Professor David Trotter
It is with great sadness that we report the death of Professor David Andrew Trotter FLSW who died on Monday 24 August, aged 58.
David Trotter’s academic record, impressive though it is, can be reduced to a few sentences. After completing his DPhil in Oxford, he was elected a Junior Fellow at his old college, Queen’s. In 1993, following eight years as lecturer and senior lecturer in modern French linguistics at Exeter, he was appointed professor and head of the Department of European Languages in Aberystwyth, where he continued to publish widely on French and Romance linguistics, dialectology and multilingualism. His grand project, however, what he called his bêtise surhumaine, was his work as project leader and chief editor of a revised and expanded version of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, begun in 2001. He oversaw it from handwritten index cards through to a fully searchable database, www.anglo-norman.net, drawing on close to 100 sources, and including nearly 150,000 citations and a full concordance. Numerous assistants and research students have occasion to be grateful to him for their careers.
For his students and colleagues, the gratitude is deeper and wider. His physical presence will be greatly missed. He was in many ways the identikit professor: bespectacled, slightly dishevelled, and effortlessly articulate. That said, there was nothing vague about him. He could read a set of accounts, handle computer software and cite chapter and verse on university regulations. Above all, he was witty, benignly irreverent and gifted with a sense of the absurd. A chat in the corridor or in his room was enough to assure you that life was indeed unfair, but that unfairness could be hilarious.
I have one anecdote.
In the spring of 2014, shortly after his election as a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, David and I hit upon a scheme. I would deliver a lecture at Aberystwyth University under the auspices of the Learned Society, and he would chair. He knocked on my door in May last year to tell me that he would probably be unable to keep his side of the bargain. His GP was referring him to Singleton Hospital in Swansea for tests and possible treatment for a suspicious lump. The lecture went ahead without him in October, but he sent an email from hospital that evening, hoping that all had gone well. It was characteristically robust: ‘There is much concern about pain but in fact it is at worst soreness in the mouth; either that, or my idea of pain isn’t theirs. It probably helps to have edited a medieval text which applied red-hot cautery irons to everything in sight. Sore head? Burn your foot. That’ll take your mind off it.’
Although the treatment proved unsuccessful, for most of us our last meetings with David were happy ones. He returned to work slimmer and sprightlier than ever, and every bit as puckish. There was work to do, and he did all that he could.
We have lost what another Fellow, in a message sent on hearing the news of his death, called ‘y dysgedicaf a’r doniolaf o’n cydweithwyr’ (the most learned and the funniest of our colleagues).
Our thoughts are with Allyson and his family.
Dr T. Robin Chapman