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Van Mildert College


Obituaries on this page

  • Debbie Hales (Van Mildert 1987-1991)
  • Lee Wyatt (Van Mildert 2003-6) Added June 2010
  • John Chesshire OBE (Van Mildert 1966-1969) Added 13/10/09
  • Simon Scott (Van Mildert 1965-1969) Added 03/04/2009
  • David Walton (Van Mildert 1981-1984) Added 13/07/2006
  • Paul Heslop (Van Mildert 1986-1989) Added 29/06/2006
  • Luke McDuff (Van Mildert 2000-2004)
  • Dave Brooks (Van Mildert 1999-2002)
  • Clifford Long (Van Mildert Senior Man 1965-1966) Updated 14/07/2006
  • Charles Richard Lane - (Van Mildert 1966-1969)

Debbie Hales (Van Mildert 1987 - 1991)

An undergraduate at Mildert between 1987 and 1991, Debbie Hales was a well known figure in the University Canoe Club in the early 1990s. It was at this time that the insurance costs for DUAU minibuses became too great and the canoe club was left to depend on private cars to make the weekly white water river trips and summer trips to the Alps. Many a university canoeist has fond memories of squeezing four students plus kayaks, paddles and gear into Debbie's little blue Rover Metro. Debbie trained hard with an enthusiasm, commitment and determination which characterised not only her approach to competitive sport but also to life in general. In her early days canoeing, Debbie's enthusiasm sometimes outstripped her ability, as in her 'legendary' descent of the falls of Leny in Scotland, when she became separated from her boat and had to hang on to a rock half way down the falls until, in her friend Rob Wilson's words, "we probably undertook the best ever rescue of our short canoe careers." It did not take long however for Debbie to surpass the rest of us. She went on to be part of the 1993 Ladies Himalayan Kayak Expedition, making the first all British descent of the river Tamur in Nepal and competed for Great Britain on the Wildwater racing team between 1995 and 1999. Among many championship and world cup races, she competed at the Landeck World Championships in 1996, which is remembered among the most difficult and spectacular world championships, due to the heavy rains of the previous days.

Still at Durham, Debbie completed her PhD in Physics in 2000 and trained as a teacher. After a short while as a classroom teacher Debbie became a Special Needs Learning Support Assistant, working with children with learning, behavioural, emotional, social and physical difficulties. She always gave of her best, and approached issues with an integrity and perception that was appreciated by management, even if challenging at the time.

Debbie met Paul Tyler in 1999 and they married on 7th April 2001, which Paul describes as "The best day of my life so far". Debbie soon came to share Paul's love of racing cycling, touring and trikes. Typically, she reached national level at this sport too, coming in the top 10 in the British Cycling Road Time Trials National Championships. Debbie also continued with cross country running, racing in the "fast pack" in the North East Cross Country League, and ensuring that the Durham Harriers could always put out a ladies team. In her spare time, Debbie studied sign language to help her communicate with the special needs children she worked with and French because she loved to be able to speak with friends she and Paul made during their annual cycle tours through the peaks of the Alps and Pyrenees.

Debbie never gave less than one hundred percent to anything she did. As her long time friend Penny Swaine remembered at her funeral, “There was such a zest for life that most could only dream of”. Not only a zest but also a caring attitude, reflected in the way she looked after others.

Because Debbie was so enthusiastically involved in so many different activities, her loss is felt by a great many people and leaves a gap which is hard to fill in many lives, not least her parents and sister, her husband Paul and his children and grandchildren. Hundreds of friends and colleagues gathered with Debbie's family on 20th April 2012 to celebrate her life and remember her fantastic contributions as a friend, in sport and at work.

