Farewell to the big-data Surnames man

Created by Anne one month ago

[T]he loss of Patrick [was] almost unbelievable to those of us who had not seen him for a long time, apart from that much-changed picture of him sitting on a bench outside the nursing home. ...

I had worked for Patrick on Gaelic surnames on the Dictionary of American Family Names and the Family Names of Britain and Ireland, where Liam joined me, before Patrick set us loose to complete the Family Names of Ireland. I'd met the hard-working Patrick tapping away at his laptop at the SNSBI conferences, and I was interested in surnames because they often appear in Irish place-names. 

I'd also been warned surnames were more trouble than place names, but Patrick made short work of that idea! Later I saw him get round misgivings from Elaine of the data digitisation centre in Queens Belfast, by quoting John Donne at her. The funniest time was when Patrick came to stay with us to jiz on my work, and told Brian he considered him responsible for making me get in with it! 

During the FaNBI project, 'Chateau Hanks' in Siston, with Emily as impressive chef and house manager, was an amazing place to visit. My Welsh friend Margaret, who'd made contacts via work on historic buildings, got Patrick invited by the Lord & Lady of Siston Manor. They considered Patrick lived in quite the wrong part of the village! but were impressed by his conversation and expertise.

Of course the overflowing expertise sometimes caused disagreements between colleagues. As a classical scholar, Patrick convinced himself that the Gaelic personal name Eogan was directly parallel to Eugene 'well born', and had inserted this explanation in many places in the database. However, although the 2nd element is indeed 'born', the 1st part of Eogan means 'yew', leaving Liam and me with much disentangling to do. ...

None of us who worked with him can forget his drive and ebullient personality, and not be grateful too.


Kay Muhr