Obituaries: reported in Bangoriad 2010
Eric Sunderland, who died on 23 March 2010 just days after his 80th birthday, was a distinguished academic, university leader and public servant.
A native of Ammanford in Carmarthenshire, he was educated at Aberystwyth and London Universities. After completing National Service, he worked briefly as a young research scientist before becoming a Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Durham in 1958. He quickly made his mark, travelling widely to conduct research in the fields of human biology, social geography and genetics in many parts of the world and publishing in leading journals such as Nature and Transactions of the Royal Society. He rose to become Professor and Head of Department in 1971 and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Durham in 1979, while his intellectual distinction was also more widely recognised with a Fellowship of the Institute of Biologists in 1975 and the position of Secretary General of the International Union of Anthropologists in 1978.
When approached about the vacant Principalship at the University College of North Wales (as it then was) in Bangor in 1983, he was initially hesitant: he already held a senior academic position, and he and his family were settled in Durham. Moreover, the University College at Bangor had been through a period of intense strife as its previous Principal, the Everest mountaineer Sir Charles Evans, faced bitter opposition from some students and staff over his approach to the Welsh language and to the overall management of the university. Happily for Bangor, Eric Sunderland accepted the challenge and took up office in time to celebrate the University’s centenary in October 1984.
A fluent Welsh-speaker, he quickly set about the task of healing divisions, addressing staff in Pritchard-Jones Hall in Welsh, to show – as he put it – that “someone with a name like Eric Sunderland could actually speak Welsh”. He was, in fact, ideally equipped for the task of lifting the mood and tone of the University. He had impeccable academic and administrative credentials, and his leadership style – urbane yet welcoming, affable yet determined – was a key to his success. He skilfully drew together individuals with differing but compatible abilities, and was an adroit pacifier of arguments. He was genuinely interested in people, in their lives and their backgrounds, their families and their opinions and ambitions. He was outgoing and sociable and had a wonderful gift for friendship; he was, in modern parlance, a ‘people person’ of exceptional deftness and charm.
There were, nevertheless, powerful challenges to be faced in Bangor. The 1980s brought severe financial problems as cutbacks in university funding were ordered throughout the UK. With a group of committed and able officers, Eric Sunderland took vital but unpopular decisions: four university departments (Classics, Physics, Drama and Philosophy) were closed and student numbers shrank as the university strove to balance its academic portfolio with its funding. There were occasional jarring notes within the federal University of Wales, and he spent some time addressing these in his role as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales from 1989 to 1991. By the time that he retired in 1995, the future of the University in Bangor – doubted at times in the late 1970s and early 1980s – was assured, and new developments, including the integration of Coleg Normal within the University, had been initiated.
Eric’s was an active and eventful career, and retirement served only to bring to the fore his extensive range of interests, and his dedication to public service. He loved art and music, leading the Wales division of the Art Fund, and continuing to host the annual T. Rowland Hughes Lecture on Art at Bangor University until his death. He also chaired the William Mathias Music Centre and was Vice-President of the Welsh Music Guild. More widely, he served on countless bodies, including the Board of the British Council, the Court of the National Museum of Wales, and the BBC Broadcasting Council of Wales. He became Chair of the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales, of the Gregynog Press, and was President of the Royal Anthropological Institute (1989-91) and of the University of Wales, Lampeter (1998-2002). He supported and was involved with many fine causes, including the Schizophrenia Association, the Army Benevolent Fund and Great Ormond Street Hospital. He served as High Sheriff for Gwynedd in 1998/99 and Lord Lieutenant from 1999 to 2006, accompanying the Queen during her Jubilee tour of North West Wales in 2002. An honorary member of the Gorsedd since 1985, he was awarded, fittingly, an Honorary Fellowship from Bangor University and an honorary degree from the University of Wales. He was appointed OBE in 1999 and CBE in 2005.
Professor Eric Sunderland CBE is survived by his widow Patricia, to whom he was married for 52 years, by 2 daughters, Rowena and Frances, and by 3 grandchildren, Rosemary, Anna and Felicity.
