Archive for the ‘obituary’ Category

Jeanie Smith, maiden name Slater.

June 6, 2013

If my mother was alive, she would have been 100 today. Born in the Gorbals, Glasgow on 6 June 1913, she was a child in the first world war, and an adult (but not a soldier) in the second. She was the middle child of seven children, daughter of Samuel and Leah Slater (or perhaps Slutsky: that’s what it says in Hebrew on their Ketubah or marriage contract). Brought up in the south side of  Glasgow, in the Glasgow Shtetl, she once told me she had never been east of Glasgow cross till she was 40. 

Married in wartime, in 1942, to my father, Morris (then a private in the highland light infantry, but also a son of the Gorbals), she had two children, my brother Harry and myself. As a youngster she had been very involved in the upbringing of her two youngest brothers, Eddie and Ralph, to such an extent that she was forever calling us by their names! Her closest family member was however her sister Rose, two years her junior, to whom she was on the phone as far as I could tell more or less every day. 

She was born into the clothing trade. Samuel Slater was a tailor, and had a business making suits. I believe it had been in Wilson Street, but I recall it from being at 400 Cathedral Street: Slater’s, a manufacturing tailors. She worked in the clothing business all her working life. I recall her telling me that she had wanted to join up in the second world war, but was told she couldn’t because the business was making uniforms, and that was a protected employment. When we moved to Broughty Ferry, she was a housewife for some time, but then worked in the alterations room at Burton’s in Dundee. Her heart (and the rest of her family) however remained in Glasgow. When we moved back to Glasgow, she went back to work in the family factory, now run by her brothers. But after the factory moved to 165 Howard Street, there came a downturn in the manufacturing business, and also there was vandalism to the factory as well: her youngest brother decided that the time had come to set up on the other side, selling suits from many manufacturers instead of manufacturing suits: he had been in charge of sales, so he knew rather a lot about the business!

Jean became in charge of alterations at the new emporium: at Slaters, then a gents outfitters, with a single shop in Glasgow, but now a multiple with many shops selling mens’ and womens’ wear. She worked there until she retired (actually, she retired several times: she just kept going back to work with them!). Eventually cancer took her in 1984, and she is buried in the Jewish cemetery in North-east Glasgow.


Dr Alistair I. Watson

June 16, 2010

Alistair Watson died last Thursday. He had worked in Physics, in Psychology and in Environmental Science at Stirling University , from where he retired quite some time ago. But my recollections of him start from the Stirling University Vision Group days of the mid 1980’s.

I started at Stirling University in September 1984, with a PhD, and (officially) interests in parallel computing and VLSI design. But what actually happened was that I met up with a group of slightly older researchers at Stirling and we formed (perhaps it was already formed, and I joined it) Stirling University Vision Group. There was Bill Phillips from Psychology, Francis Pratt, the artist (who had earlier been Cottrell Fellow at Stirling University), Alistair Watson, and myself. I had a lot to learn – and these were people from whom I learned a lot. The artist’s perspective on image analysis, how multi-dimensional signals from satellites could be analysed like images, ideas from neural systems, mathematical morphology, computational neuroscience. The new ideas that were invading Computing, now that the machines were becoming more powerful and affordable, and the computational ideas that were invading Psychology and art. For me these were really exciting times, and were the basis upon which my own later work has been placed.

Of course Alistair was more than just a colleague: he was excellent company (particularly over a few pints of good real ale – though I could never keep up with him), with a ready wit and an excellent sense of humour. I know he played piano as well, though I never heard him play. I shall miss his company, his conversation, and his intelligence and wit.

He is survived by his wife, Janet, and children Peter and Lucy.

John MacPhail Law 1951-2010

February 14, 2010

I have just lost one of my oldest friends, John Law. I  met John in 1969, if I remember correctly, when we were both students starting out at Glasgow University. He graduated, married Janet, and worked briefly as an English teacher, but teaching wasn’t really what he wanted to do. He wanted at that time to write, and write he did, poetry, plays, songs, in Scots. Words were in  his blood – his father (also John Law) was a published poet. But though much respected, he had to return to work – this time in the computer industry. He set up his own company, Silicon Glen Ltd. (I think he coined the phrase), based in Blackford, Perthshire. I was a co-director, and moved to Blackford to work with him, in Blackford, staying at his house. I have many memories of this time, including helping to re-roof the business. We never made it to the heights in the business (we did all right, buying, repairing and selling parts of Data general minicomputers, and later selling microcomputers), and I eventually went back to working in a University. John meanwhile, had converted me to Scottish nationalism: he had been active in that area for many years, becoming both an election agent and a councillor. But his other love was language: Lallans (or Lowland Scots), which was his native tongue. (I should be writing this in Scots). John and I remained  friends: when I married, and sold my house, and was temporarily without a home (our new house was not yet finished) we stayed with him and his family.

I recall so many visits to his house, so many friendly meals, so much generosity. I recall his 50th birthday, I recall him singing there. And many years of parties on January 1st, with many friends from the past. There is so much more to remember.

He died yesterday: shockingly suddenly, and utterly unexpectedly. He leaves behind his wife, Janet, his daughter Anna and husband Alan, and grand-son Charlie. We are all shaken and bereft.

(Addendum, added 23 October 2010): John Law’s last work, which he was working on at the time of his death, is an updated version of Gavin Douglas’s Scots translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, entitled The XIII buiks o Eneadoso the famous poet Virgil. The work was completed by Caroline Macefee with whom he had been working closely. This posthumously published free e-book (and .pdf as well) is part of the Scots Language Centre’s website.