Eddie Small - in memoriam

Published on 29 September 2020

Everyone in the School of Humanities was devastated to hear of the death of our much-loved colleague and friend, Eddie Small

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Eddie was a historian, playwright, Creative Writing tutor and Public Engagement Officer for the School. He was a well-known face in Dundee literary circles and wrote the play The Four Marys as well as the books Mary Lily Walker: The Forgotten Visionary of Dundee and To Bodies Gone, the latter of which saw Eddie research the history of death in Scotland, with an emphasis on practices and rituals surrounding bereavement.

Professor James Livesey, Dean of the School of Humanities said, “Eddie was universally loved and respected. He was an exceptionally warm person, and highly talented. His teaching was so powerful because he saw the talent in every individual and worked hard to help students to achieve their full potential.

“The number of people who benefited from Eddie’s wisdom and talent go well beyond the students he tutored. Eddie’s authoritative knowledge of this University and our city made him one of Dundee’s great ambassadors. We have lost one of the most loved members of the University community and one of Dundee’s great sons.”

Eddie’s legendary tours of the city provided lively insights into Dundee’s history. The Four Marys had the same goal, examining the impact of Mary Slessor, Mary Brooksbank, Mary Walker and Mary Ann Baxter on the city, as Eddie himself explained.

“Eddie believed in the value of history in bringing communities together,” said Caroline Brown of the Archives team. “He was passionate about sharing his knowledge of the past and understood how important it is for people to know where they have come from, and to be given opportunities to remember, in order to live happier lives in the present and future.”

Eddie Small presenting Brian Cox with a copy of his book of Mary Lily Walker

Eddie presents former rector Brian Cox with a copy of his Mary Lily Walker biography

He was also a strong advocate for awareness around disability, participating in the Hands of X project that brought together design and disability advocacy in an innovative way. It was a personal project for Eddie as he himself wore a prosthetic hand, and it subsequently won the Stephen Fry Award for Public Engagement.

Professor Divya Jindal-Snape, of the School of Education and Social Work, wrote a novel that drew on her experience of Fibromyalgia and recalls Eddie’s generosity, kindness and motivating nature. “We met several times and he would read the manuscript, going into detail about the characters and storyline,” she said. “He really helped me in seeing the characters from the reader’s perspective. We talked a lot about our experiences with disability.”

Public engagement was a passion of Eddie’s as Professor Christopher Murray, who worked with him in this area attests to. “Eddie was deeply committed to engaging the public with his work, and the work of the School,” he said. “But beyond that he was truly an ambassador for the whole University."

The outpouring of grief and reminiscence on the DURA (Dundee Review of the Arts) Facebook page and elsewhere on social media testifies to Eddie’s generosity as a teacher, his great warmth and his sense of humour.

“Eddie gave you everything you need from a friend – his kind words, his encouragement and the most valuable of all, his time,” said Mayra Crowe. “I’m going to raise my glass at this year’s To Absent Friends festival and toast Eddie, my dear and absent friend.”

Eddie was one of the University’s great characters – a relentlessly optimistic figure who strode around campus sharing a cheery word with all he met on his way to and from meeting with collaborators from all Schools and Directorates.

Professor Niamh Nic Daeid, from the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, was one such colleague and she paid tribute by saying, “Eddie Small embraced and embodied the collaborative spirit of Dundee. He worked with us on communicating the stories behind our research in forensic science, bringing a unique style to making the narratives and arcs of our research accessible to everybody. This included a memorable outing at the Dundee Science Centre when he acted as the be-wigged Judge at the culmination of the CSI Why? project inviting the citizens of the city to serve as jurors in a fictitious murder trial, or as the narrator for the Alien Autopsy in the Being Human festival. Eddie was hugely generous with his time, a captivating story teller and a man of great integrity and kindness. He will be very much missed by us all.”

Museums Curator Matthew Jarron summed Eddie up perfectly by saying, “His enthusiasm was infectious and the empathy that he showed for others allowed him to connect strongly with so many different audiences. He was loved by University staff, students and members of the public alike.”

Always modest, mindful and supportive of the needs of others, Eddie Small will be remembered as a kind, brilliantly talented, and beloved member of our community.


Press Office, University of Dundee

Story category Obituary