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Obituary: Willie Lamont (1934-2018)

Historian Professor Willie Lamont, who taught at Sussex from 1966 to his retirement in 1999, died on 31 December 2018. 

He came to Sussex after taking his BA and PhD at London’s QMC, and after several years as a school teacher in London, first at St Paul’s School and later at Hackney Downs. He then moved to Aberdeen as Lecturer in History and Education at Aberdeen Training College.  

Invited to come to Sussex, Willie taught first in the Education area, with a joint post in History and Education, developing the University’s Bachelor of Education degree and setting up a close relationship with local schools. He also worked tirelessly in the field of adult education.

The role of these so called ‘e-tutors’ ended when the School of Education was founded and Willie  then moved full time into the History Subject Group.

His doctorate had been on the 17th-century English Puritan lawyer and statesman William Prynne, and Willie became a leading scholar of the long post-Reformation period of British history, with a wide-ranging expertise in political debates, religious practice, and the significance of locality.

Among his many publications, his work on the Muggletonians led to the presentation to the University of a portrait of the sect’s founder, Lodowicke Muggleton.

Willie’s admiration for radical dissent meant that he always listened to new ideas, and valued ‘grit’ in the system when some people thought that things should change. This carried over into his politics, and he and his wife were staunch supporters of the Labour Party.

His background in the field of education meant that he took school teaching immensely seriously and cared passionately about teaching standards in schools as well as in universities. He also believed in teaching through documents and by emphasising historical arguments. One book he edited was of essays by his Sussex colleagues, called Historical Controversies and Historians (1998).

Willie was heavily involved in many university committees and was Head of History and a warm and sympathetic Dean of the former School of Cultural and Community Studies (CCS).

He was a visiting professor in America and in China, being an early participant in the exchanges between the History Subject Group and Chinese universities.

Although brought up in London, Willie was a proud Scot and returned often to Scotland. His other passions were the cinema, on which he became an expert, and Arsenal Football Club. 

An immensely likeable and charming man, he was a great support to many colleagues; indeed he was indispensable to History in Sussex and the Subject Group would not have been the same without him. He will be much missed.

Beryl Williams, Emeritus Reader in History

  • There will be a memorial service and celebration of Willie's life at 2pm on Saturday 2 February at Southover Church in Lewes, which everyone is welcome to attend.

Posted on behalf of: History
Last updated: Monday, 28 January 2019

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