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Obituary: Ronald H Martin

Emeritus Professor Ronald Martin

Members of the University will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 14 July 2008 and in his 93rd year, of Emeritus Professor Ronald Martin, former Professor of Classics.

Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Arnott, a colleague and friend of many years standing, has contributed the following obituary:

Although Ronald Martin was born in Ireland, he spent most of his time in Yorkshire. His love of Latin and Greek was instilled at Bradford Grammar School, where he produced a series of Latin translations of complex English sentences which were still being used at the end of the last century in at least one university. He then distinguished himself as a student of classics at the University of Leeds, where his name still appears on the departments Honours Board. He graduated with a First in 1937 and was the winner of the Connal Prize for Classics. Thereafter he transferred to Cambridge University, with an Open Major Scholarship at Sidney Sussex College. Within the space of two years, he took a First in both parts of the Classical Tripos. His first post was at Kings College, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which was then a constituent part of the University of Durham. While there, he worked under the formidable Professor G B A Fletcher, who directed Ronalds scholarly studies to Tacitus, and there too he met Hilda, who was to become his wife. After then spending a year at Southampton, he returned to the University of Leeds as Assistant Lecturer in Classics in 1946, remaining a member of staff until his retirement in 1981. He was made Lecturer in 1948, Senior Lecturer in 1955 and Reader in 1968. Just before his retirement, he was promoted to a personal chair in Classics. Ronald Martins major scholarly publications covered two areas: Latin comedy and Tacitus. His edition of Terences Phormio was first published in 1959 and often reprinted thereafter; this was followed in 1976 by an edition of the same playwrights Adelphoe. His major articles on Tacitus style still retain their importance, and a monograph on this historian first published in 1984 was widely praised as the best introduction to its subject and consequently reprinted in 1994. After retirement, he co-authored with A J Woodman excellent commentaries on Tacitus Annals 3 (1989) and Annals 4 (1996) and, under his sole authorship, Annals 5 and 6 (2001). Yet his publications were not limited to classical Latin; in 1986, for instance, he published an edition of a fifteenth-century rhetorical treatise written by Laurentius Gulielmus Traversagni de Saona. His interest in later Latin also led him to become a founder member of the Centre for Medieval Studies.

As a teacher, Ronald was enthusiastic and full of ideas. Although primarily a Latinist, he also enjoyed teaching Greek. Much appreciated by generations of students, his gift for lucid exposition meant he had no difficulty in attracting and holding the attention of his audience. Quoting the Greek writer, Lucian, a colleague once observed that Ronald was possessed of a mind like a mirror, clear and bright and accurately focused.

Impressive though they were, Ronald Martins achievements in teaching and scholarship fail to do full justice to the measure of the man. He had a profound desire to be of service to his department, to the University and to his subject. This showed itself in a number of ways, not least in the kindness and assistance he offered more junior colleagues. He was an unfailingly reliable source of sage counsel to individuals at every level and a highly-respected member of a multiplicity of committees, to the work of which he brought meticulous attention to detail, unruffled serenity in adversity, excellence of judgement and an instinctive and innate politeness. When, in 1978, the Departments of Greek and Latin were merged into the School of Classics, Ronald was the immediate choice as its first Chairman in recognition of his incisiveness of mind and scrupulous regard for justice. He also served as a successful Sub-Dean of the Faculties of Arts, Economic and Social Studies, and Law between 1959 and 1963.

In his youth he was an athlete and sportsman of some distinction; he captained the cross-country teams at Leeds and at his Cambridge College where he also had Asa Briggs as a team-mate on the football field. Throughout his life (along with his wife) he was an active hill-walker, particularly in the Lake District. In retirement he continued to be an admirable example of energetic scholarship to his younger colleagues, visiting the Brotherton Library virtually every week until just a few weeks before his death. His parallel visits to the School were eagerly anticipated and much enjoyed.

The funeral will be held at 1.00pm on Wednesday 23 July at Rawdon Crematorium, Leeds Road, Rawdon, Leeds, LS19 6JP, followed by refreshments at the Lawnswood Arms, Otley Road, Leeds 16.

In tribute to Ronald Martins memory, the flag will be flown at half-mast on the Parkinson Building next Wednesday.

Published: 18 July 2008