Former member of the History Department Pat Crimmin has sadly passed away, aged 87. Emeritus Professor and colleague Nigel Saul shares a tribute to Pat below.
Pat Crimmin, who died on 4 October 2020 aged 87, was a long serving member of the Department of History at Royal Holloway. Appointed in the 1960s, she retired as a Senior Lecturer in 1998.
Pat was born at Aberdare, South Wales, on 24 January 1933, and was immensely proud of her Welsh heritage. She retained a strong Welsh accent and was always a keen supporter of Welsh Rugby. She was educated at schools near her home and then at the University of Wales at Aberystwyth. Developing a strong interest in the history of the eighteenth-century Royal Navy, she enrolled at King’s College, London in 1965, to do an M.Phil. on the relationship between the Admiralty and the Treasury between 1780 and 1806 under the supervision of Professor Gerald Graham. It was as an authority on the related fields of the personnel and the administrative history of the Navy that she was to make her scholarly reputation in the years to come. Essentially a miniaturist, she found her ideal form of expression in the sharply focused article. From the early 1960s she was a regular contributor to the pages of such journals as Mariner’s Mirror, Historical Research, Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies and Journal of the Australian Association for Maritime History.
In the early 2000s she contributed a number of widely cited articles on leading eighteenth-century sailors to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. She was regularly invited to give conference papers not only in the UK but in France, the Low Countries, Australia and the United States. Ever impatient of ‘isms’ and ‘ologies’, she saw the essence of the historian’s craft as lying in a close engagement with the sources. For many years she taught a second-year Optional Subject on naval history, a course which was a source of lasting inspiration to many who took it. In the University of London more widely, she was for many years secretary of the Isobel Thornley Fund and editor of the White Pamphlet, the invaluable guide to the University of London History School.
Pat was much valued as a colleague both for her rigour as a teacher and her robust, common-sensical views expressed on matters varying from unsatisfactory students to College affairs and the running of the department. She was a lively and engaging speaker, and her lectures to undergraduates were always much valued for their clarity of organisation and informative content. Many students and colleagues will remember Pat for both her warm personality and her many acts of kindness, the latter springing from a deep concern for the individual human being.
On graduating from Aberystwyth, Pat taught for some years successively in Haverfordwest and at Newland High School for Girls at Hull. In the early years of her time at Royal Holloway she lived in the Founder’s Building where, alongside other resident staff, she exercised pastoral responsibilities. Later, however, she moved to Englefield Green, to the house in which she was to live for the rest of her life.
Before immobility sadly restricted her journeyings, Pat revelled in international travel. She had travelled widely in Eastern Europe and Russia in the Communist era. On the occasion of her visit to Australia she crossed the Nullarbor Desert by train from Perth to Adelaide. A long-standing member of the National Trust, she greatly enjoyed visiting country houses and gardens. Outside England she had a particular interest in the Baroque and Rococo architecture of Central Europe, a subject which was well represented on her bookshelves. She was a keen supporter of the Church of England, and was a regular worshipper at St Jude’s, Englefield Green.