A few days ago, Findlay Dunachie died.
His widow Lyn asked us to send her a few words of appeciation concerning his contributions to Samizdata, and we sent her the following, some of which will be read out at Findlay’s funeral, which is to be held this coming Tuesday. These few hastily composed reflections were not written with a view to publication on Samizdata, but when we asked Lyn if she would object to them being used for this purpose also, she very kindly agreed.
Last night we at Samizdata received the sad news of the death of Findlay Dunachie. He had recently told us that he was, he believed, dying, so this was not a complete surprise. But we were still greatly saddened. Only one of our number ever actually met Findlay, and we know him best through many phone conversations, but above all through his writings for Samizdata. Selfishly, we regret that there will be no more such writings.
Samizdata is a weblog – “blog” for short – devoted to spreading news and comment, profundity and triviality, concerning human freedom, human progress, and about the many and various enemies of these things. We seek to celebrate and to spread the ideas of, approximately speaking, classical liberalism and libertarianism which Findlay Dunachie held dear.
For a number of years, Findlay had been writing review articles about some of the many books he had been reading, and in October 2003, having received a great trove of these writings, we at Samizdata began to publish them.
Almost all of Findlay’s writings for Samizdata were book reviews of one kind or another. In total we published just under fifty such articles, the most recent one being a timely tour de force about Nelson, the Battle of Trafalgar, about the man Nelson’s death left in command of his fleet, Admiral Collingwood, and about the aftermath and consequences of the battle.
Looking down the long list of topics covered, a few things stand out. Findlay wrote about the whole world and about the world’s long varied history. He did not confine himself to his own country or culture, or to his own time. However, a deep love of Britain, its language, its institutions, and of Britain’s on-the-whole beneficial and liberal effects upon the world is also strongly evident in Findlay’s writings, as is an interest in the various forces arrayed against such influences – continental European despotism, such as that against which Nelson fought, such as communism in it various forms, and such as the more repellent aspects of Islam throughout its long history.
Findlay’s professional background as a scientist was also reflected in his interest in the claims of, and the most scrupulous and eloquent critics of, the environmental movement, so much of which involves making misleading or false claims about science and about technology, and about the largely beneficial effects of technological progress.
From the start Findlay’s writings were hugely appreciated, by a readership concentrated in but by no means confined to Britain and the USA. We know this, because at Samizdata our readers are able to comment. And concerning Findlay’s many writings, comment they did, gratefully, effusively, and continuously. It was regularly said and never contested that Findlay’s reviews were among the best things if not the best things to be found on Samizdata. Since, on the whole, Findlay tried to read books that he himself would end up liking and mostly succeeded, he surely made a not insignificant contribution to their sales figures.
His widow Lyn tells us that it gave Findlay enormous pleasure to find readers for his writings at this late and presumably rather painful time in his life. The feeling, but not the pain, is entirely mutual. It gave us huge pleasure to have published Findlay’s writings.
Those of us who had direct dealings with Findlay, by phone or in person, formed the impression that he was, quite aside from being an attractive and formidable intellect, also a thoroughly nice man whom it would have been a great pleasure to have known a lot better than we did, and to learn a lot more of what else he did in his life besides write things for Samizdata. Geography made that difficult. But modern electronic communication, in the form of the internet, made it possible for Findlay to find readers who would otherwise never have encountered his mind and writings.
To all his closer and closest friends and loved ones we at Samizdata say: we hope and believe that we helped to make the last two years, for Findlay, that little bit better than they would otherwise have been. If so, this is only fair, because he did exactly the same, and more, for us and for many readers the world over.