Obituary: Bryan Greetham, teacher, writer and thinker

By Pat Rowe

Bryan Greetham (1946-2022) the writer and thinker, died on Sunday 26th June in Estepona, Spain. Above all, Bryan wanted to help students of all ages be the best thinkers possible.

Bryan was born in Faversham, Kent. He failed the 11 plus exam and went to a secondary modern school. But this didn’t hold him back. He pushed to take his A’ Levels and got a place to read History at the University of Kent. Then he took an MA in Intellectual History at the University of Sussex. He was awarded a PhD, in moral philosophy by the University of Newcastle of New South Wales, Australia when he was in his 50s. He was an honorary fellow at the University of Durham.

Bryan loved teaching and was always happy to help any of his students. It was for them he started writing and had just finished the fifth edition of his first book, How to Write Better Essays, when he died. Some of Bryan’s more recent books focused on techniques to develop the art of thinking itself: Smart Thinking and Thinking Skills for Professionals.

Helen Caunce, Bryan’s editor at Palgrave:

“he demonstrated intellectual curiosity, consideration, astute judgement and – above all else – genuine warmth and kindness. There really is no-one I’ve enjoyed working with more in my publishing career. Bryan’s books will continue to represent the very best of study skills publishing: his work stems from a keenly felt desire to make the experience of studying at university more accessible – to make the ‘rules of the game’ clear – particularly for those coming from a less privileged background. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to commission so many of these inspirational books.”

Bryan had almost finished a novel about the moral dilemmas facing people in the Second World War but it will remain uncompleted.

I hope he will be remembered for his books and for the passion with which he taught his students and tried to help all those who bought them and later contacted him. As well as philosophy, which he loved, he also taught history and politics. Bryan was always curious about our world, constantly reading, writing and questioning our origins, our existence and our future..

Bryan Greetham was a generous contributor to Ars Notoria. Phil Hall, its founding editor, said:

Reading Bryan Greetham’s book resulted in an intellectual epiphany. Despite the fact that I thought hard and studied for so long, after I came across Bryan Greetham’s books, I realized that my thought processes were neither clear nor profound. Bryan’s book dispersed my mental fog, and it was important to incorporate his ideas into my classes at all the different universities and colleges I worked at in the UK and abroad. Bryan opened his students’ (and his friends’) intellectual horizons. His ideas were transformative. He was a great humane thinker and socialist and if everyone was able to think the way he suggested we think we would be living in a much better world, not in this strange infra-mundo.

Bryan wasn’t just an academic, though. He loved cycling and music. Cream, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin were some of his favourites. He supported his beloved Newcastle United FC, and he had many other interests that filled his life. Early on in his life, Bryan played piano and sang in a church choir. He played tennis, cricket, rugby and football, and he loved swimming.

After the UK, we lived in Portugal. Together, Bryan and I started an international college. After Portugal we moved to Australia. Then we lived in France and finally in Spain. But Bryan always loved Kent and that is where I will take his ashes.

Although he was not traditionally religious in adult life, Bryan had strong spiritual beliefs of his own, so maybe he has taken a Stairway to Heaven, to his own idea of heaven. I hope so.

Bryan wanted to feel he had done something good and useful. I know from all the messages he received over the years that he achieved this.

A toast to Bryan.