about James Kilty

early years


Born a Geordie, we moved from Walkergate to Gosforth where I went to my first school. Margaret and I crossed the then A1 every day to get there. The town moor on my father's shoulders, crossing the High Level bridge alone at 4 years, walks and blackberry picking in Jesmond Dene, playing in the colliery sidings, and Saturday trips to Boots' library on the High Street (A1) are favourite memories. Also crossing the electric railway, an untold story of excitement and danger, was thankfully a once to be done, never again challenge.


A move to Blackburn took me away from dear friends and brought new ones, especially at St. Mary's College, where my father taught maths. Happy times with memories of cycling to Ribchester and Clitheroe and swimming in fast flowing water with great friends. An avid reader, science fiction was added to my range and became my favourite. Music was rediscovered in the church, playing 1812 over the electric organ loudspeakers - some introduction to classical music! The school orchestra helped develop a certain talent for the cello, which became an important rock of sanity later. Musical friends became the core of my circle with happy times playing music: both listening to a record player and concerts in the town - big ones like Verdi's Requiem, a magnificent piece to play and little ones like recitals in a house.

university and beyond

Royal College of Science

Imperial College Physics Department became my home for 7 years! The Royal College of Science was our first loyalty and the 3 constituent colleges had a rivalry most strongly expressed on Morphy Day, when the 3 colleges rowed against each other at Putney - flour bags everywhere - most satisfying. The privilege of travelling on the College mascot, a vintage fire engine was earned in later years. The cello continued with Michael Bush's concerts and the University College Orchestra. A motor cycle became my first mode of transport with consequent freedom of movement. A move from the shelter of Netherhall House to a bed-sit in South Kensington added to this, though the termly movement home via a steam train, the "East Lancs Express", ended as the open road with its freezing winters, became the new avenue. The privilege of growing up in a University setting is not to be underestimated nor its consequent responsibilities to manage money, time and recreation with study - a challenge indeed, given the many attractions within the student citadel and the metropolis. Rowing was a new attraction, continuing into postgraduate years, starting from scratch, working up to the IC 2nd eight and later coach to a winning RCS second 8. The Head of the River is more than a spectacle - it is a celebration of oarsmen and a gruelling race to keep the starting position or better it and if possible, beat the next higher IC 8.

high energy nuclear physics

Postgraduate work meant a new start with new colleagues in a new field - High Energy Nuclear Physics - at a most exciting time. The head of the group, Clifford Butler, had discovered the "strange particles" and my initiation was into examining the cloud chamber tracks showing these particles. The bubble chamber group beckoned and 3 years later the finished apparatus was moved to Saclay, the French equivalent of Harwell, south of Paris. Some months later, on the night shift, as the bubble chamber was being cooled down with liquid nitrogen, as the first stage before liquid hydrogen was applied, the stainless steel weakened, the design failed and the whole experiment was scrapped. The preliminary attempt to determine the neutron energy spectrum for my particular experiment, became the whole focus of the forthcoming thesis and not just a part. Alas, although the thesis was finished some years later, it did not progress to completion - it disappeared into the vacuum state once posted off to my supervisor. Overall, the time spent with wonderful colleagues and teachers was an excellent preparation for the teaching career which followed. One highlight was Professor Abdus Salam, standing back from a most complicated expression on the blackboard, admiring the symmetry of the expressions and extolling their beauty. Parts even had a life as "animals" - a fresh outlook on the maths. Meeting such as Luis Alvarez, Freeman Dyson, Richard Feynman and feeling the excitement of their enquiries was inspiring. I remember too, the gentle colleagueship of Ian Butterworth, whose career went on to great heights.

Meanwhile, marriage to Eileen and 2 wonderful children, Gerard and Jane, brought home life and the challenge of being a student, husband and father, with all its delights, commuting from South Croydon to South Kensington by motor cycle, cycle and later, by train. The family came to France for a few months in the depths of winter 1961-2.

training teachers

Training teachers at the De La Salle College of Education was the first career move in 1963 as a Lecturer in Physics, promotion following quite quickly. I was able to develop, with a colleague, a new approach to practical Physics with a range of inquiries to suit the range of aptitudes and motivations of the students - a multiple choice, self-teaching laboratory. The most circumscribed were the highly structured, almost cookery book style, the least were open-ended enquiries with minimal guidance and the most freedom for the students. In between, were degrees of structure and guidance, covering as many areas as we could. It seemed imperative that those who would teach, had the best grounding to understand the nature of the Nuffield programmes in Physics or Secondary Science (which I was also involved with as a contributor) and present them to pupils with insight. These were happy years, with a growing family, now with Edmund, Michael and Sarah, who all had first priority over thesis writing! A house move further into the country brought a garden and an extension to build. Oh, the energies of youth!

