The Durham University Alumni Community in Canada’s capital 


Our Events 

The most popular event of the year is our summer reunion, held at a member’s cottage, farm or home in a casual BBQ format.  

Each November we participate in the global Durham alumni celebration known as Dunelm Days. Given the time of year this is an indoor affair, often held at D'Arcy McGee's Pub on Sparks Street – which is where it all began so many years ago.

We also have a Christmas tradition of getting together in New Edinburgh at the home of past president, Gavin Murphy, where the “Dunelm” nameplate welcomes you. 

Most recently, we have ventured into international videoconferencing – a great way to stay in touch with people who no longer live in Ottawa.

DunelmOTTAWA is always ready to welcome new members, both permanent and transient, and help them adapt to the weather and the job market.  But mostly we just socialize - it’s what we do best.  So if you find yourself in Canada do not hesitate to email ajcorner@dunelm.org.uk and follow us on Twitter @DunelmOTTAWA

Meet Our Team

AJ Corner
St Aidan’s College, BA Modern Languages 2002 

Born and raised near Durham, I decided not to stray too far from my family's Sunday roasts when heading off a short distance to university. However, my languages degree (French, German, and Spanish) encouraged me to venture much further afield during and after my studies. Most of my working life has been spent overseas, with stints in Germany, Japan, and the USA before moving to Canada. My professional experience was quite varied while I figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up, with international business and education as the common themes across a number of public and private sector roles. After realizing that I was fascinated by the complex interpersonal dynamics found across different organizations and cultures, I chose to pursue a research career focusing on topics such as leadership and teamwork. I completed my PhD in Managerial Sciences in the USA, and I'm now an Assistant Professor at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa.

Steering Committee

Paul McConnell Van Mildert College, BSc Zoology 1969

I put my Zoology degree to work in the technical information field of the UK pharmaceutical industry. Seeking a different path, I emigrated to Canada in 1974. My interest in information management evolved during many rewarding years working in different sectors of Canada’s International Development Research Centre. I served as an editor, administrator, program manager, policy wonk and director, encouraging and monitoring research projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. A particular research focus was measuring the impact of information on development. I was also able to circumnavigate the globe several times, visiting over 60 countries. On retirement, I turned my attention to local community issues, including protection of the New Edinburgh Heritage Conservation District in Ottawa.

Melanie Nicholson - Graduate Society, MA Archaeology (Roman) 1999

Originally from Prince Edward Island, I have been living in Ottawa since 2002. I have been a political staffer on Parliament Hill since my arrival, working for six senators, a cabinet minister, and former Prime Minister. I am currently the Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Progressive Senate Group. My undergraduate days were spent at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, where I graduated with a BA (Hons) in Classics. I later attended Durham, where my interest in the archaeology of Roman Britain grew, and I dug periodically in the UK and in Canada until recent years. An integral part of my life is Girl Guides of Canada, of which I have been a member since 1980. I have held various senior leadership positions both locally and provincially in Ontario and on PEI, as well as at the National level. I am currently the Provincial Co-Commissioner of Ontario Council, which serves Guiding in Ontario and Nunavut. Cookies, anyone?

Mark Burke St. Aidan’s College, BA History 1999

From a Yorkshire family, I grew up mostly in East Anglia and then travelled north to Durham in 1996 to study History. After some years spent teaching high school in England and then overseas, I eventually came to Ottawa in 2009. I instantly felt at home and settled, becoming a citizen in 2015. So fond was I of my new home that I rarely ventured back to England, except to visit family who had coincidentally moved near to Durham. I did retain a fondness for Durham and Yorkshire however, so much so that I proposed to my Canadian wife-to-be on the steps of St Aidan’s college.

I had not realised there was a Dunelm society in Ottawa until a good friend from my college days (AJ) recently settled here and informed me. Having met the group, I was immediately charmed and just had to join! I look forward to being part of an organization that connects Durham graduates and contributes to the life of the University beyond its geographical boundaries.

Mariam Humayun Stephenson College, MSc Marketing 2013

I'm a source of standard malarkey and do research on interesting stuff. In my free time, I like playing with cameras, hunting for the best biryani, and keeping track of Durham alumni who end up in Ottawa. I'm determined that Ottawa is NOT “the city that fun forgot” (although the weather has not helped me in breaking that myth). Current obsessions include OpenAI, Gong Cha, and Uncle Tetsu. And, I look forward to meeting you all soon! 

Past Presidents

Martin Yates Grey College, BSc Applied Physics 1965 

Martin was our founder and first president until his passing in 2014 – much too soon! He was the life and soul of our group and conducted some of the shortest and funniest AGMs imaginable. No one could say no to Martin.

Originally from Oswestry, Shropshire, he came from a missionary family and spent four years in Papua-New Guinea, where it is rumoured he set fire to a sugar cane field - accidentally, we believe. He had a long and successful career in the semiconductor and telecommunications industries, first as an engineer and then as a manager. He came to Canada in 1971 to work for Microsystems International and joined Nortel in 1975, finally retiring in 2002. After that he became a dynamic leader, motivator and fundraiser for two local community groups.

He also participated in a Grey College program where alumni mentor new graduates on careers in their field. Fittingly, these alumni are known as Business Angels.

Gavin Murphy Graduate Society, LLM International and European Legal Studies 1998 

I had the task of filling the very large shoes of Martin Yates following his untimely death.  I served as president until my retirement in 2015.  For many years I was also photographer and media co-ordinator for DunelmOTTAWA and maintained the tradition of an alumni Christmas knees up at my New Edinburgh residence, appropriately named Dunelm. 

