Professor Donald Bullough

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Professor Donald Bullough, historian

Born: 13 June, 1928

Died: 26 June, 2002, in St Andrews, aged 74

MANY former students at Edinburgh and St Andrews will recall with a deep pleasure the restless energy and enthusiastic teaching of Donald Bullough.

His charismatic personality and wide range of interests endeared him to students and colleagues alike. These passions varied from classical antiquity through philately to pictures, books and religion. He loved to explore buildings, and was a keen student of architecture.

Bullough had an irrepressible zest for knowledge and would spend hours on research, checking facts and assessing how they should be interpreted. His scholarship spread far beyond St Andrews. As well as writing many books, he was a director of the British School in Rome.

Donald Auberon Bullough attended Newcastle-under-Lyme High School and then read Roman History at St John’s College, Oxford. In 1947 he did his National Service in the Royal Artillery but was seconded to the Officer Training Corps. He became a major in the TA in 1961.

One of his first appointments was as lecturer in Medieval History at Edinburgh University (1955-66) and after a period at Nottingham University (1966-73) he was appointed Professor of Medieval History and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at St Andrews; posts he held with much grace, good humour and distinction.

Bullough inherited a much respected department and over the years greatly enhanced its reputation by his own teachings and writings. He always enjoyed stimulating his students with carefully prepared lectures which not only drew on his erudition but included lesser known historical nuggets which added an extra dimension.

He travelled widely in Europe and not only visited the important sights of the classical and Medieval world but also built academic bridges with European institutions. Scholarship and research were thus shared between St Andrews and other centres in Europe.

At St Andrews, they admired this cultured and cultivated man: he was one of the university’s most loved characters. He was recognised as a human and intellectual dynamo. The Rev Professor John Richardson (currently Classics Professor at Edinburgh University) shared an office with Bullough at St Andrews in the Eighties. He recalls those years with much good humour.

"He was for ever appearing and disappearing in that jaunty walk of his: the whole body moved apace. Conversation would jump from a student’s welfare to fund-raising to the Roman Empire within 20 paces of his entering. He had a phenomenal memory for dates and a wonderful gift of friendship from which I, and many others, benefited."

Nothing typified Bullough’s total dedication to research more than his study of the life of the 8th-century ecclesiastic Alcuin of York, who was Charlemagne’s tutor. Bullough had already published The Age of Charlemagne in 1965 - a well received book which was translated into German and French immediately. This fascination with Alcuin led him into further - and ever more detailed - research both in Britain and in Europe.

Bullough revised and added to the manuscript over a period of 30 years and when his cancer was diagnosed at the end of last year, he sent it to the publishers. He lived to read and agree the final proof and his biography (Alcuin: Reputation and Achievement) will be coming out later this year.

Apart from his passion for history, Bullough had a great love of the high episcopal liturgy and a deep personal faith. On his arrival at St Andrews in 1973 he became a lay preacher at All Saints Church (where he regularly worshipped) and in 1991 he chaired the East Fife Chapter. In 1998 he became a member of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church and, that year, addressed the Synod on several occasions.

He was an avid collector. He had a large collection of stamps and knew their background and history intimately. He even published a history of the postal system under a pseudonym. Books, documents, pictures ... all fascinated him.

But, perhaps, most of all he loved Old Master drawings. He had started collecting in the Sixties when drawings were not particularly highly rated - or expensive. Bullough built up a fine collection over the years but most prized were two Rembrandt etchings which gave him particular pleasure.

His scholarship was much recognised and he held many visiting professorships. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (Scotland) and a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society.

Nine months ago, he was diagnosed suffering from cancer. After extensive surgery, his health improved but a month ago the cancer returned. He faced his last few weeks with a calm and resolute courage. His profound religious beliefs gave him much succour and relief throughout this period.

His first marriage to Belinda Turland was dissolved in 1994. In 1995 he married Dr Alice Harting-Correa. She and his two daughters from his first marriage survive him.