but he just doesn’t know it yet.   While a client could be a murderer, that is only something which happens in fictional who-dun-its.  Anyway, he looks far more likely to be a victim than a murderer. He is employed by the firm in which my Mother Glenda  [real name Wendy] works.

Susie Yup.  An acquaintance of John Keane who is possibly one of his closest friends.  I have added her name for completeness.  She is a journalist.   Have not met her, so no  murder rating is possible for the moment.

Wendy Lockinge  [AKA Glenda]  Jessica Lockinge’s mother. An expert on education and has degrees in psychology to prove it.  In some ways she is human.  In other ways she is Wonder Woman  who can morph into Your  Incredible Sulkiness.   Glenda was naturally involved in the appointment of John Keene [date to be established]  She is now in charge of the entire organisation, which is in the education business.  I have no doubt that Glenda could commit murder in an honourable 007 Glenda Bond kind of way or more likely order a James Bond to do it for her.   If I were brought to court, I would have to say under oath that she has from time to time threatened to murder Penelope and myself and feed our livers to the vultures.

Penelope [AKA Penny; Glenda The 2nd ]  .  My younger sister by almost precisely two years.  She will be kept as far as possible out of this case for reasons of my sibling sensitivity towards the child’s well-being.   While she is widely regarded as someone off the top of the scale in IQ tests, I would expect her wilfulness and hyperactivity eventually will be diagnosed as evidence of a neurobehavioral personality disorder and she may well have murderous potential, which would require detective powers to reveal.

Dr Brush.  [AKA Basil, Toilet, and Tooth]  Employed by Glenda.  Undoubtedly Brush is the sort of person who is likely to be the murderer in a detective story, although that means he probably wouldn’t be in real life.  His behaviour in public suggests that he is a male of the lecherous variety, which will make interviewing him without anyone else present  a worthy challenge.  He is also, by repute, a heavy drinker [something I overheard Glenda say].  This was confirmed at the meeting [see below].

Simon Chalmers [AKA  The Librarian, and ‘Ook’].  Simon has what is called a sense of humour which he unleashes all too often.  He likes to greet visitors to the University library with the ‘Oook’ which was the only word The Librarian would say in the Unseen University by Terry Pratchett.  [because he had been turned into an Oran-Utan].   When Glenda is showing visitors around the library he  makes ape-type movements behind their backs.  But he is a good Librarian, and he is paid peanuts [or do I mean bananas?].  Very docile, although in the Pratchett books,  the Oran-Utan librarian turns nasty when people mistake him for a monkey.  Murder rating.  Moderate. His Oran-Utan obsession makes him an outside candidate for violent attacks, but only against book abusers.

Mr Scrivener [AKA  TK, or Tony].   A VSP [very serious person] in his own eyes.  Has fingers in many pies.  Probably a Mason.   Glenda could find out through her police contacts.  Tries to impress everyone by his cleverness and knowledge.   Is a ‘worthy’ and appears on TV discussions about business, ethics, and politics.  Is a trustee of Urmston’s Archaeological Museum.   Has podgy fingers and hairy wrists.  Murderer potential.   Oh yes, I hope so.  But probably not. Oh, yes and runs a poetry society.

Dr Beamer [AKA Bouncy] High energy.    Has schemes which bring in money to the firm.  Wears city business gear and old school tie.  [I could find out which old school if important]  Bit of a wheeler dealer?  Murderer potential.   Low to medium.  .

Elizabeth Powell [AKA Elizabeth 3rd or The Queen Mother]  Much loved Materfamilias.  Lives in family home with two horses Sandy and Dandy plus several other smaller animals among whom Sandy is a wilful creature.  She is generous to a fault, (Elizabeth not Sandy) particularly, in my opinion, with Penny.

Absent Father  [Major Robert Lockinge, DSM]  Photographs show him as dashing and maybe even heroic.  My father died on military duty on November 12, 2001, in the Airbus A300 crash.

The Reception: I meet Dr John Keene

Jessica Lockinge

Timeline: Yesterday evening.

Glenda is holding a reception at the firm’s outrageously gothic grand chambers for her minions and assorted guests.  Our rooms are above the main dining hall of the Palace of Glendalot. Penelope and I are playing the game of Unheard Unseen.  The winner is the one who remains undetected the longer.