Surrey University - the middle years

research and adult education

The time came to move on to a Schools Council Research Fellowship with Professor Lewis Elton at the University of Surrey in the Institute for Educational Technology, sharing a room with the newly formed Centre for Adult Education. This was a transition time, children in a new school, leading the cello section of the University orchestra, working closely with staff and students to understand the "Switch to Science" courses and the student experience. A second UGC Fellowship, investigating the training of University teachers, continued the research work and brought further contact with the students of the Adult Education Department and a natural career home at the completion of the research. The joint appointment with the Royal College of Nursing gave scope to develop new approaches in practical teacher training in the classroom, using the experience of different types of small group work as a basis. Commuting to London brought a challenge as did working in two environments with wonderful students. They brought considerable experience of work and life in their various roles (Midwife teacher students were part of the University group along with other groups from the Rcn) and were a joy to teach and to learn from.

human potential discovered

The transition became apparent as the thesis was being written and the strength of the emotional tension involved in writing the thesis, completing further research, teaching, commuting and family life became too strong and marital separation seemed the only solution. A new life began, now commuting in two directions (family home and work from my new, temporary abode) and the necessity to learn new skills to manage emotional life and take further the discoveries of a new world back into teaching. Once John Heron, the founder of the Human Potential Research Project moved on to London University, having discovered the Human Potential movement and its educational forms, I saw the necessity of continuing his work in a short programme of short courses, which I could attend for my personal development and later to develop the facilitator skills needed to take on more of this work as my skills developed. The Facilitator Styles course became the core of my own development work along with Co-counselling, to which I had taken from the start.

human potential research project

As the joint appointment came to its end and I took on the formal role of Lecturer in the Centre, later Department of Adult Education, the expansion and extension of the HPRP courses became the focus along with external consultancies as workshops for staff of Health Service professionals such as doctors and dentists were added to the range. Links with other Educational organisations followed. Naturally John's role as Assistant Director (Medical Education) at the British Postgraduate Medical Federation made this link inevitable and Ken Knight at Brunel University Management Programme invited another important link, later with his Self-Management programme. This was an exciting time, with a second short marriage to Meg Bond, a colleague with common interests and who eventually came full-time into the Project, a biennial Facilitator Styles course, longer feeder courses, flexible arrangements for students to take a combination of workshops and short courses. All this pointed to one or more Masters degrees as the next step.

Alas, the Vice-Chancellor's autocratic and amateur "evaluation" of the department was too much of a contradiction of the essential values of the work and I left using a voluntary early retirement scheme not long after marrying Sharon. To adapt to changing financial systems and criteria, over several years, finally prove the profitability of the Project account which had always been there, achieve agreement on the next stage, which included an additional member of staff and an MSc based on the Open programme, only to have all plans put on hold for a year was too much for me. Paradoxically, the burgeoning literature on Departmental evaluation in Universities was totally ignored - this in an institution which prized research in its subject fields - absurdly amateur.

retirement and independence

police trainer development

Work with police officers seconded to training continued with the luxury of time to focus exclusively on quality as an independent consultant, albeit with some responsibility to a half-time appointment which I continued for 3 years. Over the years I had assisted Bramshill Police Staff College in its Management Development programmes for Junior and Senior Command, and helped train staff at Pannel Ash to carry out Trainer Training in the National Police Forces. I was conducting Staff Development for the officers seconded to the Constable Development programme of the Metropolitan Police, conducting a Staff Development Programme for officers seconded to Hendon Police College to train new officers and working with a new programme in the Continuing Education of officers. This was a wonderful work with dedicated officers determined to bring the best out of their students and do their best for them - most rewarding for them and me.


Moving to West Cornwall at last provided a peaceful environment away from the urgency and rush of people in the South East. People we met actually made eye contact and thanked each other for giving way in the narrow country roads. Organic gardening and growing vegetables for the table along with keeping chickens, gave us a healthy base in our new cottage home with an acre of land and wonderful views. Political support of the Liberal Democrats ultimately yielded an MP and brought me into the County Council until Cessair was born and Sharon resumed her nursing career at St. Julia's Hospice. My inauguration into political life was through a major flooding within my constituency in Helston and months of successful work to improve drainage - a valuable legacy for such a short time.


The opportunity to keep bees came about as a member of POGG (Penwith Organic Gardeners and Growers) decided to give up and I bought his 3 colonies and equipment. The local association provided a wonderful teaching environment, an opportunity to give something back in the form of editing the monthly newsletter "An Hes" (Cornish for "the swarm") which taught me more and more about beekeeping. The association had longed to start a course in beekeeping to attract new members and give them the best start - my credentials were perfect for the job and a mutually beneficial relationship was developed with the Duchy College - the agricultural wing of Cornwall College. 10 years later, I passed the course on to a younger man after a brush with bowel cancer. Rodger Dewhurst and I had developed a close working relationship over the bees and he shared my vision of breeding bees able to manage varroa (a parasitic mite which arrived in my bees in 1996). Our work has progressed substantially and I have been able to encourage Rodger to present his findings in seminars and conferences. Queen rearing is an immensely satisfying activity and we are encouraging a growing number of beekeepers in Cornwall to work with us.

counselling and cocounselling

My whereabouts became known to staff of the counselling courses at Cornwall College and I have been able to assist them by supervising their work on a regular basis and helping establish their award bearing course within Plymouth University. I was also able to resume teaching cocounselling for a few rounds, finally leaving it to another teacher who moved west.

Vajrayana Buddhism

Having met two wonderful British Tibetan Buddhist teaching Lamas, a married couple of the Ngakphang style of the Nyingma tradition, I recognised the next stage of my path. They have given us, as a family, an extraordinary opportunity to learn and use the practices of the Aro lineage to realise its teachings in our lives. I was able to assist in a small way the development of the Aro web pages and by arranging teaching events in the South West and latterly, a web site for Cornwall's Buddhists. more on Vajrayana

these web pages

These web pages are now an important focus for me, albeit intermittently, as they allow me to pass on in a different way, lessons from my work for others to consider. I hope this legacy will be of benefit to some people.

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