Amidst the joy of the Freshers week was the sadness of the Memorial service for Peter Sinclair who died on 31 March 2020. Peter was our Economics Fellow between 1970 and 1994. There was a great outpouring of emotion when he died and the condolence book is extremely poignant.
Peter focused his own academic work on monetary and international economics, closely tied to questions of practical policy in matters of public debt, regulation and tax. He was a convivial and constructive teacher: fascinated by debate, he held tutorials in cafes and after-dinner revision classes that ended in pubs, and took a charitable attitude to undergraduates who underperformed – one of whom recalled learning to interpret comments such as: “That’s very, very – very – interesting” as “signalling a terrible error”.
He was also brilliant at explaining complex concepts in simple language, illuminating the inefficiencies of European common agricultural policy by pointing out that the “butter mountain” accumulated by Brussels weighed more than the population of Austria.
About 130 people attended the service in the University Church on 6 October and a similar number watched on the live link. His widow Jayne Ivimey led the family’s tribute and emphasised his role as the epicentre of the family.
Tim Harford, best known as the presenter of More or Less and a Senior Columnist for the FT stressed that Peter always had time to talk and gave straightforward and valued advice. The welfare of his students meant everything to him.
Diane Coyle the Co Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge said that Peter had turned her from a philosopher to an economist and paid tribute to his kindness.
There were several readings including one which Peter would have loved entitled the “Question about paying taxes” from Mark 12. The choir under the expert direction of Christian Wilson sang superbly and Rev Julia Baldwin conducted the service beautifully. We thank Rev Dr Will Lamb for allowing us to use the magnificent church. The superb service concluded with the uplifting song Blomster I Soweto (Flowers in Soweto) which was one of Peter’s favourite songs.
We then repaired to Hall for tea, coffee and convivial conversation. We announced the establishment of the Heffernan Sinclair Scholarship endowment to permanently and fully support graduate study in economics at Brasenose. This scholarship was Peter’s last wish for College and was his creation. We are very proud that his family of past students have rallied together to complete this fund for him, as a permanent memorial to his Fellowship at Brasenose.
This was a wonderful tribute to a great man.