I was naturally well concealed, but as ever, Penelope cannot stay in one place for more than a microsecond.  A twitch from Penelope and she was rumbled.  Did I mention that our mother has 360 degree vision? Glenda waved to show she had seen her, and Penelope waved back.  Then my dear sister deliberately outed me, with the result that Glenda pretty-much dragged me from my preferred point of concealment to join the masses.  Meanwhile Penny had disappeared from view again, ignoring the once outed game over rule.

Glenda had been talking with [or more accurately, talking at] someone I quickly discovered was Dr John KeeneThe talking at is a habit she shares with Tony Scrivener among others .“John, meet Jessica”  she said  by way of introduction.  “Jessica’s accomplice [i.e. Penelope]  seems to have scooted off”.  Glenda likes to act as a member of a team not as the big boss.  All underlings are expected to join in the game, and to address her and each other as friends and social equals. [Except at formal meetings when the roles revert to those of Queen Bee and her workers and drones] .

John Keene is almost as ancient as Glenda, although I deduce that he is still a junior employee. I almost wrote that he was way down the pecking order, but you can’t have a picking order in a Bee Hive without a horrible mixing of metaphors.

To my practiced eye,  it is obvious that John Keene is a man who had an all-consuming secret to protect.  His fixed smile and rapid eye movements suggests he is more in need of practical help than a social exchange of pleasantries. I will of course not assess his potential for Friending by myself as I haven’t joined Facebook.   Nor shall I be more than a friend.   I intend to avoid the trap into which many fictional detectives fall of getting emotionally, involved with a client.

Glenda sashayed away, leaving Keene and myself together, expected to engage in said social niceties.  My mother was already pursuing another of said niceties which she calls circulating.  Our American friends describe it schmoozing or working the room.   I deduced she had used me as a helpless pawn, not for the first time, making it easier for the all-powerful Queen to make her move towards her next victim. Meanwhile, John Keane was twiddling with a wine-glass, looking at his shoes, and hoping he too could find a smart move without seeming to snub someone who was obviously his boss’s much-loved   daughter.

“What do you do?” I asked, an excellent opening move which Glenda often plays against tongue-tied employees.

“I discover things” he replied

“Well so do I” I replied wittily and encouragingly “except I don’t get paid for it, not yet anyway”.

Silence.   I try again.  “What are you discovering now?” I asked, even more encouragingly. I would have obtained a more lucid response, were it not for the leering Dr Brush who had been lurking nearby.  He appeared to be as predatory and pissed as his reputation implied.

“That’s Keane’s big secret” Brush interrupted, lurching closer to us.  “He’s working on to a world-shattering discovery.  It’s so secret he won’t write about it.  He won’t tell any of his colleagues.  He certainly hasn’t published it.  Isn’t that right, Keane?”

John Keane twitched visibly, which I could see gave the dreadful Brush some pleasure.

“It’s difficult” he said softly “Maybe I won’t be able to solve it, ever.”

“Yes, you will, I’m sure” I said.  [“And I will help you” I thought, even if you won’t know it for the moment”.]

This all sound very promising.  I would have liked to learn more about Keane’s secret.   But the presence of Brush meant I was not have been able to hold any further discussions about the case.  I must bide my time.

I do not like thee,  Dr B.  The reason is not hard to see. But  this is very clear to me.  I do not like thee Dr B

The Facebook Entry that Wasn’t

Jessica Lockinge

My name is Jessica Lockinge.   I was born on November 18th 1998 to poor but honest parents descended from peasant stock in the Parish of Urmston in the North West of England.  By the time I arrived, my mother and father had progressed into bourgeois respectability.

In the nature of such tragedies, I cannot remember my father directly.  He was a military hero who died in a tragic air crash in America.  The crash was officially designated an accident, but it happened close to the  time of the New York twin towers atrocity and there are still the conspiracy theories about it.

My birthdate is also famed for being the day on which impeachment proceedings began for President Clinton, for what became known as The Lewinsky affair.  On that day, Monica Lewinsky was 22 years of age, having been born on July 23, 1973.  I have promised my mother never to do anything with or to a President of the United States of the sort which resulted in shame and humiliation for Monika.  Even with the maturity of a 22 year old, she must have become intoxicated by the power and charisma of Bill Clinton.  I have made this promise to my mother on pragmatic rather than emotional grounds.

