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Don Milligan

Don Milligan’s eulogy

Manchester Crematorium, April 3, 2013

Gary died in Rome on March 7th 2013 of a stroke. He lost consciousness within five minutes of becoming ill and died thirty or forty minutes later.

He loved his family and valued the experience of growing up as the youngest of eight children on Wallbank in Whitworth near Rochdale. He was particularly fond of his mother, Mary, and was deeply conscious of the tough lives of those who had raised him.

Yet, in order to make his way in the world he knew that he would have to leave the valley and strike out on his own.

He initiated this bold plan by going to the local college, and by educating himself in the public library in nearby Rawtenstall in Rossendale. For days and weeks together he would take root in the Rawtenstall Reference library learning all there was to know about schisms in the early Christian church, and studying the voluminous histories of the thoughts and ideas of heretics of every hue. Like many an autodidact before him he struck out in all directions knowing that there was much to learn.

Just in case people around him thought he was eccentric he studied the history of the Football Association in much the same spirit that he pursued the vicissitudes of Christian believers. On many occasions he would astonish those around him by actually knowing who won the Cup in 1936 and what the big matches and upsets were of 1949. But, of course, this project of ‘normalization’ was a dismal failure, because it simply led to lots of people around him thinking that he was even weirder than when he was revealing a detailed knowledge of the Cathars.

It was not until he discovered philosophy at Hatfield Polytechnic, not until he discovered what it meant to read with attention, and developed his considerable exegetical skills at Oxford, that he was able to abandon the project of ‘normalization’, and began to rejoice in his bizarre take on the world – which included a passion for the love lives of superheroes, for comics, pop quizzes, and atrociously bad girl bands. All this was combined with a serious interest in photography, fashion, and metaphysics – particularly in the thought of Immanuel Kant – which he spent the best part of twenty years getting to grips with – and upon which he would, had he lived for another ten years, have undoubtedly become a world authority.

Gary loved teaching. He loved his students because they gave him yet another opportunity to show off, but he also loved teaching because he found his students endlessly interesting. However, he hated the changes being made to university life by the authorities, and as soon as he could, he opted to become a full time writer and editor. He continued editing the Palgrave Macmillan Series, Renewing Philosophy; he launched Kant Studies Online, he was an external examiner for the University of the West of England, he continued tutoring and examining PhD students. When he died he had three contracted books on the stocks and his mind was alive with a startling array of other projects, but he allowed none of this to limit the range of his interests.

His scandalous fascination with the erotic photography of Robert Mapplethorpe astonished many a new student and not a few colleagues as they entered his office whose walls were festooned from floor to ceiling with a shifting montage of photographs cut from Vogue and a host of other entirely disreputable publications. But he defied all attempts at disapproval or moderation as he developed his thoughts on the role of publicity, on cosmopolitics, and the necessity of democracy.

I am a communist with an unhealthy respect for capitalism – and this was the kind of contradiction in which Gary rejoiced. Indeed, he never allowed his own belief in egalitarianism to staunch or obstruct his love of Georgio Amani perfume and everything in Harvey Nicols, or his pleasure in the most expensive luxuries he could afford. He loved showing off, and nothing would prevent him from buying a golden phone that whispered “Dolce & Gabana” every time you opened the handset. So he was a fierce democrat who believed robustly in the vital importance of erudition and intellectual rigour, this led him to a deep respect for the role of artistic production, of haute couture, and haute cuisine, in developing the taste and sensibilities of wider and wider circles of the population.

In a similar vein he did not believe in God, and had no time at all for religion, but he distrusted atheists with a passion – and thought that the popular disregard of the historical formation of religious sensibilities as little short of disastrous, narrowing students’ capacity to grasp the importance of metaphysics, and stunting their appreciation of religious poetry, music, and painting.

We loved seeing the Pieta of Michelangelo in the Basilica in Rome almost as much as we rejoiced in the sight of a mini-bus packed with Cardinals, complete with their red caps – only the Roman Catholic Church could combine such ravishing reflections of suffering, with such appalling bombast, and the shear tackiness of shunting the ‘princes of the church’ around by minibus!

Predictably, Gary fell in love instantly with the Swiss Guards, and with their impossibly camp outfits. I had to hold him back to prevent him from making a holy show of himself.

Gary was my husband, and I was his. We met twenty-five years ago at a day school of the Revolutionary Communist Party. However, we took against the naffery and worthiness of the ‘official’ evening social and ran off to the Bell, a gay pub on Pentonville Road, and we never looked back.

We interested each other. We entertained each other. We were companions. It couldn’t have been better.

We’ll all miss Gary in our own way, we’ll all mourn his death, which was brutal but mercifully swift, but it is important, I think, for us all to dwell on the contribution he made to the lives of all the people that he came into contact with. This why we should now all go down to Velvet on Canal Street to eat, drink, and gossip, in remembrance of an astonishing man.

Don Milligan

April 3, 2013   

Jean Westgarth’s eulogy

Manchester Crematorium, April 3, 2013

Gary, my lovely, clever, exuberant, inept, funny brother. He was the baby of the family. He was never understood by my Dad, but he was adored by my Mum, who never understood him either, but loved him to distraction anyway. Gary was a lovely little boy who grew up to be a lovely man.

