19th March 2020, 9:30am


It is with sorrow that we inform you of the death of Dr Angus McDougall in the MRI on Saturday 14 March 2020. Angus joined the Lit & Phil in 2010, became a member of Council in 2014 and was currently chair of the Young People’s Section Committee. Diagnosed with painful, incurable but treatable cancer in early 2017, superb treatment from the NHS through the Christie Hospital and his GP allowed him three more years of active life. He used this time with vigour and enjoyment until his final weeks in the MRI.


He was born in West Bridgford in October 1934, just south of Nottingham, within sound if not sight of the Midland Railway line to Melton Mowbray; was a Sir Thomas White entrance scholar at Nottingham High School and in 1953 entered Balliol College, Oxford to read chemistry. His D.Phil. there was under the guidance of the renowned physical chemist, Mr Ronnie Bell, FRS and after its completion in 1959 he held a Fulbright Travel Award enabling further study under the equally renowned Frank Long at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. On his return he took up an Assistant Lectureship at the Manchester College of Science and Technology, then the Faculty of Technology of the Victoria University of Manchester, later becoming UMIST. He retired from UMIST in 2000 as a Senior Lecturer and Dean of Undergraduate Studies.  He continued research on electrochemical cells and in 1977 published a monograph on Fuel Cells but excelled in the other areas required of university lecturers, namely teaching and administration.


In addition to the normal range of undergraduate teaching, for which he was awarded a UMIST prize for excellence, he organised a Peer Assisted Study Session scheme to evaluate and help improve teaching by other chemistry department staff; was a leading figure in many staff training courses run by the Staff Development Unit of the University and became a member of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education – an uncommon choice in research-driven academia.


His talents in committee and administrative work resulted in places on many University committees including the University Senate and its Standing Committee and at the highest levels in UMIST. In the chemistry department he was the Assistant Director of Laboratories from 1976 -1990 – an important link to the undergraduate students – after which he served UMIST for 4 years as Associate Dean and then 6 years as Dean of Undergraduate Studies. Outside the department he was involved with student halls and residences, firstly as a tutor at Dalton Hall and then as Senior Advisor at Cornbrook House. He was a lifelong member of the Dalton-Ellis Hall Committee and the St Anselm Hall SCR.


Given his concern for, and involvement with, students, it was not surprising that as an 80 year old he agreed to join and later chair the YP section committee of the Lit & Phil. During his time the committee continued its successful organisation of 3 lectures each year; changed the format to improve attendance and started a programme of improved contacts with the potential audience. He also made many contributions during his regular attendance at meetings of Council.


There were many outside interests including membership of the Manchester Statistical Society, of CAMRA, with the purchase of every copy of the Good Beer Guide, of the Halle Concert Society, the Labour Party and the University of Manchester Wine Club. For the last mentioned he arranged many unusual and challenging tastings. But his greatest interests were railways and travel and he was a member of 10 railway societies facilitating this interest. For one of the more significant of these, the Branch Line Society, he was chairman for 20 years from 1969.  He records that he visited 51 countries including Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand and his only regret was that there were not more. Some of these were in organised trips to ride the spectacular, the unusual or the restricted sections of foreign railways. The exploration, investigation and photographic recording of railways, their buildings and signalling was a lifetime passion, perhaps initiated by the West Bridgford sounds. His railway legacy includes two books[1], many articles for railway society magazines and over 30 000 fully indexed photographs of railway track, station buildings, curiosities and, most significantly, a complete record of signal boxes within the UK.


My personal remembrance of Angus, whom I knew since 1963, is a principled man, concerned for others, always excellent company, courteous and appreciative of the slightest kindness. Throughout his time, he made many friends and retained them for life – from primary and secondary school, from the years at Balliol, from all his time in Manchester and from his wide range of activities – a truly remarkable number have enjoyed his friendship. Our lives have been enhanced by his presence and he will long be remembered.



Brian Tyler

[1]  A Guide to Closed Railways in Britain 1948-1975 (plus amendments) (with N J Hill)

An Enthusiasts Guide to the Railways of Western Europe (several editions)