University of Aberdeen pays tribute to popular scholar and teacher

The University of Aberdeen will remember one of its longest serving scholars with a memorial service and lecture today (Friday October 30)

Professor George Watson, who died on February 2 aged 66, was a popular and greatly respected scholar and teacher at the University for more than four decades.

A former Director and Associate Director of the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies, Professor Watson was born in Portadown, Co Armagh, and educated at St Patrick’s College Armagh, Queen’s University Belfast and Wadham College Oxford. 

In 1966 he was appointed Lecturer in English at Aberdeen and spent his entire career at the University until his retirement in 2005.  

He was the last Head of the English Department before the School of Language and Literature was established in 2001.  Professor Watson was also a founding member of the British Association of Irish Studies and Director of the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo between 1998 and 2000.

A service will also be held in St Machar’s Cathedral in Professor Watson’s memory on Friday October 30 at 11am.

At 5.30pm, the University will also hold the first George Watson Memorial Lecture, which will be given as part of the conference of the Irish-Scottish Academic Initiative which Professor Watson helped to found.

The lecture, entitled Another Country: Politicising National Tales in Ireland and Scotland under the Union, will be delivered by Professor Roy Foster of Oxford University.

Professor Watson, who lived in Kittybrewster,  Aberdeen, is survived by widow, Jo, daughters Anna and Judith, son Conor, and four grandchildren.

Mrs Watson, 67, said her late husband was remembered with great fondness by all who knew him.

“George and I were together for over 40 years of companionship and laughter,” she said.

“His wit and storytelling lightened many situations, and his mimicry defused many others.

“He wore his scholarship lightly and is missed by his family, colleagues and students alike.

“We are touched that the University, to which he dedicated a great part of his life, has remembered him in this way.”

Professor Cairns Craig, the University’s Glucksman Professor of Irish and Scottish Studies, said: “George Watson was an outstanding teacher, an excellent scholar, and the wide circle of his academic friends around the world helped give Aberdeen’s Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies an international prominence right from the start.

“His passion for good writing and good drama, especially Irish writing and drama, was inspirational.

“He was also one of the wittiest, funniest and most companionable of men, much loved by his students for lectures always spiced with laughter, and much admired by his colleagues for his ability to puncture pomposity and to engage in academic debate with gentle, but often devastating, humour.”