Carol Booth

Simon Scott (Van Mildert 1965-9)

8 December 1946 – 10 August 2008

Simon was a founder member of the College during its initial year in Parsons Field House in 1965-6. He came to Durham from Kings School Worcester to read engineering and graduated in 1969 after ‘recycling’, as he put it, his first year. A major factor in this sequence of events was his commitment to the College Boat Club. Simon arrived at Van Mildert with an impressive background in school rowing and dedicated his enthusiasms to founding VMBC, perhaps at the expense of any enthusiasm for engineering. Within a few weeks of the College opening it had acquired a Boat House, a tub pair and a sufficient fleet of boats to enable the College to compete on the river from the word go. Simon’s boast was that he had persuaded or coerced every member of the College’s first year into having at least one excursion on the river, with the year culminating in victory in the MacFarlane-Grieve challenge trophy for first time rowers – a result entirely due to his tireless commitment as a coach and boat maintenance expert. As the club grew Simon was instrumental in persuading the JCR to purchase the College’s first ‘fine’ boat, built by Simms, which opened up more competitive prospects and paved the way for the College’s most successful crew in the early days, winning Admirals, the Centenary Ferrymasters’ Challenge Cup on the Tyne and several ‘Senior’ events on the regatta circuit. In his school days Simon had been a keen Scout, from which he gained an amazing practical ability to fix just about anything. I remember the dissection and re-assembly of the Primus stove that was the sole source of hot water in an early Rag Week office, and many of his contemporaries will remember the famous ‘heap’ – an ancient Austin A40 Somerset – that he managed to keep on the road with a mixture of ingenuity, luck, and perhaps just a bit of engineering know-how. Engine transplants, clutch and brake system overhauls, silencers bought from local scrap yards, and the complete replacement of the front end of a mini van held together by pot-rivets, were all part of Simon’s early motoring exploits, but they were all carried out with a matter of fact ‘let’s get it fixed’ approach and a wonderful blend of acerbic yet warm humour.


On graduating Simon entered the teaching profession and inevitably started a boat club in his first school (The Crypt) in Gloucester, again gaining much success as a coach, before moving on the Cheltenham Ladies’ College to teach physics, engineering and rowing. After Cheltenham he became the director of the Science and Technology Regional Organisation (SATRO) for Gloucestershire, a move that took him in the direction of Information Technology. In his last post he was working full time in commercial IT, specialising in pay-point systems. In 2004 he was diagnosed with a skin cancer condition but typically maintained an active and busy life. He was regularly seen on the towpath at regatta events in the Worcester region and was delighted to meet up with current members of VMBC who were competing at Worcester regatta in 2007. Simon was a regular attendee at College reunions and had been planning to be at the 2008 event until his health deteriorated only a few days before. His dynamism and stoical approach to his condition are a lasting memory for those of use who were still in touch with him in his last year. He leaves sons Ashley and Michael, and daughter Natasha, who, as a fitting tribute, won her ‘oar’ in the Cambridge bumps this year. His funeral was in Cheltenham in August which I attended as a College representative and friend.


Barry Meatyard

David Walton (Courtesy of The Times)

David Walton, Van Mildert 1981 - 1984

Added 13/07/2006

The Van Mildert Association was sorry to learn of the recent death of David Robert Walton, who gained a first in Economics and Politics at Van Mildert in 1984. His death was widely reported in the press; according to one account, "[he] was one of the most respected City economists of his, or any other, generation."

After graduating from Van Mildert, David joined HM Treasury as an Economist. In 1986, he left the Treasury to study for a M.A. in Economics at Warwick University, which he completed with distinction. Returning to the City in 1987, he joined the prestigious investment bank Goldman Sachs. In 2003 he was appointed Chief European Economist at Goldman Sachs, and a variety of other appointments followed. He became a trusted external adviser to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, and Chairman of the Society of Business Economists. In 2005 Chancellor of Exchequer Gordon Brown appointed David as a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee. He quickly made his mark as a well-informed but independent-minded voice on the committee, which is responsible for setting interest rates in the United Kingdom. In 2005 he was also invited to become Visiting Research Professor of Economics at Oxford University, a position he held alongside his work at the Bank of England.

It is testament to David's influence and the respect he enjoyed throughout the markets that, upon news of his death, sterling hit a seven-week low against the dollar (traders took the view that without his influence a rate rise was less likely). Gordon Brown said: "David Walton was one of the UK's leading business economists and a highly respected commentator on economic affairs in parliament and more widely. He made a great contribution to economics and economic policy-making in this country and I am deeply saddened by his sudden and early depth."
Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England said: "David inspired the respect and affection of his colleagues in the bank and [the news of his death] has come as a shock to us all, as it will to those who knew him in the City, where he made his reputation as an economist."
Lord Burns, former Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, described him as "one of the most outstanding economists of his ages"; another obituary lamented the death of a "pioneering financial thinker."

