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Phillip Williams

North B, 1939-44

Retired university professor Phillip Williams died peacefully on Wednesday 3 January 2024 in Ewhurst, Surrey, aged 97.

Phillip (Phill) was born in Pontypridd, South Wales in 1926. His parents Edward and Ceinwen were school teachers, and he left the Valleys aged 13 when his mother took a teaching job in rural Berkshire. He gained a scholarship to The Leys, and a degree in chemistry from Cambridge (St John’s College). Following national service in industry and a teaching qualification from the Institute of Education in London he gained a degree in psychology through Birkbeck College, studying in the evenings and teaching chemistry by day. Led by his strong belief in equal educational opportunity he retrained as an educational psychologist, working in Southampton and Glamorgan in the early years of the profession.

His work led to an invitation to join the education department at the University of Wales (Swansea) in the ‘60s. He moved to the Open University in the early ‘70s where he became Dean of Education, and finally back to the University of Wales (Bangor). He held positions in US and Australian universities, visited India, Iran and Columbia for the British Council, and was part of the Warnock committee reviewing provision for special education. He published widely in his field, including in the journal ‘Nature’.

He was a loving husband to Glenys (Davies) for over 50 years, gave huge love and support to his children and grandchildren, and after Glenys’s death met Rosemary (Housden), with whom he spent 10 very happy years. He was a very keen hill-walker, from his schooldays in Scotland where The Leys was evacuated during the war.  He co-founded the graduate branch of the University of London Mountaineering Club (the GLUMs), attending events and dinners well into his older years. He combined his love of family and mountains by climbing Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), with family, on his 80th birthday.

Phill was warm, patient and full of interests which he pursued with dedication. He would equally recite a poem (from memory), restore an old chair, or proudly offer a glass of wine he had made from his Anglesey grapes. He loved the company of family and friends who remember how he could connect easily with eminent academics and stroppy teenagers, or find hidden chocolates and coins on walks, to the delight of small children.

After retirement he developed his interest in creative writing, adding to his academic publications two novels, a book on grandparenting and his memoirs. He played a lot of rugby as a young man, and as a proud Welsh-speaking Welshman he followed the national team with passion well into his 90s.

He is survived by his children Gareth, Gwyneth and Peter and their partners, his seven grandchildren and by his brother Dillwyn and family. In his final years Phill was cared for very lovingly by the team at the Old Rectory Ewhurst, whom we thank on his behalf.

Words by Gareth Williams, Phill’s son