Skip to main content

Timothy Fernyhough (1953-2003)


Tim Fernyhough, Lecturer and Director of Studies in History in the School of International Studies, died suddenly, from a heart attack in the early morning of 8 October 2003. He was a few weeks away from his 50th birthday. Tim joined the West London Institute in 1990 from the University of Florida, where he had directed large-scale projects on African history and development. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of London and his doctorate from the University of London. He transferred from the West London Institute to Brunel in 1997. He was Director of Studies in the Department of American Studies and History and the School of International Studies from 1997 until his death. He taught a wide range of courses in African and modern European history and at his death was teaching courses on Modern Africa, the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War and World History. He worked on the social history of nineteenth and twentieth century southern Ethiopia, a subject on which he had published several articles and book chapters. He was very close to completing a major manuscript on the history of southern Ethiopia, entitled Serfs, Slaves and Shifta: Modes of Production and Resistance in Pre-Revolutionary Southern Ethiopia.

This bare retelling of Tim's academic achievements does little justice to what Tim did within Brunel and within the School of International Studies in particular. Tim was a devoted teacher, a tireless administrator, and passionate advocate for the importance of history in general and African history especially. As Director of Studies for History, he was instrumental in having the single honours programme in History approved and performed heroic roles in the former Faculty of Arts in making sure that Brunel delivered excellent programmes in Performing Arts, English, American Studies and History. These accomplishments are much less important, however, than was his role as teacher, mentor and guide to numerous West London and Brunel students. Tim was motivated in all that he did by concern for others, especially students. He absorbed himself in his role as Director of Studies for History, going well beyond the call of duty to try to make students' experience at Brunel better. The devotion he had for his students was matched by their esteem for him - the testimonials he got from them on a regular basis were enthusiastic and heart-felt about how much students appreciated the small and large things that Tim did for them. His colleagues felt the same. He went out of his way to nurture new colleagues and to make as strong a contribution as he could to the life of the various departments he was in. He never failed to treat everyone with courtesy and concern. We are deeply saddened that Tim died at such a tragically young age because we knew from the extent of what he had already given us that he had much more to offer Brunel. We could not have asked for a kinder, more caring colleague.

Trevor Burnard 2003