Dr David Roberts
Registrar, Bangor University
Duncan Tanner died suddenly from a heart condition aged 51. Born in Newport, south Wales, he went from his local comprehensive to obtain a first-class degree in modern history and politics at Royal Holloway College, University of London (1979), followed by his PhD at University College London (1985). He was a research fellow at the Institute of Historical Research and then became a research fellow at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge. He taught for a year at the University of Kent before securing a lectureship at Bangor University in 1989; he was appointed Professor of modern history in 1995.
His first book, Political Change and the Labour Party 1900-1918 (1990) won him the Royal Historical Society’s prestigious Whitfield Prize and cemented his reputation as a leading Labour historian. In the decade that followed, he published widely on inter-war Labour history and co-edited two volumes which marked the centenary of the Labour party, The Labour party in Wales, 1900-2000 (2000) and Labour’s First Century (2000).
In the last decade, Duncan’s research interests broadened. He was part of a team for a major research project on the history of Welsh devolution funded by ESRC. He became its driving force, with a reputation both as a leading authority on devolution, and a Welsh historian. He co-edited the project’s first volume, Debating Nationhood and Government in Britain, 1885-1939 (2006) and was working on the second until his death.
But he still found time for other research interests. In addition to co-editing a volume The Strange Survival of Liberal England: Political Leaders, Moral Values and the Reception of Economic Debate (2007), he became a strong advocate of, and authority on, the Freedom of Information Act, speaking widely on the need for modern and contemporary historians to embrace the Act and push the boundaries of historical investigation. A passionate Welsh rugby supporter, he even found time to develop stimulating and thought-provoking work on sport and national identity in Wales.
His contribution and expertise in modern British history was recognised by numerous editorial advisory boards including Labour History Review and University of Wales Press’s Politics and Society in Wales series. At the time of his death he was also editor of Twentieth Century British History.
Duncan will be remembered by all his former students as a charismatic and enthusiastic teacher who combined academic rigour with an infectious wit. He will be especially remembered by his many former PhD students as a patient, inspirational mentor and, sometimes, father-figure. He was immensely proud of his 100 per cent success rate as a PhD supervisor and took a great interest and pride in the career trajectories of his former students.
The high standards Duncan achieved in his own research he also wished for his colleagues. As generous with his time as with his intellect, he revised their draft papers and imparted skills of grant writing. His views on who to improve, and how to improve them, were as clear-minded as ever. He set up and led the Welsh Institute for Social and Cultural Affairs, which he used to bring colleagues together and stimulate interdisciplinary research activity, and was seminal in bringing the ESRC-funded Bilingualism Centre from idea to reality. His insights into people and disciplines inexorably revolutionized substantial areas of Bangor's research. It was inevitable that he would be drawn into a university role, as Director of Research Policy, with a central part in our world of RAE and REF. Always positive, always energetic, as clear and helpful in criticism as in support, and usually right, his contribution to the university was huge, and grounded in the socialism he believed in and lived.
Duncan is survived by his wife Christine and two daughters, Eleanor and Megan.
Dr. Andrew Edwards, Lecturer in Modern History, School of History, Welsh History & Archaeology, & Professor John Farrar, former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research & Professor in Biological Sciences, Bangor University
Dr Benjamin (Ben) Fisher, Lecturer in French at Bangor University and webmaster for the Welsh Highland Railway, has died at the premature age of 45.
He was born in Birmingham but grew up in Newcastle-under-Lyme and was educated at the former Wolstanton Grammar School and Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he read Modern and Medieval Languages.
He went to Bangor to study for his PhD in 1986 and remained there for the rest of his career, taking up a post as Lecturer in French in 1990. By the time of his death, he was head of the French section and a well-respected senior colleague whose wisdom and good counsel were highly valued by students and colleagues alike.
Ben’s PhD was on the work of the complex, often irreverent French avant-garde writer, Alfred Jarry. The volume was published by Liverpool University Press as The Pataphysician’s Library (2000) and received a string of highly complimentary reviews. Ben continued to work in this field with a series of articles in major journals covering a variety of often under-researched authors of the avant-garde period. At the time of his death, he was embarking on a new project – a French Symbolist reader – about which he was extremely excited.
Ben’s enthusiasm for French literature was more than equalled by his love of technology, both as a means of communication and as a pedagogical tool. He made an immeasurable contribution to the development of the School of Modern Languages at Bangor in this area, perhaps most significantly, as the co-developer and eventual director of the School’s multimedia language centre and as the School’s webmaster.
Ben showed huge dedication to his discipline and to his students. He served the School of Modern Languages in many ways, as secretary to the Board of Studies for many years, as admissions tutor and as Head of French. His keen eye for detail made him the first port of call for colleagues in cases of uncertainty and questions of precedent. It was, however, in his dealings with his students that Ben’s true legacy lies. He was an inspiring teacher and dedicated tutor who was often prepared to go the extra mile. Since his death, the School of Modern Languages at Bangor has received countless messages from students past and present, many expressing not only their condolences, but also their gratitude to Ben. Some, by their own admission, would never have completed their degrees had Ben not stuck with them, coaxing them through hard times and difficult personal circumstances.
Ben died unexpectedly at home on 13 August 2009. He is survived by his father and brother.
Professor Carol Tully
Herbert was born in Nefyn, Caernarfonshire. He graduated with a first class honours degree in Physics from Bangor College. He went on to study and gain a Doctorate under the supervision of Professor Edwin Owen (1946 – 52). He learned his craft through working on the construction of metals, but the new field of Biophysics appealed greatly to him. Having received a University of Wales Fellowship, he accepted Professor Maurice Wilkins’ offer to join him in London to study the construction of DNA with great pleasure. The rest is history.
There he completed pioneering work. The discovery of DNA’s double helix structure is undoubtedly one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century. These findings were published in three independent papers and appeared in NATURE magazine at the same time. One of the three was “Molecular structure of deoxypentose nucleic acids (Nature 171, 738 0 740, 1953)” gan H. J. Wilkins, A. R. Stokes and Herbert Rees Wilson. Wilkins won the Nobel prize for the work and many thought Herbert should have been honoured in Stockholm too, as these papers transformed our understanding of genetics and the cause and control of human diseases.
Herbert Wilson’s epic contribution was described in a special issue of NATURE, published 23 January 2005 to mark the 5th anniversary of the original discovery. Amongst the many honours given to him were the Rodman Medal for his original x-ray images of DNA and his election to the Fellowship of The Royal Society of Edinburgh. He stayed in King’s College, London until 1957 before moving to Queen’s College, Dundee, then part of St. Andrews University, then to Stirling University as Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor of Physics.
Herbert was a regular visitor to the National Eisteddfod and was inaugurated as a member of Gorsedd y Beirdd in the National Eisteddfod of Newport and the District. He received an honorary doctorate in Science from the University of Wales and also a Fellowship from his old college in Bangor. These were the honours of which he was the most proud.
He came to Bangor in 1946 straight from school, amongst the many experiences and mature students who had come back after the war. We were in the same class and I remember him as a quiet boy, friendly and an excellent footballer. But one particular memory of him remains – he never wanted to venture far from one pretty little girl. Herbert and this lovable girl took part in a play at Ysgol Nefyn when they were six years old. In the play Beti gave Herbert a treacle sandwich. It must have been a very special sandwich because after that he held onto Beti Turner very tightly, and she fed and supported him from that time onwards. She was a complete partner to him in every way. Wales lost one of her most dearest, modest and brightest sons when Herbert left us on 22 May 2008.
Glyn O. Phillips
Ifor Owens was born in the village of Cefnddwysarn in Merioneth in 1915. Educated at the Boys’ Grammar School in Bala and Bangor Normal College, where he trained to be a teacher specialising in art and science. At the age of 21 he was appointed headmaster of the primary school in Croesor and served many small communities as a primary school headmaster for 40 years.
An early member of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Owen played a prominent part in the League’s activities and became almost the official designer and illustrator of its publications. As an illustrator he was always in demand and illustrated many children’s books. In 1961 Owen was invested in the White Robe Order of Gorsedd y Beirdd and the University of Wales awarded him an honorary MA in 1997.
Christopher Hilton died tragically in an accident whilst walking in the French Alps on 27th July 2008.
Christopher graduated from Bangor University with a BSc in Marine Chemistry and he returned to Bangor to complete his teacher training.
He enjoyed studying and living in Bangor and had even supported Bangor FC!. His love of Wales continued and he visited whenever he had the opportunity.
Christopher had been a Science teacher for 10 years at Littlemoss School in Droylsden, Manchester and was well liked and respected by ex-pupils, pupils and colleagues. Christopher was a committed teacher but he tempered this with an approachable style, a sense of fun and a very keen sense of humour!
In his spare time he was a very active member of Hyde United football club where he was Chairman of the Supporters club and was also the club photographer.
We will always love and be immensely proud of Christopher both as a person and for his achievements.
Christopher is greatly missed by everyone who knew him – but he will be remembered for his enthusiasm for life, his caring nature, sense of humour and fun; for his passion for football and sport.
Roger Lines died on 16th October 2009. His research in the in the field of tree species and seed provenances established the crucial importance of the choice of both species and seed origins for the afforestation of infertile and exposed upland sites
Roger read Forestry and Botany at Bangor. He graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in 1952 and, in the same year, joined the Research Division of the Forestry Commission.
His research focussed on the selection of appropriate provenances for the successful extension of planting on the poorest soils on the most severely exposed ground. His work on Lodgepole pine, Sitka spruce and several other species led to major advances and made an outstanding contribution to silvicultural practices in upland afforestation. Among his many publications was the definitive Forestry Commission Bulletin 66, ‘Choice of Seed Origins for the main Forest Species in Britain’.
Internationally he became Chairman of a Working Group on Provenance of the International Union of Forest Research Organisations. He acted as a forestry advisor to the Government of Iceland. He was awarded a Nuffield Fellowship in 1965 to study the organisation of research institutes. Roger retired in 1986.
Roger was a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, a member of the Royal Scottish Forestry Society. He was awarded an OBE for his services to forestry..
His selection of his retirement location in Somerset, following a meticulous study of climate and soils, provided ideal conditions for the gardening which he and his wife enjoyed.
Roger is survived by his wife Jane and their two sons and two daughters.
John Lander Harper, one of the leading ecologists of the 20th century, has died.
He was born on 27 May 1925 and educated at Lawrence Sheriff School, Rugby. He studied for a first degree in botany at the University of Oxford and stayed on for an MA, an MPhil and the first nine years of his research career. After a year in the US as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at the University of California, Davis, in 1960 he moved to the University College of North Wales, Bangor, as Professor of Agricultural Botany.
He remained in Bangor until his retirement in 1982, serving from 1967 as head of the highly influential School of Plant Biology.
Hywel Wyn Lloyd was born and brought up in Penmachno. He gained a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Mathematics in 1948 and taught the subject in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Holywell and in Ysgol John Bright Llandudno, where he was also Head of the Mathematics Department, Deputy Head of School and Head of the Junior School until his retirement in 1985.
He was active with Craig-y-Don Community Centre, Llandudno and as the Treasurer of Bethania Church, Craig-y-Don. He and his wife moved to Felinheli in 2001 where he became treasurer of another Bethania Church. He was interested in researching family history and was a keen member of The Gwynedd Family History Society.
He died on May 16 2008 at the age of 80. He leaves a wife, Mair two daughters, Dwynwen and Delyth, a son, Alun and six grandchildren.
Delyth Wyn Davies
Siân Turner lost her long battle with breast cancer in April 2009 leaving her partner Kevin and her son Davy. She was 46 years old.
