In 1979 we held a small meeting in St Andrews at which Joachim Neubüser from RWTH Aachen spoke on Counterexamples to the class-breadth conjecture. At this time we discussed the possibility of organising a much larger group theory meeting in St Andrews in 1981. Preliminary dates were suggested to fit the German school holidays. Indeed choosing dates for all the meetings has proved an interesting task: fitting in with the end of the English academic year, the start of the American academic year, the Galway races (Galway 1993), the Open University Summer School (Bath 1997), the Open Golf Championship (St Andrews 2005). For Groups 1981 we invited main speakers whose mathematical interests were close to our own. By chance, three of the four — Joachim Neubiiser (RWTH Aachen), Seán Tobin (Galway), and Jim Wiegold (Cardiff) — had been friends from postgraduate days in Manchester. The fourth, Derek Robinson (Urbana), was originally from Montrose (visible on a good day across the Tay estuary from the Mathematical Institute in St Andrews). Despite our planning of the 1981 dates, the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was announced to take place during the period of the conference. Residences provided only packed lunches on the wedding day. However Jim Wiegold, the ‘Mathematical Prince of Wales’, provided our own star attraction! We had intended the conference to last a week but some participants wanted to stay in St Andrews for a further week.