David, who died unexpectedly on 21 June 2006 after a short illness, married Nicola in 1991 and is survived by his wife and two sons.

Paul Heslop, Van Mildert 1986-1989

Added 29/06/2006
Paul Heslop, who read Chemistry at Van Mildert from 1986-1989 passed away on 1 June 2006, aged 37 years. Paul had been working at the European Patent Office at the time of his death, and the following obituary was printed in the EPO Gazette.
[Paul's] death came as a surprise to all his colleagues. Despite his long absence from the directorate because of health problems they all continued to hope to welcome him back. However, this was not to be.
Paul Heslop joined the EPO in 1990 in Munich and since then he had been working as a substantive examiner in the field of Polymer Chemistry. His work was characterised by a competent, friendly and professional approach.
Paul was an accomplished musician and a very keen gardener. He was able to name every plant in his garden in at least three languages.
Paul will be remembered by his colleagues in particular for his intelligence and sensitivity. He will be greatly missed by those who knew him.
We express our deepest sympathy to his wife, his son and to his parents.

Luke McDuff, Van Mildert 2000-2004

Luke McDuff, who died on 12 March 2005, was a student at Van Mildert during academic years 2000/01 to 2003/04, graduating with a 2:1 Honours in Economics with French.

Luke was born in London on 19 November 1981 to parents working for HM Diplomatic Service, and travelled widely in the course of his 23 years. An early childhood spent in Brussels, Athens and Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei) was followed by four years at Prior’s Court preparatory school near Newbury, with holiday visits to the family, then posted in Morocco. On their return to London, Luke joined George Abbot School, Guildford, later completing his sixth-form studies there, prior to going up to Van Mildert in 2000.

Luke’s third academic year was spent as an Erasmus exchange student at the University of Marseille in Aix-en-Provence, where he was particularly fulfilled and happy.

Besides his parents, Luke is survived by brothers Joel (20), reading French and Spanish at Exeter, and Daniel (19), due to go up to Cambridge (Gonville & Caius) in October 2005 to read Engineering.

Luke’s family wish to thank all those who knew and befriended Luke during his time at Van Mildert. They would be happy to hear from any with whom they are not already in touch. Contact details may be obtained from the college secretary, Sharon Fairless.

Dave Brooks, Van Mildert 1999-2002

Being asked to write a few words about Dave is a very daunting task; because he was involved in college life in so many ways and knew so many people that I can not hope to even begin to do justice to the whole of the contribution he made to our lives, so I offer these as some personal thoughts.

Dave was one of the first people I met at Mildert, and the warmth of his character and his humour came through from those first moments, you would usually find that if Dave was around you would soon be laughing.

Dave took a collaborative approach to the attendance of lectures, (I think typical of many a Mildertian down the years), and would often wander on to our corridor in search of someone who had gone to the morning’s lecture and had some notes that could be scrounged, but these favours were returned as he was also a good source of notes if you had missed a lecture too.

Dave was a sportsman, part of the college rugby team, and I think enjoyed the rich social life of the team just as much as the sport.

I guess I knew Dave best through the college CU, which he and David Laird lead for a year. Their personalities were what made it a place of welcome, of real friendship, and Dave’s faith was always a real inspiration to me; to me he was the model of a Christian life I tried to follow.

I dug out my yearbook to see what had been written about Dave and I think it tells us more about the friend we loved than any solemn list of achievements could, it reads

Feeding the ducks from the second floor of Tees is just the start of Dave’s complete madness. The boy from Belfast must be the only person ever to have attempted to teleport out of Trevs’ undercroft.

Throughout his time at Mildert he has charmed the dinner ladies, annoyed the cleaners (we know why Tyne North ground floor smelt of coffee for months), and made ‘interesting’ contributions to hairstyle trends, having one side of his head shaved at a CU house party.

