Thursday, October 27, 2016

An old friend phoned yesterday to say that her husband had died at the weekend. The world is very much a poorer place. He was Anthony Bryer: a great man, a great Byzantine scholar, a great friend. If anybody spots an obituary, I‘d be glad to hear of it. I don’t get many newspapers these days, saves clutter – but I’d like to have that.

In the course of the conversation, Jenny told me that Bryer’s mother, in her youth, had sailed off Shetland and had written a book about it: “An Island Rooing”, concerned with an island near Foula whose name Jenny couldn’t recall. The story was – and one can imagine Bryer telling it – that the book was reviewed in the Tablet. An uncle, or a great-uncle, that was a bit vague, cut out the review and sent it to Bryer’s father, then serving in Afghanistan. (Some things don’t change.) He was so impressed that he wrote to the author, hoping they might meet when he returned to England. And the rest is history.

I went straight from the telephone to my computer, and found the book with a bookseller in France. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it, since it must, with a title like that, be about Shetland and sheep.  But I hope also to discover why the Tablet reviewed it – it’s a very serious Roman Catholic weekly. And why one man was so taken with the review that he sent it to another, who married the author.

I’ll keep you posted.

As for knitting, virtually none. The morning was taken up with preparations for an elaborate, and in the end rather unsuccessful, slow-cooker meal. Then I went off to have my flu injection (that’s something done, anyway). I came home feeling more than ordinarily smashed (flu injection + the news from Birmingham?) and did no more knitting at all. In the hospital, I made progress with the initial ribbing of the new Kaffe Fassett sock. Even through the tedium of ribbing, one presses forward to see what the next colour will be. 


  1. Of course I searched for The Tablet - there were book reviews of all sorts in there - Dick Francis, even. I found the book in 'books received' list, but couldn't find the review with a quick search. I may be squandering more time on The Tablet archive. (I am surprised that I have never heard of it. My father subscribed to all sorts of Catholic publications.) I hope you are feeling better today.

  2. Here it is - Not much there. Now I have to go back and read about DeValera and Irish holidays.

  3. I often find obituaries online, too. Try doing a search by name and city.

  4. skeindalous2:52 PM

    What a great story! Tried to find the book here in US, or even, with no success.

  5. I'm intrigued by the Shetland book. I checked ABE Books and couldn't find it there. I think you may have bought the last copy floating out there in the online world!


    This very brief obituary is all I found so far.

  7. I stumbled across your blog while looking for obituaries of Anthony Bryer.

    There is one in The Guardian by his first research student, Judith Herrin and another one in The Daily Telegraph, which follows their convention of anonymous authorship for obituaries.

    The full text of The Guardian obituary is available to read free online, but The Daily Telegraph one is only available to subscribers.

    However, I have scanned a paper copy and I am happy to send this by e-mail to anyone who contacts me via

    I am sorry to see that there is no obituary in The Independent, which now only survives in online form: It is the least they could do, after all the lively and affectionate obituaries that Anthony Bryer himself wrote for them - not only the one about his illustrious father, but also several of fellow Byzantinologists including his doctoral supervisor, Dimitri Obolensky.