This is a hard blog post to write – which is why it has taken so long.
I knew Peter Falconer as a teacher, doctoral supervisor, colleague, mentor and friend. It’s incredibly sad to know that he has passed away having only just recently retired. I am writing this as a lasting tribute to his legacy and our friendship.
I first knew of Peter as an academic in public administration at Glasgow Caledonian University in the late 1990’s. I was an undergraduate and although not studying public administration one of my friends was – and Peter had a reputation as being quite a demanding lecturer. I later came to the conclusion that this image was misguided (more on that to come).
After my undergraduate studies I took up a PhD. The topic was based on research by Peter (with Stephen Bailey, Malcolm Foley, Gayle McPherson and Margaret Graham) on museums charging as well as his work (with Stephen Bailey and Stuart McChlery) on local government charges. My resounding memories of Peter as one of my supervisors are his always insightful feedback, his approachable style and his mini-fridge full of Irn Bru!
Towards the end of my PhD Peter took up the post of Reader in Public Services Management at Queen Margaret University and he made the move East to Edinburgh with his wife Maureen. The relocation to a house close to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary proved grimly fortuitous as it was at this time that his health took a very serious turn for the worst with kidney failure which led to him requiring dialysis three times a week for the next few years.
In 2009 I took up a lectureship at QMU alongside Peter and other public administration scholars including Mike Donnelly, Eddie Frizzell and Richard Kerley. I know some who say that it can be difficult to work with someone who has previously been your teacher or supervisor. It’s a real credit to his character that I never felt that Peter saw me as anything other than a colleague and a peer. He was a great colleague and became a very good friend.
My recent memories of Peter are of his encyclopedic knowledge of public administration, his passion for higher education and his incredible ability to devour academic books. I never saw the tough taskmaster reputation played out in person. What I found in working with Peter was that he was utterly dedicated to education and fastidious in his teaching preparations. He always prioritised his teaching and his students – so much so that he would often schedule surgeries, treatment, and even his eventual retirement, around his teaching commitments.
One of my happiest memories of Peter is just a few years ago when he was nominated by his students for a teaching award. He was absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted. Peter took great pride in his teaching and he cared passionately about education. As a result he could be dismayed if he felt others didn’t hold the same standards and integrity. This was where he could be seen as being demanding. But behind this was the extent to which he cared and was more sensitive than his west Scotland character would ever publicly admit.
Having completed his teaching commitments earlier this year Peter was looking forward to a fruitful retirement. He was grateful for having been recognised as Emeritus Reader of Public Administration and Management, he had a new computer which he had just set up in his home office, and the last time we spoke (just a few days before his passing) he was doing a clear out of old books and looking forward to finally prioritising his writing. Sadly, he was never going to get the time.
I am so incredibly grateful to have known Peter, to have been supervised by him, to work alongside him but most of all to have gotten to know him as a friend. Peter, you are dearly missed.
A commemorative service in celebration of Peter’s life will take place at Mortonhall Crematorium on Tuesday 30 April 2019 at 1pm and afterwards at the Charwood Restaurant, Edinburgh.