Obituary: Robin Bidwell

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FURTHER to Peter Avery's obituary of Robin Bidwell (20 June), may I add to the memories of a very lovable, amusing and crusty character? writes David Boswell.

At Madingley Hall,, Cambridge, that curious hybrid of a country house, scholars' residence and extramural transit lounge, Robin presided for some years in the 1970s to the exasperation of the more thin-skinned officers of the Extra-Mural Board of Cambridge University. He gave stability to an otherwise fluid stage for those of us in the throes of thesis-writing.

The 'Letters to Anglican Divines' was not the only spoof in which Robin was involved while an undergraduate at Cambridge in the 1950s. He assisted in the correspondence of H. Rochester Sneath, for which his contemporary Humphry Berkeley was responsible. Sneath's letters, advocating a transfer and position for a particularly scabrous member of his staff at Selhurst, were sent to many headmasters of British public schools. Stonyhurst replied in kind. But several, including most notably Darcy, the Headmaster of Marlborough, replied with increasing irritation. When they realised at the Headmasters' Conference how they had been taken in, the dead-letter box of Robin's sister gave the game away. The success of the hoax parallels the perpetrations of others, such as a stereotypical Central European introduced to lecture to an erudite audience at Oxford in the 1950s, and the entertainment of a bogus Oriental mission by the Royal Navy which consisted of the Bloomsberries in drag.

Robin took his role of Secretary for the Middle East Centre very seriously. But his forays into London armed with a bowler hat to impress those whom he was touching for money to support its activities had a touch of surrealism.