To sum Dave up in two words: Mad, Irish.

Clifford D. Long, Van Mildert President 1965-66

Updated 14/07/2006

This obituary is based on that written by Nils Marstein of the Directorate of Cultural Heritage in Oslo, Norway.
Clifford David Long, Van Mildert's founding President, died on 24 May 2005 at the age of 67. An influential and important figure in the college's history, he helped found the JCR and make the student body what it is today. He graduated with a B.A. in Archaeology from University College, Durham in 1964, taking on the job of Senior Man at that College. He was invited by Van Mildert's then-Senior Tutor Arnold Bradshaw to become the first President of Van Mildert College after his year as Senior Man at 'Castle'.


Following his Presidency, he was employed at emergency excavations at Trondheim, and subsequently found himself appointed to the Directorate of Cultural Heritage in Trondheim.
He came to an office that only existed only on a project basis and it was he, as well as leading archaeological expeditions, who built up the entire project.
He was a clever communicator and guide. From the very first year he organized exhibitions with objects from the excavations. His enthusiasm created the positive attitude for archaeological excavations in the city. He also had good contacts with historians at both a University and local level, taking part in discussions and contributing through his excavations to the revised edition of the Trondheim City History (1997).
In 1987 he was transferred to the directorate's Head Office, and became an able knowledgeable head of the I.T. section.

David Hall also wrote the following obituary, based on his forty-year friendship with Cliff, for the 2005 edition of the VMA newsletter.

Cliff (who later preferred to be called Clifford) died in Oslo on 24 May, 2005 at the age of 67 after three years of illness. He was one of the first four graduate student members of Van Mildert, having migrated from Castle for the very beginning in 1965. He became the first JCR President and he and the other graduates made an enormous contribution to getting student life and activities off to a flying start in the fledgling college. He was also a rowing enthusiast and involved with the infant boat club. He will surely be remembered by his contemporaries in Van Mildert for his enthusiasm, liveliness, humour and caring.

In 1965 Cliff was working on a PhD in archaeology but never completed this though he went on to be elected a Fellow of both the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and of London. Between his first degree in geography from Exeter and starting the PhD he had completed a PCGE. After leaving Durham he taught in a further education college in Cheltenham and worked as an archaeologist in the Middle East.

He moved to Norway to work in 1970. He kept in touch with both Castle and Van Mildert affairs, regularly coming to reunions and working for the VMA as well as for many years visiting his dentist in Durham. Initially he worked in Trondheim on excavations of the medieval city, once Norway's capital, for the Norwegian Central Office of Historical Monuments. From 1979-84 he was head of the Directorate of Cultural Heritage's Trondheim office. In 1987 he moved to Oslo, undertaking a good deal of specialist translation and becoming an IT specialist and eventually Head of Section for IT and Technical Services in the Directorate. He travelled in Europe and the USA as a leading figure in the user group for the Directorate's computer systems and also spent some time in Zambia advising the equivalent government department. Throughout these years he returned regularly, eventually fortnightly, to Essex to care for his mother until her death which happened after his own cancer had been diagnosed. An obituary by the Director of Cultural Heritage appeared in the newspaper Aftenposten on 6 June. This placed a high value on his contribution to the department and his skills as a communicator.

Charles Richard Lane, Van Mildert 1966-1969


Charles Richard Lane passed away on 16 August this year [2013] in Chesterfield. Richard and I met at Van Mildert on our first day at college and remained firm friends from then on. Like most students we used to set the world to rights in the evenings over a cup of coffee often with Graham Farr and Aidan Challis, both geographers. After leaving Durham Richard became a qualified teacher in secondary education but soon found he preferred teaching primary and junior children. He retired after 23 years as deputy head of St Andrews Primary School in Dronfield Woodhouse. He was an excellent and dedicated teacher, respected by pupils and staff alike, enthusiastic, with a great sense of humour and an infectious laugh. He was also a skilled keyboard player and an expert railway modeller. Many of his layouts featured in both the Railway and Continental Modeller Magazines. He leaves a wife Sharon, two daughters Rachael and Rebecca and grandson Zachary."

Bill Preston.