SIR ALAN PEACOCK (92) DIED THIS MORNING
Sir Alan Turner Peacock (26 June 1922; died 02 August 2014): DSC, FBA, FRSE, Hon. Litt (awarded by 11 European Universities). Formerly, Chief Economic Adviser to the Department of Trade and Industry of the United Kingdom. He taught economics at Edinburgh, York, and LSE universities and was Vice-Chancellor, Buckingham University. He was a visiting scholar at many other European universities, including an Honorary Professor at Edinburgh Business School, Heriot Watt University.
His great passion was music (playing, writing and discursing about the technical details). He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his naval intelligence work in the Arctic in WWII (he was and remained fluent in German since his student days). He recalled when editors and printers, thinking DSC was a missetting of a DSc degree, corrected it to his grumpy annoyance, given everything sailors had to endure in Arctic winters to earn it.
I met Alan in the early 1980s, at The Esmee Fairbairn Research Centre, Heriot-Watt University, the progenitor of the Edinburgh Business School, where we became, first, colleagues and over the years firm friends.
He helped me develop my academic career, guiding me, often behind the scenes, including, I believe, by prompting Palgrave-Macmillan to invite me to show them early drafts of what became my book, ‘Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy’ (2005), for which research he (typically) gave me several copies from his scholar’s library and selected several articles on Smith, and much advice.
In his last years we met almost weekly, usually at a cafe mid-way between our homes in south Edinburgh, until latterly both our mobilities deteriorated, and we met at his sheltered flat first and, most recently, at what he described as his ‘cell’ in his care-home. Alan wrote very well and his last booklet: “Defying Decrepitude: a personal memoir by Alan Peacock” is typical of his style of self-affacing defiance and mocking irreverance for one’s fate.
I shall always remember my friend, Alan Peacock, for the breadth of his knowledge of those subjects that interested him (especially his deep love of music), for his private guarded confidences about his very active life and work, and his interest in whatever I was up to, especially on matters related to Adam Smith.
At our last meeting, where he was recovering (slightly) from a fall, he urged me to read a couple of books he had extracted on Samuel Johnston from his library and, typically, he also urged me to continue with his recommendation of a book of coherent essays on Adam Smith that we had discussed a week earlier. Unfortunately my printer had stopped functioning, so he was unable to read what I had written, though we discussed the approach I was taking.
We had a short telephone conversation two days ago to re-arrange our next meeting because our arranged one had to be postponed because Alan had fallen again (for which, typically, he profusely apologised That meeting now will never take place. When I rang his room this morning and checked with the care-home’s switch board, I was told that Alan and passed away at 4.30 am.
Today, I feel disconsolate because I thought we would meet several times more. We had so much still to talk about before our final meeting (he was talking about adding another chapter to his ‘Defying Decrepitude” and no doubt wanted to talk about it).
Alan probably knew he was rapidly approaching that final moment and also probably recalling, in common with Adam Smith, according to his close friend, the geologist, James Hutton, as reported by his first biographer, Dugald Stewart, that Smith told his friends at their last meeting with them: “I believe we must adjourn this meeting to some other place” (Ian Ross, 2010, page 406, 2nd ed. “The Life of Adam Smith”. Oxford University Press).
I doubt there is “another place”, as I had told Alan when he asked me about it a week ago. However, if there is, I can hear Alan at 92 warmly welcoming his friends with typical apologies for the accomodation offered in his ‘little cell’ and informing his Hosts how they could improve their accommodation, perhaps with a good claret or two, and selections from a short list of operas that he happened to have with him…