Obituary: Brian Redhead

VARIED are the reasons for sadness at Brian Redhead's departure, and among them is that we are deprived of a broadcaster intensely interested in the medieval world, and able to communicate that interest to others, writes Tam Dalyell (further to the obituary by Michael Leapman, 24 January).

In the summer of 1953 Redhead was asked by his fellow members of the Committee of the Cambridge Union how he had managed to get his First in Part 1 History.

Oh, he explained breezily, it was for three reasons. First, the nous he had developed for what was interesting, for examiners were human, working for the Seaside Chronicle in Whitley Bay. Secondly, he said that he got on just great with his supervisor, Reggie White, Fellow of Downing, and was able to make him laugh. Thirdly, Redhead said that he took shorthand notes at the lectures of four professorial fellows of Peterhouse - Dennis Brogan, who claimed mischievously that his encyclopaedic knowledge of the United States came from sleeping with women in 49 of the states, Herbert Butterfield, compelling and tortuous wrestler with historicism, Michael Postan, champion of the Tsar's economic reforms before 1913, and above all Dom David Knowles.

It was David Knowles, then Regius Professor of Modern History - a diminutive monk figure who enthralled the huge lecture room at Mill Lane, in his slow piping voice describing Aristotle, St Augustine, St Bernard, Marsiglio of Padua, William of Ockham, Duns Scotus, Aquinas and Dante as if he knew them personally - who sparked Redhead's lifelong interest. These personages were to reappear many years later in Redhead's religious broadcasting. Redhead had few heroes but Knowles was one of them. Indeed Redhead's style 6.30 to 8.30am owed a good deal to what he learnt about the Schoolmen and medieval disputation.

When last year I told Redhead that his 13-part examination of the Christian centuries was the best thing he had ever done in radio or journalism he beamed with pleasure and agreed. When he retired, he vouchsafed, he would do so much more in that field. Alas it is not to be, and great is the pity.

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