All who knew her will remember her laughter, her deep and abiding love of her family and her tremendous loyalty to friends. She valued very highly the time she spent at Bangor and retained close links with Wales following her graduation from the School of History and Welsh History in 1993. Siân worked for a time in an administrative post in the School of Ocean Sciences and latterly she held the post of Departmental Administrator for the Institute for Criminal Policy Research at King’s College London.
Those of us who were lucky enough to be counted amongst her many friends will always remember her kindness, love of life and gentle but loving support given freely to those of us who sometimes needed it. She was a special person and is greatly missed.
Huw Elwyn Jones’ untimely death was deeply felt, not least at the University which he had served so loyally as a member of Council and, over the last decade of his life, as its Treasurer.
A distinguished solicitor, a former President of The Gwynedd Law Society and a deputy District Judge, he was highly respected in the legal circles of North Wales and beyond. Always approachable, charming and good-humoured, he had an excellent rapport with everybody.
His knowledge of Bangor, gained in legal practice over many years, was quite unequalled. The governance of the University benefited greatly from his able and informed contributions in debate. Being an accomplished advocate, he presented the annual accounts before Council and the Court with lucidity and gave a balanced interpretation of his own in the interests of the less financially literate among us.
Close to his heart was the establishment of the new Law School. He watched its progress with pride and was always available to give advice and encouragement.
Both Huw and Anna were pillars of the musical and artistic life of Bangor and ensured that a warm welcome awaited all who attended concerts at P.J.
Huw is sadly missed by all his friends and colleagues. We extend our sincere sympathy to Anna and the family.
His Honour Eifion Roberts, Q.C., D.L.
Robert Ioan Jones, of Bassaleg, died in January 2009 aged 69.
Born in Ogmore Valley, he had been a keen rugby player and coach most famously coaching the Saracens from 1980 to 1984. After getting into rugby at a young age he played for Ogmore Grammar School, Barry RFC and Bangor University, where he studied pure mathematics, applied mathematics, physics and engineering.
After graduating in 1964, Jones settled in Newport where he lectured in Mathematics and Computing at the then Newport College of Higher Education. His rugby career meanwhile saw him gain his coaching award from the Welsh Rugby Union in 1980 and, on leaving his position with the Saracens, he travelled to Saudi Arabia to do a secondment helping to set up a computer education department for the Royal Saudi Air Force. He retired from both rugby and teaching in 2002.
He is survived by his wife, two daughters, a son, and six grandchildren.
Brian died 11th August 2008 aged 76 years and is sadly missed by his wife Jill; his daughter Suzy and her husband; his son Nicholas and his grandchildren Jonathan and Jemma, as well as by his many friends. He had lived in Chichester since 1979 when he was appointed Senior Advisor for Further and Higher Education for West Sussex.
Tony Bradshaw passed away in August 2008 and the size of the gathering at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral for a Service of Celebration for his life bore testimony to his remarkable career.
Tony will be recalled from his time at Bangor by students in the Agricultural Department or, as in my case, from his extramural activities.
His past students describe him as an inspirational lecturer, as one who always encouraged student participation and found time to help those with a problem. His enthusiasm on field trips, frequently in adverse weather conditions, were well renowned.
His position as a Tutor at Neuadd Reichel brought him into contact with a wide cross section of Students. His support for student activities – sailing and rowing, where he introduced many novices to the rigours of the Menai Straits, and the Gilbert and Sullivan Society – made him an ever-popular guest at student dinners.
Post Bangor, Tony became Professor of Botany at Liverpool University and at the Cathedral Service we heard of his outstanding Career from a former colleague, Dr.David Parry. He spoke of Tony’s success as a lecturer and mentor to post-graduate students coupled with his research work on metal tolerant plants which had a significant influence on the restoration of contaminated land. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, was internationally recognised from America to China and closer to home his adopted City of Liverpool presented him with its Citizen of Honour Award.
Tony will be greatly missed.
Christopher Burd CBE.