About the University of Leicester

Sydney Holloway

We have recently learned with great sadness of the death of Sydney Holloway, who was a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Leicester from the early 1960s to the early 2000s.

Born 26 September 1933 to George W Holloway and Hilda S Holloway, Sydney read for a first degree in history at University College London. He was appointed to the Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester in 1960 where he developed his work as a pioneer in the historical sociology of medicine and medical education, culminating in the 1991 publication of a landmark study of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, for which he received a major award. Sydney was a popular lecturer among students, a key figure in the delivery of Leicester undergraduate programmes over several decades, also serving as a resident tutor at Stamford Hall for many years.

Gordon Fyfe, a Leicester sociology graduate who was for many years at Keele University recalls:

"I met Sydney Holloway in 1964 when I arrived in Leicester as a first year student on the BA Social Sciences Degree. Sydney was in that year one of three staff delivering the sociology lectures (together with Eric Dunning and Richard K Brown). I recall Sydney as a very popular lecturer. His lectures attracted students from beyond the Social Sciences. He was an excellent teacher and despite a speech impediment, a fluent and engaging lecturer who always peppered the 50 minutes with amusing asides. Somehow, he always seemed to stammer on the key concepts, a kind of italics which registered their importance. He knew how to make a lecture flow, how to punctuate it, and how to keep the interest of his students. I remember him turning seamlessly from Malthus to Katharine Whitehorne's Cooking in a Bedsitter and back to Dennis Wrong on demographic transition theory."

John Williams, Honorary Fellow of the School of Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy, was a student and then contemporary of Sydney's at Leicester. John recounts:

"We, together, briefly edited what was then Social Studies Review, but I mainly got to know Syd because of his keen interest in sport. He was an enthusiastic supporter of University rugby, often running the line for one of Leicester's teams. I had many happy and enlightening discussions with him about sport and sociology. He was also a regular — and fulsome — contributor to departmental discussions and academic debates. He did not suffer those he considered fools gladly. Syd did brilliantly and bravely, for someone who spoke publicly for a living, to control a sometimes stuttering delivery, but as he got more excited — and exasperated —  he found it more difficult to stay in control. Syd was not one for holding back on what he considered to be new 'fads' in the discipline. He was a 'character', a committed and talented sociologist, someone who willingly and skilfully fought his corner, for sure.”

Another contemporary of Sydney’s, David Ashton, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, School of Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy, writes:

"Sydney was my first year tutor and then a colleague in the Department during my early years as a young lecturer. I knew him during those years but not later. His lecturing skills were amazing considering he had a pronounced stammer. Doing my early years he participated actively in the life of the Department and was known for his humour especially during his contribution to staff seminars.”

These and others who remember Sydney describe a person who was consistently good company, a man with wide cultural interests, great wit, and an extraordinary memory for facts, figures and past events. His broad interests and reading took him far beyond the discipline of sociology and especially into literature. He had a strong interest in, and knowledge of, classical music, and was a regular in the audience at De Montfort Hall and further afield. He was also a major supporter of Hampshire County Cricket Club in his youth. He followed rugby and was an enthusiastic supporter of the University of Leicester team. Horse racing was another of his interests and he is reported to having enjoyed an occasional small wager! Sydney was also a fitness enthusiast, and was notably challenged to a one mile race at the Oadby running track on Manor Road by another of his contemporaries at Leicester, Geoffrey Ingham (now Emeritus Professor in Sociology and Political Economy at Christ’s College, Cambridge). To the surprise of many, Sydney won the race! A picture of this moment survives to this day and serves, we hope, as a fitting image to accompany these reflections on his life.

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