Driest humour

Simon taught me so much but always with a wry smile. He was very kind to me and other students and always willing to help. All he ever asked was for us to do our best. He always did his best for us. I’m so sad he’s gone.

2 thoughts on “Driest humour”

  1. I am shocked and saddened to hear this news, as we all are. The passing of Simon is a great loss to the University of Derby, and to his many friends and his family. I had the privilege of working with him for 15 years, and saw him a couple of times once I left Derby in 2011 for a Chair at Sheffield, but regrettably not for the last few years. I arrived at Derby in 1996 as the new Head of Sociology, and Simon was already in place among the vibrant team there at the Mickleover campus before we moved to the ‘Mother Ship’ at Kedleston Road. I once asked him why he had chosen Derby for his academic career and he said, ‘I didn’t, Derby chose me’. What a great choice that turned out to be, and colleagues and students, year on year, benefited so much from his knowledge, wit and wisdom. I shared an office with him for a year or so, and I learnt so much about social theory from him; Simon was clearly more gifted than most of us, and his powers of analysis far surpassed my own, but he had the knack of never making one feel stupid. I have always been grateful for his loyalty as a friend and colleague, and all the support he gave me over the years, often coming to lectures or seminars I was giving, in the university, in Derby or even at Sheffield University – he always considered it his duty to support the research activities of colleagues. I learnt just as much from him about music and art as I did about Hegel, Marx and Marxism, Habermas and critical theory. There are albums in my collection that I own on Simon’s recommendation, Gram Parsons for example, and an appreciation for the song writing talents of Jimmy Webb ! I also own a cassette tape of Leonard Cohen that Simon put together for me, and I treasure it because the cover was drawn by Simon. Indeed, Simon had a great talent for cartoons and caricature and I have no doubt that there were/are many doodles of colleagues drawn during staff meetings and the like, with which Simon kept himself amused while the wheels of bureaucracy crunched on. His musical tastes were wide and even though he was not musically trained he had a sophisticated ear and appreciated modernist classical music, and I remember his attending many concerts in Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall. He had read everything and we shared interests in German social theory and art (he loved Berlin), the Middle East, and I recall he was not too bad at Spanish either! We might not talk about football (he was a Worksopian after all), or thank god, DIY, but about everything else he was so well read. My sincere condolences to his wife, daughter and family.
    David J Chalcraft, Professor of Sociology, LJMU.

  2. I want to endorse everything David has said about Simon. The shock of his death reflects how much a part of the fabric of Derby University Simon had become. Even though it is well over 12 years since I retired and nearly 6 since I last saw Simon, I cannot think of the Sociology Department without him. To me, Simon was an ‘old soul’, comfortable in his life, incredibly modest in his all too intimidating intellect, and gentle in even his most pointed criticism. To be with him was to feel as though you had known him all your life. As a colleague he was 100% dependable. Rarely did he complain about the bean-counting, paper-chasing bureaucracy that overtook us in later years, nor did he allow it to detract from a constant search for perfection in his own writing and research output. Often his ‘wry smile’ was the only comment one needed to know how he felt in a particularly frustrating meeting or when faced with another ‘quality assurance’ exercise. If he was demanding of his students, he set the bar impossibly high for himself, resulting, like Leonard Cohen (a poet and song-writer we both admired), in fewer, but more exquisite pieces of writing. He never felt the need to play the academic game. When he wrote, he wrote only because he had something to say, not because he needed to add another publication to his CV. He was generous with his time, offering students the kind of encouragement and support that helped them develop self-confidence and a belief in their own contribution to social theorising. I have had the privilege of working with many talented and widely read colleagues in my career, but Simon alone seemed to belong more appropriately to an established Oxford college than to a new University in a small East Midlands City. When it came to finding an internal examiner for a relatively obscure PhD (The contribution of the philosophical theories of Maurice Merleau-Ponty to a Gestalt Psychotherapeutic approach to therapy) there was only one person qualified – and that was Simon. He, the external examiner and Des Kennedy, the candidate, emerged smiling from the Viva Voce having spent hours in a discussion few of us mortals would have barely grasped. At the same time, Simon was equally at home writing and leading an undergraduate module in the sociology of popular music. His wide-ranging contribution to our lives as academics and to his students as seekers of knowledge, is beyond measure. He was a cultured, intelligent, modest and warm-hearted gentle man. We have been enriched by having known him and from working alongside him. He will be sorely missed.
    Gordon Riches.

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