Marcus Merriman

Exuberant historian at Lancaster


Marcus Homer Merriman, historian: born Baltimore, Maryland 3 May 1940; Assistant Lecturer in History, Lancaster University 1964-66, Lecturer 1966-92, Senior Lecturer 1992-2006; married (two daughters, and one son deceased); died Lancaster 23 March 2006.

This summer Marcus Merriman was to retire after a record 42 years at Lancaster University, perhaps the longest-serving full-time academic in the UK. While he was to become a prize-winning author and a renowned historian of early modern Britain and Europe, particularly of 16th-century Scotland, his first love was teaching.

His unforgettable performances - sometimes dressed in military uniform or a kilt - made him much in demand for conferences and as a pungent and hilarious after-dinner speaker. In the 1990s he presented a history television programme, and was gratified when the camera crew dubbed him "One-Take Merriman". A series simply entitled "Merriman" was mooted though to his chagrin never filmed.

Born in 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland, Merriman was educated at a private school and at Bowdoin College in Maine. A year at Edinburgh University changed his life as he became enraptured by the Scottish capital. He embarked on a London PhD with the Tudor historian S.T. Bindoff, whom he venerated and who secured him a post at Lancaster University in 1964.

Merriman was a founder member of the university, joining a then tiny history department as a temporary lecturer, but he so relished participating in the creation of a new university that his appointment was quickly made permanent. In later years, whenever a member of the department encountered a former student, the first question asked was "How is Marcus Merriman?"

His office became cluttered with the gifts presented him by grateful students. In 1990 he won (with two colleagues) the Cadbury Schweppes National Award for innovation in teaching. His provocative style captivated students of all intellectual levels.

He earned scholarly repute as an authority on 16th-century map-making, propaganda, and Scottish castles and other fortifications, and was regularly used as a consultant. His 2000 book The Rough Wooings: Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1551 won the Saltire History Book of the Year award for the best book in Scottish history. It was an extraordinary piece of work, in which meticulous scholarship and idiosyncratic and witty asides were conveyed in graphic prose. The acknowledgements contained not only the customary tributes to family and other academics, but also to publicans, bank managers, newsagents and cleaners.

Merriman's exuberant nature made him a favourite with students, and when the university entered the era of turbulent student politics in the late 1960s and early 1970s he was often called on to serve a mediating role. For a period almost every committee of the university senate seemed to contain what the Vice-Chancellor referred to as "the statutory Merriman", affording him a central part in the university's formative years.

In time this role diminished, partly because of the increasing deafness that afflicted him from his early thirties. The early deaths of his brother and of particular friends hit him hard, too, though truly devastating was the death of his son Nat at the age of 15. In his later years he was periodically harried by depression; he smoked and drank too much, and his singular behaviour often exasperated those around him. He rejoiced in and took sustenance from his family. A man of many enthusiasms, he had a lifelong passion for steam trains, and his imposing collection of railway artefacts is now destined for a museum.

Merriman was always there for people in serious difficulty. He jollied and beguiled his partner Irene through an encounter with cancer. When, because of cancer, a student had to withdraw from university, Merriman visited him regularly, although the family lived in a distant part of the country. After the lad died he arranged for him to be given a posthumous university qualification.

Michael Heale

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015