Tributes to pioneering Lincoln professor Brian Winston who has died aged 80

Tributes have been paid to a pioneering Lincoln professor and journalist who has died at the age of 80. Professor Brian Winston had an award-winning career in the broadcast industry before moving into academia and becoming one of the longest-serving staff members at the University of Lincoln.

Professor Winston passed away on Saturday, April 9, following a fall and after having recently been diagnosed with vascular dementia. Among those paying tribute following the news of Professor Winston’s passing was his daughter, 42-year-old Jessica McLaren Webb.

She said: “Dad was a very loving man with a fiery temperament, who was an amazing teacher and a very proud Jew. He was a great dad to me and my brother, as well as being a devoted grandfather to his two grandchildren.

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“He was a London boy originally, his mother evacuated to Evesham but he was brought up in Wembley and he eventually came to Lincoln 20 years ago and absolutely fell in love with it. He lived in Minster Yard and the window in his study directly overlooked Lincoln Cathedral which he thought was amazing.”

Professor Winston started his career as a journalist, working for companies including the BBC, Granada Television and PBS in America. One of those who worked alongside him was Michael Cockerell, the renowned BBC journalist and political documentary maker.

He said: “I had known Brian since he was 11 years old because we both went to Kilburn Grammar School where he was the year below me, but our lives followed very comparable paths from that point.

“Both Brian Winston and I got into Oxford from Kilburn Grammar School and he got into Merton College, which was just next door to my own, so I would see him regularly in those days. But we went on to see each other in various guises throughout our lives, and we did work together on a number of BBC programmes.

“He was always so ebullient and full of life, and working alongside him really kept you on your toes because he was always buzzing with ideas. I last saw him two or three years ago at the funeral for one of our Oxford contemporaries and someone came up to us and said that we were the original history boys, because our teacher had got us into Oxford, which I thought was quite a good line. I was very, very sad when I heard that he had died and it is a great loss.”

Professor Brian Winston.
Professor Brian Winston. (Image: Jessica McLaren Webb)

Among the highlights of Professor Winston’s journalism career was his Emmy award in 1985 for his scriptwriting work on the documentary Heritage: Civilization and the Jews. His daughter Jessica said that he moved into the world of academia when he was 39, but remembers lots of the stories he would tell from his earlier career. She said: “The editors of a magazine called Oz went on trial in 1971 following complaints from figures including Mary Whitehouse after they published what was said to be an obscene cartoon.

“Following the conclusion of this trial, my father edited a special edition of a publication called Ink, which featured an even more obscene cartoon of Mary Whitehouse, and he was then sent a letter from her lawyers threatening legal action.” Being sent a threat of legal action by the lawyers of Mary Whitehouse, who rose to prominence for her campaigning against what she saw as declining moral standards within society, is something which Michael Cockerell joked was a “badge of honour.”

During his academic career, Professor Winston wrote over 20 textbooks, founded the Glasgow Media Group and was named The Lincoln Professor in 2007, the highest honour bestowed by the University of Lincoln. As well as his academic work in Lincoln, Professor Winston also did a lot of work with the Lincolnshire Jewish Community.

Professor Brian Winston.
Professor Brian Winston. (Image: Jessica McLaren Webb)

Richard Dale, the Chairman of the Lincolnshire Jewish Community, said: “He was very much a raconteur and when he led services at the synagogue they were so entertaining. His knowledge of Jewish history was always absolutely fascinating.

“The right to offend was always one of his big beliefs and I saw him deliver several passionate talks on the subject during his life. He did so much both for the Lincolnshire Jewish Community and the University of Lincoln so his passing is a great loss.”

Professor Winston retired from the University of Lincoln at the end of March and a book of essays written by his colleagues, entitled It’s The Media Stupid, was announced to mark the end of his career. His daughter Jessica added: “He did actually do a lecture from his hospital bed last Spring which was very typical of him because he had such a love of teaching.

“I obviously tried to persuade him not to do that but he was never one for being told what to do at any stage. I’m his daughter so I’m obviously biased, but I do like to think that he had quite an impact and he made such a strong network of friends whilst he was in Lincoln. It’s been amazing over the last few days to see all the messages that I’ve been getting from people who knew him.”

The University of Lincoln said in a statement: “Brian was a remarkable person who contributed greatly to the University and academia throughout a distinguished career. He was much loved by colleagues and students. He will be missed enormously by the university community. The thoughts and condolences of all the university of Lincoln community go to his friends and family.”

LincolnshireLive – Lincoln News