Contributed by Nigel Annis
Tony was the University’s Safety and Radiation Protection Officer, a position he held from 1985 until 2011. As you will know, he died suddenly at home on 23rd February.
I worked with Tony for almost 20 years in the Safety Office, but I knew him for many years before that when I worked at UCLan. Over all those years I never ceased to marvel at the way he could get people to do things they just didn’t want to do. Shortly after I first came to Lancaster I was sitting with him in Furness Bar after I had had a bit of an argument with someone over a safety issue. He said to me, ‘These academics. They don’t like to be told what to do. You’ve got to nudge them a little, persuade them subtly, buy them a coffee or even better, a pint, tell them how valuable their research is, be their friend and then they’ll do it.’ And that’s why Lancaster has such a good record on health and safety, because Tony didn’t tell people what to do, he asked them, and he was greatly respected for this. He was completely at ease in his dealings with people, from the VC to the lowest-paid operative on campus.
Tony was a pragmatist in his approach to health and safety. He would never dismiss a suggestion out of hand just because it appeared at first sight to be hazardous. The Students’ Union came to him one day asking whether they could abseil down Bowland Tower for Children in Need. The VC was worried, the University Secretary was worried, I was worried. The response of your average safety person would probably be: ‘Abseil down Bowland Tower? How high’s the Tower? 150 feet? A long way to fall. Sorry. No.’ Tony’s response: ‘Abseil down Bowland Tower? Hmmm. That sounds a bit… wacky! Come up to my office and we’ll sit down and work out how to minimise the risk.’ And that’s the way he did things – sensibly. On this particular occasion the event went ahead, Tony retired to Furness Bar with his fingers crossed, and everyone was happy, not least the charities that benefitted. (Although I never heard him say ‘Can I have a go?’)
Tony had another string to his bow, perhaps a bigger one than safety, and that was the colleges, in particular, Furness College. When Tony became its Principal it was like a whirlwind hitting the place. To say that he went the extra mile for its staff and students doesn’t really do him justice. He put his heart and soul into making Furness the most popular college on campus, organising lunchtime seminars, evening wine tastings (those went down well) and trips for the students to the Lakes, local hostelries, concerts and opera. As he said, ‘They’re paying us £9000 to be here. We need to entertain as well as educate!’ He was well known for performing what I would call ‘random acts of kindness’, like the occasion when the Boat Club discovered on the Friday that they had no van or driver to take their canoes to York for the Roses weekend. When Tony heard about this, what did he do? He dropped everything, hitched his car up to this enormous boat trailer with six canoes on it and drove to York and back, sacrificing his weekend into the bargain. I’m sure many people will recall occasions when he went far beyond the call of duty to help staff and students out of a tricky situation.
The students loved Tony. And something else: the students’ parents loved him as well. I can see them now on Degree Day, queuing up in Furness Bar to meet him and thank him for helping their sons and daughters through an occasionally difficult three years of higher education.
I, and countless others, have been enormously fortunate to have known Tony and to have learnt some valuable ‘life lessons’ from him.
I was browsing some old ‘Private Eye’ magazines a few days ago and came across a poem in the ‘Poetry Corner’ section of one of them, devoted to the satirist Willie Rushton who had recently died. I would like to plagiarise some lines of that poem because I think they are totally appropriate to Tony:
‘So farewell then Tony Madeley.
You were much loved.
And you will be much missed.’
Ex University Safety Office (1984-1986, 1992-2008)