Phil Gyford


Monday 9 June 2003

PreviousIndexNext Arthur Brown, 1914-2003

Thankfully, I’m not used to reading obituaries of people I know, which perhaps makes it more sad to read the recent obituary of Arthur Brown, who died in March. Well, implying I knew him is overstating things a little. I remember going, when I was younger, with my parents, to the annual Christmas parties he hosted with his wife. One year, when I was small enough to do so, I had a lot of fun pretending that a furry rug on the arm of a sofa was some breed of mountable animal. Another time, during holidays from college in Bristol, an old but sharp gentleman told me about attending university there sometime in the early decades of the century. I was always too young and socially inept to feel quite at home but I remember Arthur being a great host and having a wonderful voice.

Today, John Sutherland wonders if the WEA, where Arthur Brown once lectured, still exists; obviously he hasn’t mastered Google yet. I always liked the sound of “The Workers’ Educational Association,” even when I was too young to fully appreciate the gloriously old-school, socialism-soaked overtones of the phrase.


Who was is said that news of his death had been grossly exaggerated? You could apply this to the WEA. Its still there but hardly the force it once was.

Trade Union funding is no longer of a scale that can match the funding lavished on such organisations as the University for Industry/learndirect by the Government. Who could imagine the WEA spending vast sums on gaining "Who wants to be a Millionaire" Sponsorship?

The Open University has been kicking around for over thiry years and most Universities now have their own adult education programs. A whole industry has grown up around the idea of lifelong learning. Just look at the Manpower Services Commission, the Training and Enterprise Councils and more recently the Learning and Skills Councils.

The Coursefinder Database for North East England which hosts information on 35,000 local learning opportunities or courses only includes 105 for the WEA. Still size isn't everything.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 9 June 2003, 9:16 pm | Link

It was Mark Twain who said reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated.

There was a bit about Arthur Brown in John Sutherland's Guardian column last Monday.

Posted by Laura Brown on 16 June 2003, 9:54 pm | Link

Yes ARthur was a great chap and hard to believe he is gone - he was just always there and always encouraging and inspiring to everyone else - no sign at all of that keeping stuff to himself for his own glory, that you often get with academics.

Hundreds of people like me whose lives have been massively improved by the hobby of local history must owe this to Arthur - both giving them the idea in the first place, and keeping them going for decades through thick and thin.

Sadly the pic with John Sutherland's Guardian piece wasn't of our Arthur but of another one (ours was kindlier looking - no offence to the other one who I am sure was a great chap too !)

Posted by janet gyford on 19 June 2003, 11:22 am | Link

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