Sabine Wichert, 1942-2014

An academic and greatly respected poet who spent more than 35 years in the School of History at Queen’s University Belfast has died

October 16, 2014

Sabine Wichert, a senior lecturer and scholar of 20th-century British foreign policy, was a popular figure on campus between 1971 and her retirement in 2007, and published acclaimed volumes of verse including Tin Drum Country (1994) and Sharing Darwin (1999).

Her 1991 book Northern Ireland since 1945, a study of the province as it evolved from the introduction of the welfare state to the relatively prosperous 1960s, is still considered a standard text on the period. She edited From the United Irishmen to Twentieth-century Unionism: Essays in Honour of A. T. Q. Stewart (2004), a Festschrift for the Irish historian Anthony Terence Quincey Stewart, who died in 2010, and she was for many years a member of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Born in wartime Graudenz, West Prussia (now Grudziadz, Poland), Ms Wichert studied at Goethe University Frankfurt in West Germany, and then at the University of Oxford. However, she completed neither her undergraduate degree nor the PhD that she began at Oxford, and so had no formal higher education qualifications. After visiting Belfast as a tourist, she fell in love with the city and settled there.

Mary O’Dowd, professor of gender history at Queen’s, said that Ms Wichert could be a tough teacher, but students admired her honesty.

“Sabine admired intellectual breadth and was contemptuous of narrow-minded pedantry,” Professor O’Dowd writes in a tribute published in a departmental newsletter and via social media. “She lived in Belfast through ‘the Troubles’ but had an outsider’s perspective to the history of Northern Ireland. This was one of the motivations behind the writing of Northern Ireland since 1945.”

Among the most important contributions to the department of modern history, as it was known during her years at Queen’s, was the establishment of a final-year seminar in modern British history, Professor O’Dowd continues.

“Many former students will remember Sabine presiding over the discussion at the seminar: vigorously arguing and debating; unwilling to patronise a student with bland or superficial comments and, of course, always, smoking!

“Sabine loved a good argument and relished students disagreeing with her. Other students will remember Sabine’s parties to which staff and students were warmly welcomed and generously plied with food and drink.”

After her retirement, she continued to take a great interest in the university’s students, and attended postgraduate seminars to robustly question presenters.

Ms Wichert died of cancer on 8 September and is survived by her brothers Peter and Christian.

chris.parr@tesglobal.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate