Students Staff

11 August 2015

Obituary: Terry Culhane, 1934-2015

Terry Culhane

Terry Culhane

Linguist and Russian specialist Terry Culhane, who helped lay the foundations for the Department of Language and Linguistics, has died at the age of 81.

  • If you would like to leave a tribute to Terry please visit our Essex Daily blog pages

Terry joined the University in 1965 just a year after it opened. He originally worked in the University’s Language Centre, which became the Department of Language and Linguistics in 1974. He published several papers on Applied Linguistics - particularly language testing - and taught on the influential MA course. He was a visiting lecturer for the British Council, giving talks in Botswana, Kenya and Canada.
Russian was Terry’s first interest though. His work included collaborating with Essex colleagues on a major research project on contemporary written and spoken Russian. The project involved lexical collocation studies on a large database and used the University’s very first computer.

In collaboration with his Essex colleague Paddy O’Toole he published the Russian courses Passport to Moscow and Passport to Odessa. In 1980 he wrote the BBC course Russian Language and People, a self-instruction course. The course was accompanied by a series of BBC TV programmes and Terry was on location in Moscow with the BBC as the course adviser. One of his stories of that time was of series presenter Chris Serle taking photos in Red Square of the Kremlin and being arrested.

In 1995, with the significant changes that had occurred in the former-Soviet Union, the BBC asked him to update the course and he did so with the collaboration of Dr Roy Bivon, another of Terry’s colleagues within the Department of Language and Linguistics, as Roy had more recent direct experience of the country.

Terry also co-wrote an English self-instruction course for foreigners with Jean-Paul Chartier – English Alone or L’Anglais Chez Soi.
Terry was Proctor of the University in the 1970s during a turbulent time for student protests. Stories he told from this time included having a bucket of water thrown over him and having to lock himself in Wivenhoe House to prevent a crowd of striking miners and students entering the building.

Terry was born Patrick Terence Culhane in Leeds where his grandfather had moved from Limerick in Ireland. He did National Service in the RAF and was a member of the Joint Services School for Linguists where he learned Russian. During that time he went to Berlin and listened in to radio messages from Russian aircraft. He subsequently did a Russian degree at Leeds University and became a school teacher, eventually starting a Russian department at Allerton Grange School. From there he became Head of the Languages Department at Bolton Technology College and in 1965 moved to Colchester to teach Russian at the University of Essex where he spent the rest of his career, taking early retirement in 1987.

He led a full life in Colchester, enthusiastically playing golf at Colchester Golf Club and winning several trophies. Terry’s enthusiasm for the sport led to him designing a golf-based board game but the sport’s governing body the Royal and Ancient Golf Club refused to give him permission to use the official rules. He was involved with the University Golf Club and from the 1980s until 2004 he organised the Clacton Cup competition, which he had won back in 1969.

While living in Colchester he was a member of the North Countrymen’s Club and Chairman of Project Horizon, a charity for the mentally handicapped at Turner Village. He was heavily involved in the development of Project Horizon.

Terry had three children, Andrew, Angela and Damian by his first marriage. He met his second wife Jo in 1980. In 1997 they moved to Steeple Bumpstead, where Terry continued to play golf at Haverhill Golf Club until he was forced to stop due to problems with his knee.

In May 2015 he went into hospital for a knee replacement operation but unfortunately his new joint became infected leading to sepsis. He died from multiple organ failure on Tuesday 28 July.

Terry's former close colleague Paddy O'Toole has written his own personal tribute.

  • Terry's funeral will be held on Tuesday 18 August at 11.15am at Saint Teresa's Catholic Church in Lexden, CO3 9BE. There will be a committal service at Colchester Crematorium at 12.30pm. Following the funeral friends are invited for refreshments from 1.30pm at 29 King Harold Road in Colchester. Family flowers only. Donations if desired to Action Duchenne (this is a charity for Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy from which Terry's grandson suffers).c/o Hunnaballs, York House, 41 Mersea Road, Colchester, CO2 7QT.

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