If I had been born one day later, it would have been on the calendar date when Iran declared Osama Bin Laden free of sin for organizing various bombing and killings.  If I had been born six weeks and three years later it would have been the date of the so-called 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda ordered by Osama Bin Laden whose death in 2011 was ordered and watched from the White House by President Obama and Hillary Clinton which I think is ironic.

My life has been lived out so far in a blameless fashion, although this is mostly through lack of opportunity rather than lack of motive.  I want more than anything to become a detective.  I am already preparing myself for my life work. However, I am expected to continue with my studies.  I may not yet be able to escape the cruel domination that a parent can exert over a weak and helpless daughter.  If that is so, I shall go to University, where I intend to combine my detective work with reading for a degree, probably in forensic science.

Wxcept for my mother, I have not been able to ‘detect’ any detective in the peasant stock from which I am derived).  In order to achieve my dream I intend fully to avoid many temptations of the flesh in order to avoid any such scandal as the one which ruined the tragic Monica Lewinsky’s chances of a career in politics or as a private investigator.

I have begun training myself in the discretion which will be necessary when I become a detective.  That is why I refrain from providing a great deal more about my life, which in any case would not be particularly interesting to anyone.  The urge of discretion is so great that I may never post this page to Facebook.   There  is another  thing I must share with my  friends.

I have recently begun a passionate affair with the most beautiful creature I have ever met.  Her name is Scruples, but she has unscrupulously stolen my heart.   Scruples is five years old, and is gentle and docile to ride, even over jumps.

I am now available for solving any problems requiring the attentions of an inexperienced but therefore inexpensive detective of the highest integrity.  It is also my intention to reduce the proportion of sentences beginning with the first personal singular, which otherwise gives a false impression of my temperament, which is fragrant and as free of ego as that of my dearest Scruples.

Urmston: Town and Gown

Susie Yup

Students and tourists arrive at Urmston from all over the world.  Many will be unaware of the rich this ancient township. Although little is known for certain of its earliest inhabitants, a 3 lb stone axe was excavated near Shawe Hall in Flixton in 1846, and a dug-out canoe unearthed during the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal.  Roman pottery also has been excavated from Carrs ditch, which was part of the fortifications at the time.

King John (1199-1216) bestowed “as much land as a team of oxen could plough in one year upon Orme, the son of Edward Aylward”. This Royal gift area became known as Orme’s Tun (dwelling) and much later as Urmston.  Urmston Hall was built about 1350, by the de Ormeston family.

History records that Sir Ralph Valentine took 100 men to the battle of Bosworth in 1485, where he was killed. Among the distinguished ancient families of Urmston were the de Traffords who gave their name to the Trafford Industrial Estate, and the modern Trafford Centre, which today, like Urmston’s University, attracts visitors from around the world.

The Industrial Revolution had initially a devastating effect on Urmston’s hand-weavers many of whom were forced to seek employment in the mills that were springing up in Manchester and surrounding regions of Lancashire and Derbyshire.

The University received its Royal Charter in 1966 but its campus, like much of Urmston, is a mix of the ancient and modern.  Although built on marchlands, the campus has never been flooded.   Several farm houses have been retained and are used for teaching and research, dotted around the campus.  The main and most modern building is Edward Aylward Hall, which houses the vice-chancellor’s administrative offices, the main lecture theatre, computer facilities and the faculties of Science, Humanities and Hospitality Services.

Urmston University recently attracted international attention when it appointed one of the first female vice-chancellors in England, the distinguished criminologist Dr Wendy Lockinge.     Before becoming an academic, Dr Lockinge had a spectacular career as a police officer rising to the rank of chief superintendent, and leading the team that brought the notorious serial killer [Rowan Wilson] to justice.  In her inauguration speech, she said that she had found many of the skills learned as a police officer had been transferable to academic life.  After her appointment, Dr Lockinge moved into the Vice Chancellor’s apartments on the main University campus.  She has two daughters, Jessica and Penelope, both of whom won scholarships to Chester Ladies’ College.  Major Lockinge was a distinguished soldier who served in The Irish Guards Regiment and who died in the New York Airbus crash of 2001.

The University of Urmston is internationally known for focus on education for leadership, applications of Science in Society,  and for its innovative community relations outreach programmes.