He left home as a teenager and started what was to become a lifetime of study. He spent many hours reading in the library at the bottom of my street in Rawtenstall. He had a steely determination to succeed as a scholar and would settle for nothing less than excellence and was his own toughest critic.

He gained a first class degree with honours in philosophy and politics at Hatfield Polytechnic and went on to gain a doctorate at Hertford College, Oxford, and I was so proud of him.

When Gary met Don he was made complete. I went to his wedding seven years ago; it was a wonderful day and seeing him so happy will stay with me forever. Don and Gary were happy together for 25 years and stuck together through thick and thin. Don gave Gary his chance to fly, he supported him in his career and sorted out all the mundane things that Gary couldn’t do, leaving him free to concentrate on his chosen career.

I was at Gary and Don’s apartment one morning and he was listening to Blue by Joni Mitchell and the song that was playing was “A Case of You”. Gary said it expressed perfectly how he felt about Don with the lyric “I could drink a case of you and I would still be on my feet; yes I would still be on my feet.”

Gary, my brother, was many things to me, he was my friend, my ally, my rock to lean on when times got hard. He helped me through the worst of times and helped me celebrate the best of times, and always managed to make me laugh even in the darkest times.

I really can’t believe that he has gone, but he will live on in my heart and mind. He lived life to the full and was the essence of life. He packed so much in to his short time with us, and the world is a poorer place without him.

Jean Westgarth

April 3, 2013

Rawtenstall Public Library -

It was in the ‘Ref’ upstairs in this library that Gary’s intellectual endeavours began

Keith Crome’s eulogy

Manchester Crematorium, April 3, 2013

I first met Gary in the autumn of 1994. He had been at Manchester Metropolitan University since February, and I had just been given some part-time work teaching philosophy to first year undergraduate students, and had just started my PhD. Although it was some time before we became close friends, Gary’s generosity of spirit was immediately evident. He organised a reading group and myself, Gary and Lars Iyer would sit in his office, which was located in a different building to where the other philosophy staff had their offices, and we would discuss Hegel, and in particular, as I recall, a commentary on Hegel that I was then struggling with. He was then, as he always was, patient, kind and helpful. And although I probably didn’t appreciate it then as much as I should, he not only taught me to understand some difficult texts, but he made me feel welcome and comfortable and part of a community of academics, when I was really only a peripheral member of the Philosophy Section.

Gary was an exceptional colleague, academic, teacher and philosopher. His contribution to the Philosophy Section at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he worked for most of his career, and to the philosophical community in this country was immense. Like the philosopher to whom he was devoted – Immanuel Kant – he was always a voice of reason in meetings, and I grew to trust and respect his judgement. I was privileged to teach with him too: for many years he and I taught on one of the core first year undergraduate units at MMU, and he was supportive and generous to me as the junior academic, helping me to plan my teaching, providing constructive advice on how to teach, and helping me to design my part of the curriculum with gentle guidance. I watched him teach, and learned from him. He had a wonderful, flamboyant presence in front of a class – that I knew I could not imitate – but I aspired to entertain and instruct as he did.

Gary was one of the leading Kant scholars in this country, and whilst he was proud of his achievements – for a good number of years we had offices that were almost adjacent and I would have to walk past his office to get to mine, and if he was in I would pop my head in, and I remember the beguiling joy and pleasure he would take in showing me a copy of not only his latest book, or essay, but also a monograph by another academic that had appeared in the philosophy series that he edited for Palgrave – whilst he was rightly proud of his achievements he was modest about them too. They are too many to list completely, but I should like to remember Gary by mentioning a few: he published three important monographs on Kant’s work, edited and contributed to a further four books, edited a number of special issues of journals, was the General Editor for the book series, Renewing Philosophy, and most, with Don, set-up the on-line journal Kant Studies, that had established itself as an important resource for Kant scholarship.

Through his editorial work and through his teaching and mentorship he helped advance the careers of many junior academics. He was an especially supportive PhD supervisor, continuing to help his PhD students after he left his post at MMU, continuing to mentor them in his own time.

These are far from all Gary’s achievements and attributes, and they give only a small measure of the loss that the scholarly and academic community has suffered with his premature death. But for each of us the loss is more personal. I have lost a loyal friend. Throughout my time at MMU we became increasingly close. We went to conferences together, ate and drunk together, and through my own personal difficulties, Gary always provided a sympathetic ear. He also had an eye for art, and a remarkable knowledge of it too. I regret now, more than I can say, turning down an opportunity a couple of months ago – because of work – to visit an exhibition at the Tate Gallery in Liverpool with him. He was always engaging company, and on one trip abroad entertained an assembly of philosophers by enacting the Wizard of Oz. He was a good friend, a great academic and a special person. His death, felt by everyone here, is an immeasurable loss.

            Keith Crome

April 3, 2013

Kant Studies Onlinehttp://www.kantstudiesonline.net