It’s been a rather sad, and even shocking, day. This morning I attended the funeral of former TCD Provost Bill Watts, who died earlier in the week. He became Provost just after I joined Trinity College as a lecturer in the Business School. During the years that followed I must have been something of an irritant to him, as I was the TCD branch secretary for two terms of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT), the trade union representing academics in the College. During both of those terms there was strike action, and on the second occasion I was on the picket line and managed to get most of the staff out. How times change! But while we were on opposing sides in those disputes, I respected Bill enormously, and became very fond of him. He was not, as they say, a ‘people person’, but on the other hand he was very interested in people and a very astute leader. He was in charge during some really difficult periods and he had a very sure touch; TCD benefited greatly from his very decisive but also well thought out leadership. The funeral in Trinity today was very well organised and would, I think, have pleased him, and the tributes paid were both generous and genuine.
And then, this afternoon, came the news that RTE Radio 2FM presented Gerry Ryan had been found dead in his apartment. Gerry and I were very good friends as students. We were not modest: recently Gerry described us as the two brightest people of our generation. But he was always able to make me laugh, an effect I know he had on many others. He had a particular type of irreverence which was totally infectious, and he was able to apply it to himself as easily as to others. He was a world class broadcaster with an easy going ability to connect with others.
Bill Watts and Gerry Ryan were very different people, but I shall miss them both. May they rest in peace.