BRIAN FERGUS TYSON was born in Nottingham, England on July 19, 1933. He went to rejoin his beloved Jill, after a valiant battle with illness, in Lethbridge, Alberta on March 5, 2018.
Brian was a child in World War II, with all that implies. On the one hand, it meant the stress of aerial bombardment, and of a disrupted formal education caused by frequent house-moves; on the other, being transplanted, from the city of Nottingham where he was born, to the English countryside, nurtured in him an inextinguishable love of Nature, particularly birds--an interest he sustained--and which sustained him--throughout his life. In old country houses like “Bromptons” and “Shepherd Elmers Cottage,” Brian learned to love the sights and sounds of the Essex and Suffolk countryside.
Years later, memories of his boyhood caused him to begin a long poem called Bromptons, which, although unfinished in words, was completed in music by his friend and composer John-Paul Christopher Jackson, whose “English Rhaposdy” it became. Brian wrote poetry all his life, and had poems published in numerous journals. The British countryside was also responsible for the birth of Brian’s interest in drawing and painting, from the first crude sketches of aircraft and birds on the flyleaves of books, to his later efforts at landscape and bird painting in Southern Alberta.
The family’s move to London at War’s End in 1946, introduced Brian to wider interests. He began acting in School Plays at Wandsworth School, several “House Plays,” plays with local community theatre, and every annual school play, until the year he left, when he was awarded the School Acting Prize. He also acted with the Central Stage society. The University of London provided Brian with an Honours degree in English, a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, and a Doctorate in English Literature, in which he studied closely the early manuscripts of Bernard Shaw. Brian produced numerous articles on Shaw, and three books published by two university presses.
Brian’s interest in theatre was at all levels: he wrote a number of plays, several of which won provincial prizes, two of which were broadcast on radio, two performed and one published; and he continued to perform in University and community theatre. He directed plays both at Christ’s College, in London, where he taught for seven happy years, and in Lethbridge, where he directed three plays prior to the emergence of the University Department of Dramatic Arts, a department he was instrumental in founding. Brian was on the advisory board that chose as the first member of that department David Spinks, whose friend Brian was proud to be until David’s death in 2011. During his time in Lethbridge Brian adjudicated drama festivals in the city, and in Medicine Hat and Red Deer. After his retirement, he was, for five years, Theatre Critic of the Lethbridge Herald; and still continued a Theatre Blog up to the time of his death.
His love of music and folksong manifested itself in his guitar-playing and singing, usually with his beloved wife of 54 years, Jill, whom he first met during a folk-group rehearsal in London, in 1957. Together they played and sang in hospitals, schools, and churches, at weddings, and at funerals, and to entertain the young and the old.
Meeting and marrying Jill changed his life completely for the better. Sustained by her love and care, he was able to pursue the occupation he loved most, his vocation, teaching. His teaching career spanned two continents and thirty three years. Brian was proud to receive tributes to his gifts in the classroom from many of his students, some of whom he had taught more than thirty years before. He numbered among his former students the present Chief Rabbi of England, and numerous writers and academics. Former students dedicated books to him, and his teaching career at the University of Lethbridge culminated in his being awarded the Distinguished Teaching Medal in 1990.
Throughout his working life and retirement, inspiring and sustaining him in his professional and creative endeavours, was always the love of his life, soulmate, kindred spirit and life partner, Jill, whom he married in 1960, and loved above all else in the world. He also loved deeply and was very proud of his two sons, Fergus and Dominic, and their partners, Gail and Terry; and his granddaughter Alyssa and her partner Josh; step-granddaughter Frances and her fiancé James, step-grandson Andrew and step-great-grandchildren Ethan and Louie. They in turn loved him deeply and were thankful for a lifetime of precious memories.
Brian was a long-time member of McKillop United and Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Churches. The family is grateful to these two faith communities, and to Pat Varley, the Berti family and all of Brian's friends, for their support of Brian in his bereavement and illness; and to the doctors, nurses, and aids who provided him with such outstanding care. Brian lived as a disciple of Jesus, showing the genuineness of his faith by the way he faced the challenges of cancer with courage, dignity, and hope.
A Funeral Mass for Brian will be celebrated at OUR LADY OF THE ASSUMPTION CATHOLIC CHURCH, 2405 - 12 Avenue South, Lethbridge, Alberta on Friday, March 16, 2018 at 10:00 A.M. That same evening at 7:00 P.M., an informal Prayer Service will be held at CORNERSTONE FUNERAL HOME, 2800 Mayor Magrath Drive South, Lethbridge, Alberta, which will include an Open Mic followed by a Reception. Everyone is welcome. If friends so desire and in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Lethbridge and District Humane Society.
To send a condolence, please visit www.cornerstonefuneralhome.com
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