One of the good things about writing a blog is that you surf a bit and look for information. Well, there was me surfing this morning and for one reason or another, and I really don’t know why and how, I stumbled on Brian Manning’s obituary in “The Guardian” http://education.guardian.co.uk/obituary/story/0,12212,1247868,00.html . It would appear that ‘wee Brian’, as ‘big Frank’ used to call him, died back in June 2004 at the age of 76.
Brian was my History Professor when I was at, what was then, the New University of Ulster back in the early eighties. If anything, I am slightly surprised that Brian actually made it to 76 because one of the things I liked about him told me at the beginning of the eighties that he might not be in it for the longer haul; Brian, liked his bevy and it was this and his ability to talk to and not down at people who made me empathise with him. Sure his received pronunciation, his tweed jackets, his wee goaty beard and his cigars, all meant that it was going to be easier for me to move socially in the other direction than it would be for him to join the horny handed sons of toil. However, he was just a much more honest, down to earth, person than some of the other bourgeoise Marxists I have encountered. However, the one lesson for life he gave me has proved to be wrong.
There were four or five of us having a “wee” drink with Brian in his house on Strand Rd in Portstewart one evening and I made the remark that I wanted to do my best at something. Brian replied that nobody every really does their “best”. In retrospect, as far as my own person is concerned this is true and if anything sort of distinguishes me, it is under achievement. Based on my own person Brian’s comment, therefore, sort of hits the nail on the head. However, I was at a meeting at work recently and I realised that, despite the mediocrity that is being produced, some of my colleagues are in actual fact doing their best and to be honest this has to be slightly worrying because, while they are all relatively harmless they do have their mirror images out in the big bad world at large where incompetency, stupidity and ignorance actually have much graver consequences.
Still, this is Brian’s post and I would like to finish it by quoting the penultimate sentence of the obituary in “The Guardian”:
“A frequent visitor to Italy, he took pleasure in pubs, cigars and the company of friends, and, in retirement, continued to address meetings of the London Socialist Historians’ Group.”
All the best Brian, and I will try to get round to reading your, ‘The English People And The English Revolution (1976)’, which I still have at home.
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