Nick Conway pays tribute to Phil Ollerenshaw

Phil was one of my PhD supervisors from 2012-2018. The first time I met Phil was in 2012 at my initial interview during the application process for my PhD. His enthusiasm and friendly nature were immediately evident and helped to make what had been a terrifying prospect into a thoroughly pleasant and productive experience. Needless to say, I was delighted when Madge Dresser, my director of studies, told me that he had agreed to act as second supervisor.

His contribution to my thesis, as well as to my development as a researcher, is incalculable. Our meetings, often around the table in Madge’s kitchen, will always be memorable for me. Phil’s personality illuminated those meetings. His excitement when picking through my writing or new archival material I had uncovered was indescribably uplifting to a somewhat nervous and unsure young man.

As well as being an outstanding scholar and teacher, I will remember Phil as an exceptional person. There were many moments where I doubted everything. His emotional intelligence and understanding were vital in overcoming these self-imposed obstacles. He always said the right thing at the right time. He was also a deeply generous man, presenting me with several new books including his own illuminating Northern Ireland in the Second World War.

His later illness did nothing to dampen his spirits. His contributions to my viva preparations were as profound as those that he had made to the research and writing. He would keep me informed with the progress of the new Cambridge History of Ireland series, which was enriched by his excellent chapter on the Second World War. I will also fondly recall him being well enough to attend my graduation last summer, exuding his usual cheerful manner and knowledgeably discussing football and the latest developments at the Filton Airbus site with my father. Even after my graduation, and in the face of his condition, he remained in touch and offered his help with anything that I happened to be writing.

I can say with some certainty that I would never have graduated without his knowledge and guidance, as well as his calming and reassuring influence. I am incredibly fortunate to have known him.

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