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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Night job: Pacha nightclub DJ, Joan Ribas, is the new kingmaker on the island
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada