Keith Albert Dennis - in Memoriam


Active member
This is the second of the memorials sent to me by Brian Thomas.


What a character!  As thin as a rake, as small as a slight simpleton.  He came up to Sheffield in September 1963 wearing clothes that were even ahead of Carnaby Street.  Keith was wrapped in a suede or leather jacket, colourful tie and state-of-the-art bootees.  Often wore black, which emphasised his albino hair.  He was a Dilettante before Robert Smith could call him one.  Keith was a regular attender at the Saturday night Graves Hall bops.  Usually with Brian ?who could merely afford green suede boots and bellbottoms ? and occasionally Bob Haynes - the suave boot boy from Northampton.  Keith loved the 60?s pop music and was completely au fait with fashion.  He danced the Shake and Watusi as if he had invented them and would have made a wonderful ballet dancer.
Owing to Keith?s superior demonstration of the latest dance crazes, he was besieged throughout every dance evening by eager and nubile young girls ? physical education students from Lady Mabel?s College at Wentworth near Rotherham.  Consequently, Keith had a ball, whilst Brian and Bob struggled to find lissome and pretty dance partners.  His success with the ladies was explained by Bob Haynes.  Bob was older than the rest of us and therefore wiser.  He said ?I know what it is, he brings out their maternal instincts; he does in me so he must in them?.

Moreover, Keith had a beguiling smile and a fetching laugh.  Promising much and delivering quite a bit.  He was Twist Champion of Bilborough Nottingham for a certain time.  He was an excellent table-tennis player, and I remember him thrashing Mr. Haynes regularly on [no, at] the Ping-Pong table, ciggie in his right hand and bat in his left.  Like Brian, Keith was also left-handed and of superior intelligence.

Keith always managed to keep out of any trouble, brewing or actual.  He had a way of merging back into the wallpaper and then delivering the final judgement.  Although sleight of build he was very sleight-of-hand

Later on ? Keith did have relationships, but we were never privy to either their sure progress or eventual nemesis.

He was an active member of Sheffield University Speleological Society [SUSS] ? born out of the university climbing club SUMC in 1961 ? and came into his own on caving trips that needed a lissome body and determined attitude.  Keith had both these in Hearts.  Keith, Al Watt and Chris Evans formed a great duo when ?bottoming? specialist tight places and potholes like Car Pot, the Giant?s Hole-Oxlow new connection [see below] and the [sewage] drains at Hunters? Bar.  He never knowingly showed fatigue on any of our caving trips.  His lack of flesh and a zipped wetsuit occasionally caused him consternation not to say concern at the Disappointment Pot rescue.  He dined regularly with us at The Curry Inn and on-our-doorstep Margie?s.
He was unique and will be sorely missed.  We never knew him intimately, but he was ready, willing and pretty able in his chosen fields.

Keith was a regular and core member of the 63/64 intake who joined SUSS.  I carried out and finished with him and Min a punishing 7 hour walk over Kinder in about 1967, always tough going [we crossed Kinder without using any paths, the weather was so bad that Keith wore his wetsuit]. We three troubadours also did a very early Giants-Oxlow connection trip.  I scraped my face struggling through the 7.5-inch connection [it has since been heightened/widened [not my face] to 7.75 inches, not to say blown away].  Keith got through unscathed with his downy cheek bumf still soft and white. Yes, Keith was almost born white-haired and continued ever such.

He was really conscientious at being educated in German, always in the library and gesticulating with his right arm.  He was an essential member of our Tuesday evening SUSS sojourns at The Forrester?s Arms. I suspect he was musically gifted, though he never showed us harp-blowing and finger strumming skills.
At the end of our first year, Keith was billeted with a young landlady Pat whereas Bob Haynes [RLH] and I were at 727 Ecclesall Road [just before you turn right up into Rustlings Road ? where Jackie Lord lived decades later], with a dragon ladyland.  Said harridan was bemused by the way RLH and WBT used her toilet, such that we were turfed out on our ears and managed to join Keith and 2 others at Cowlishaw Road - just south of Ecclesall Road and east of Junction Road. This walk ran up Brocco Bank, my favourite route every morning from Mrs. Tiresome to Western Bank, passing such salubrious cave-dweller haunts to the south as Collegiate Crescent, Broomhall Road [RWS, KAD, MJB], Broomspring Lane [Krausz household ? MJB, DP, WBT, KAD] and Wilkinson Street [Hank, Marvin].

We bumped into his assertive and fairly enticing sister Christine, an early adopter of micro skirts and hence tights [Christine, not Keith], she bleached her hair to emulate Keith.  She made a big impression on one of our brethren.  Christine Dennis also wore leather and had good hair.  We never knew that Keith had a brother called Geoff.  An anecdote now follows;
Keith and Min climbed together using rudimentary caving belay methods and a caving rope of uncertain history and strength.  The most memorable ascent? was that of ?Wollock? on North Burbage.  Keith ?belayed? Min by jamming himself, on the top, behind a rock a lucky distance from the edge.  Attempting a HVS in his walking boots was perhaps ambitious for Min as a sophomore climber, but Min reached almost to the top before falling off.  He naturally expected Keith, only 30kg less in weight, to hold him.  What actually happened was that the rope wrapped around Keith?s leg and he was dragged towards the edge.  The only thing that prevented his possible death fall was Min?s hitting the ground just as Keith reached the edge.  The pair were too shaken for recriminations, so they shared some of Keith?s cigarettes and retired to the Curry Inn for a celebration meal.
Min believed, perhaps Keith told him, that Keith was the County Schoolboy cross country champion.

ENDS WBT et al.