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

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff