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Graham Smith (1953-1999)

Graham Smith (1953-1999)

Sidney Sussex College Chapel, April 30, 1999

Music, 'Lara's theme'.

Welcome - Chris Knight.

From Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. Or the Modern Prometheus (1817) [in which young Victor Frankenstein thinks about the death of a loved one] read by Dick Chorley.

[He] died calmly; and [his] countenance expressed affection even in death. I need not describe the feelings of those whose dearest ties are rent by that most irreparable evil; the void that presents itself to the soul; and the despair that is exhibited on the countenance. It is so long before the mind can persuade itself that [he], whom we saw every day, and whose very existence appeared a part of our own, can have departed for ever - that the brightness of a beloved eye can have been extinguished, and the sound of a voice so familiar, and dear to the ear, can be hushed, never more to be heard. These are the reflections of the first days; but when the lapse of time proves the reality of the evil, then the actual bitterness of grief commences. Yet from whom has not that rude hand rent away some dear connection: and why should I describe a sorrow which all have felt, and must feel? The time at length arrives, when grief is rather an indulgence than a necessity; and the smile that plays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a sacrilege, is not banished.

Graham relished reading gothic fiction and was an enthusiastic teller of blood-curdling ghost stories. Frankenstein was one of his favourites.

From Peter Kropótkin, 'What Geography ought to be' (1885) read by Linda McDowell.

[Geography] must teach us, from our earliest childhood, that we are all brethren, whatever our nationality. In our time of wars, of national self-conceit, of national jealousies and hatreds ably nourished by people who pursue their own egotistic, personal or class interests, geography must be - a means of dissipating these prejudices and creating other feelings more worthy of humanity. It must show that each nationality brings its own precious building-stone for the general development of the commonwealth, and that only small parts of each nation are interested in maintaining national hatreds and jealousies.

It must be recognized that _ different nationalities do not yet sufficiently know one another; the strange questions which each foreigner is asked about his own country; the absurd prejudices with regard to one another which are spread on both extremities of a continent - nay, on both banks of a channel - amply prove that even among people whom we describe as educated people, geography is merely known by its name. The small differences we notice in the customs and manners of different nationalities, as also the differences of national characters which appear especially among the middle classes, make us overlook the immense likeness which exists among the labouring classes of all nationalities _ . It is the task of geography to bring this truth, in its full light, into the midst of the lies accumulated by ignorance, presumption, and egotism. It has to enforce on the minds of children that all nationalities are valuable to one another; that whatever the wars they have fought, mere short-sighted egotism was at the bottom of all of them.

Peter Kropótkin (1842-1921), born heir to a Russian feudal estate, gave up a life of ease to become, first, a geographer, and then an anarchist. He spent much of his adult life in exile, a good part in Britain. His personal integrity and anarchist beliefs ensured that his relations with the British Geography establishment were always difficult. He was a particular hero of Graham's.

Stephen Mulrine, 'A Gude Buke' (1975) read by Alan Peggie.

Ah like a gude buke
a buke's aw ye need
jis settle down
hiv a right gude read

Ay, a gude buke's rerr
it makes ye think
nuthin tae beat it
bar a gude drink

Ah like a gude buke
opens yir mine
a gude companion
tae pass the time

See me wi a buke, bit
in a bus ur a train
canny whack it
wee wurld i yir ain

Ay, ah like a gude buke
widny deny it
dje know thon wan
noo - whit dje cry it?

Awright, pal, skip it
awright, keep the heid
howm ah tae know
yir trying tae read?

Graham spent his student days in Glasgow and enjoyed Glasgow poets like Mulrine. Of course, he was also rarely without a 'gude buke'.

Song, 'No regrets'.

Tribute, read by Gerry Kearns

His laughter was better than the birds in the morning: his smile
Turned the edge of the wind: His memory
Disarms death and charms the surly grave.
Early he went to bed, too early we
Saw his light put out: yet we could not grieve
More than a little while,
For he lives in the earth around us, laughs from the sky.
[C. Day Lewis]

Graham, you lived your 46 years with determination, dignity and passion. Determination, dignity and passion were obvious in your public life as an academic. They were also important in your intimate and family life, the privacy of which you guarded so delicately. The public loss is all too evident, the private loss deeper and more hidden.

We all know we have lost a committed scholar, an inspirational teacher and a lucid author. We recall your enthusiasm for political geography, your determination to develop a distinctively geographical approach to the study of the political systems of Russia and Eastern Europe, and your compassion for the peoples living through the hope and despair of state socialism. We remember your caution and excitement as country after country embarked upon what you called the 'trials of transition'. Many here will recall, and others can surely imagine, the curmudgeonly good humour with which you revised lectures and maps on an almost daily basis as regimes, currencies and walls came tumbling down.I remember the horror with which you told me over coffee one morning that there had been a coup in the Soviet Union, that Gorbachev was under house arrest and that Radio 4 had rung you at six in the morning for a comment. With the bravado of the half-awake you had blithely assured them that the coup would not last a fortnight. You had then gone back to sleep only to wake up at nine in a cold sweat. You were right of course.

This grasp and these insights were not easily won. Travel played a part, as did languages, as did friendships, as did long days and nights in the study. This passion for things Russian goes back at least as far as schooldays. This is a man who saw Dr. Zhivago thirteen times, which for today we will set down to Russophilia rather than Julie Christie. This is a man who began to teach himself Russian while yet at school. This is a man who got his PhD in three years at a time when that was really unusual. Graham was a driven man. He was also passionate about politics. His personal journey touched some of the central ideologies of our days: nationalism, communism, democracy and socialism. He worried about the consequences of ideologies for lives. He wanted to think clearly about how polities should work. He was a utopian.

Who can tell what makes another person tick? But when we think about Graham's determination and passion we need to think in more than academic terms. The Smith family have a family Bible in which generations for some two centuries have proudly written their names, as testimony to their moral and literary commitments. This is a man who can claim with pride that he belongs in that list. This was a boy whose mother, Sadie, was an activist in the Scottish Nationalist Party. This was a boy whose father died when he was six. He knew the pleasure his mother, his sister Fiona and his brothers Callum and Scott, would take in his enthusiasms and progress. He sought out idealists for his friends at University, and married one of them, Marilyn. This is the father who wanted his son to keep the first editions of his books, all eight of them as Alex will tell you proudly. This is a scholar who was always happiest working in teams. Generosity and camaraderie were what made things worth doing.

When Graham was told he was very ill and could not expect a normal span of life, he said that he had no regrets. He had achieved a lot. Some of his most important work was in press. He'd enjoyed teaching, enjoyed creating feelings truly worth of humanity, as Kropotkin put it. He'd spent many happy hours with his nose in his many 'gude bukes'. He'd had some great times with friends he loved. He was close to his family.

No, when he thought about it, he had no regrets. Except, one monumental ache. He would not see the son he was so proud of grow up to be a man.

Well, Graham, we have many regrets. You leave a hollow whose depths we cannot begin to plumb. We miss already your generosity as a host, the chilled wine you just happened to have to hand. We miss your big heart. We miss your dignity, never more evident than in your last days. For your compassion and many kindnesses, you too deserve the words of Burns that you and your mother chose for your brother Callum when he died last June:

For none that knew him need be told,
A warmer heart Death ne'er made cold.
[Robert Burns]

Committal [including the following piece by Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)].

Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Smile, think of me, let my name be ever the household word that it always was, let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?

All is well.

Music, Beethoven, 'Ode to joy'.