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Obituary: Robert Swainson

Clerk to the Board of Governors, College Secretary and Fellow

Birkbeck was saddened to hear of the death in August 2013 of Robert Swainson, Clerk to the Board of Governors and College Secretary at Birkbeck between 1979 and 1988.

Born in Stafford and educated at Ampleforth College, after Sandhurst Bob Swainson served with the South Staffordshire Regiment in Eritrea and Egypt between 1945 and 1948, before reading History at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, from 1948 to 1950.

In 1951 he married his wife, Pat, and joined the Colonial Service as District Officer, later District Commissioner, in Uganda. After that country’s independence in 1962 he served in various Ugandan government ministries before returning to the UK in 1968.

He joined Birkbeck in 1969 as Deputy Secretary, under the leadership of Master Dr Ronald Tress, becoming Secretary and Clerk to the Governors in 1979.

During his time at Birkbeck, Bob Swainson was President of the Birkbeck Cricket Club. He is remembered by a former captain of the club, Jack Frost, who writes: “Bob Swainson was the second-longest-serving President of the Birkbeck Cricket Club over its 150 years’ existence.

“Normally a president smiles and waves and shakes a few hands, but Bob was active as President from 1973 until 1989. He fairly regularly brought up a cricket team from Dorking to play our first eleven, and we were fully stretched and sometimes beaten.

“As Clerk to the Governors he was always approachable about cricket matters and, although not a great player himself, was warm and generous in his dealings with the club’s financial matters.

“If his church’s belief is correct that ‘there is a sure and certain hope of life after death’, I shall, when my time comes, make a point of seeking his company again for a renewal of our enjoyable times together.”

Following his retirement in 1988, Bob Swainson was made a Fellow of Birkbeck.