I first met Colin in 1984. I had submitted a proposal for a part-time PhD to Keele University and I had been invited to meet with Colin, who was then head of social work at the University, to discuss it.
I have never believed in the romantic notion of love at first sight, but this was certainly love at first discussion. He was so intelligent and thoughtful, so well-informed and erudite, but – most importantly – so enthusiastic. It was so stimulating and so energising to be with him – then, and every other time I met him. I drove home thinking ‘I am going to love working with this wonderful man’ and I was right.
And that was what Colin did so well – he energised people. He made you feel so alive.
Colin was definitely an ideas man, but not ideas for their own sake, but for the sake of making a difference – for the sake of having a positive impact, especially for the vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our communities that social work serves. We were very much on the same wavelength in that respect. This was just one of the many ways in which he has had a profound and lasting effect on my life and been such a significant part of my success.
I was fortunate, midway through my PhD studies, to have a temporary job teaching in Colin’s department. Being part of his team during that time made me realise that I was not the only member of his fan club. Without exception, everyone showed great respect and affection for him. No doubt there may have been some people who were jealous of him (there is something about the academic world that seems to breed jealousy), but in all the years I knew Colin, I did not hear a single negative word be said against him.
On the condolences card I sent to his widow, Anne, I wrote: ‘The world has lost a very special person’. And that is true. But what is also true is that the world was very, very fortunate to have him in it. We should not forget that.
There is so much I could say about how special Colin was and how important he has been to me – and will continue to be – but, in a sense, I don’t need to say any of it, because anyone who knew him – really knew him – would be well aware just how wonderful he was.
When I received my BASW Cymru Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, I dedicated it to Colin in recognition of the huge positive impact he had had on me and my work, and indeed on the development of all those people who were fortunate enough to be taught or mentored by him.
Colin will be sorely missed by all who knew him and I am certainly no exception to that.
Dr Neil Thompson