I am a former journalist and semi-retired lawyer having worked for 37 years (what lawyer ever fully retires?) and most recently was legal editor of the Commonwealth Law Bulletin, a law journal published by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. I was also art curator at Bluebird Coffee Gallery in the ByWard Market for five years following retirement. I have been a frequent lecturer at law schools in Canada and Europe including Durham, and for a number of years was an associate of the Durham European Law Institute. I try to visit Durham on a regular basis as I am still close to my former landlady from student days. As she often and happily reminds me, I am ‘family’.

Jack Lindsey
Van Mildert College, BA Psychology 1969

I ran screaming from my first career as a market research psychologist for the pet food industry and found solace on an Israeli kibbutz.  On my return I found fulfillment in driving a double decker bus around central London and performing Transcendental Meditation, though not simultaneously. Next I answered an ad in the Sunday Times offering a 4-star career in computing and became a COBOL programmer for the Home Office. Then in 1977, I visited Paul McConnell in Ottawa and a holiday romance led to my landed immigrant status in the now defunct fiancé class. After some happy years at the Bank of Canada, I went back into consulting, specializing in data architecture, data modelling, metadata management, XML data exchange vocabularies, and semantic web ontologies.

In early 2023, I decided retirement was a good idea and after 7 years at the helm I also passed the DunelmOTTAWA torch to the next generation in the person of AJ Corner.

A Brief History

Celebrating our twentieth anniversary in 2022, our association has spanned the evolution of the internet from the bulletin board to social videoconferencing.  

The midwife of our group was a certain Adrian P. Beney of St Cuth’s when he started one of those new-fangled internet bulletin boards for Durham alumni in 2002. One by one local alumni came out of the woodwork and so Jack Lindsey organised a get together at D'Arcy McGee's Pub on Sparks Street. One of the attendees was Martin Yates who then invited everyone to a barbeque at his cottage on Bobs Lake near Perth - and the rest is history. 

In recent years, we have had a wave of new members, and this is reflected in the composition of our Steering Committee. We are looking forward to a dynamic and energetic future as we celebrate our shared experiences of Durham.

Upcoming events

DunelmOTTAWA Summer Party 2023

Saturday 26 August, 3pm
Join DunelmOTTAWA at Beyond the Pale Brewing Company, 250 City Centre Ave, Bay 106. All alumni and friends are welcome. Register here.

Watch This Space
Dunelm Days, November 2023
Durham alumni celebrations around the world throughout November. We usually schedule ours in the first week of November.

Recent events

BHC Reception for UK Alumni 2023

27 July: The British High Commissioner, Susannah Goshko (centre), was our charming and accessible host at this reception for British university alumni in Ottawa held at her historic residence, Earnscliffe House. Despite limited space, there were fifteen UK universities represented and the event was a great success, leading us to hope for a full-scale garden party next year. 

Professor Denise Lievesley 2023 

21 July: There was a good turnout of alumni and friends for an informal gathering hosted by visiting Durham University Council Member, Professor Denise Lievesley, in the intimate atmosphere of the back rooms of the Lieutenant’s Pump pub on Elgin Street. We enjoyed a fascinating evening, with lots of laughter.

The Tavern at the Gallery 2023
4 June: It felt great to finally soak up some rays on the patio at the National Gallery, but we were so busy talking we forgot to take photos.

Coronation Social 2023

6 May: After a convivial lunch at the Royal Oak, Paul gave us a guided tour of New Edinburgh and its history. Our destination was the open house at Rideau Hall, the residence of our Governor General, featuring a string quartet and big screen reruns of the ceremonies. While we could not attend the actual Coronation, we could at least witness live AJ’s donning of the busby.

Christmas Knees Up 2022

10 December: The tradition endures. Another Christmas knees up at Dunelm in the Burgh.  Thank you, Gavin.

Dunelm Days 2022

5 November:  Once again we return to ground zero, D'Arcy McGee's Pub on Sparks, to join in this annual celebration with Durham University alumni around the world.

Summer Reunion 2022

20 August:  And we are back!  AJ revives our traditional backyard BBQ at his home in the Glebe.  Lots of first timers and out-of-towners.  All the kids loved Gavin and he loved playing Mr. Bubbles! 

Tavern On The Hill 2021

25 September:  A few diehard stalwarts venture out into analog reality to enjoy a beverage together in the sunshine.  

St Patrick's Day Quiz 2021

March 17:  Thanks goes to Mellissa of the Alumni Office across the pond for setting up this international, online event, featuring Mark’s quiz on all things Canadian.  Gavin won by a hair’s breadth due to his encyclopedic knowledge of Ottawa history.

Online Reunion 2020

11 June: Our first venture into video-conferencing is a lot of fun - featuring Mark’s great Durham quiz and including two participants in the UK and one in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Dunelm Days 2019

2 November : Melanie organizes our return to our point of origin, D'Arcy McGee's Pub on Sparks, to join in this annual celebration with Durham University alumni around the world.

BHC University Challenge Quiz 2019

16 October: The British High Commissioner channels Bamber Gascoigne and the Durham team beats the champions. Read more about the event

BHC Garden Party 2019

26 June: The British High Commissioner hosts a garden party at her Earnscliffe residence. The event attracts over two hundred alumni and guests, representing 27 British universities, understandably exhausting the supply of Pimm’s. Read more about the event.

Christmas Knees Up 2018

15 December: Gavin hosts his traditional Christmas knees up at Dunelm in the Burgh. What a shindig!

Summer Reunion 2018
DunelmOTTAWA 2018 summer BBQ reunion
25 August: Jack hosts a great Canadian backyard BBQ in Orléans, bringing together Durham graduates spanning five decades.

Meet the team
Gift Policy
Donor Recognition Policy
Dunelm Support

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Development and Alumni Relations Office
The Palatine Centre
Stockton Road

0191 334 6305