Dr MC Black (RIP)

Book of Condolences

Remembering Dr MC Black (ShD, BSc,ARCS, CPhys, MInstP)

MC was found dead at his home on Friday 26th by police who were alerted by a concerned neighbour. Our members, and indeed any of MC’s friends may wish to leave a reminiscence or a message. All comments will be passed on to his brother, Andrew, over in Portland, Oregon.

18 Replies to “Dr MC Black (RIP)

  1. I first met MC in the late seventies. It was 3rd January, the date of the Union Bar Birthday, and he stuck out immediately in the crowded Bar. In those days he would attend Bar Birthdays without fail and was known as ‘MCB’. Very many years later, having struggled to learn his new monicker of ‘MC’ we would speak often during the Covid lockdowns, a period of isolation that he bore badly, and later still would spend hours together at his Club, the Civil Service Club, he drinking beer from a handled jug, and I drinking from straight glasses that his uncertain grip found troublesome.

    We bonded over batteries, the history of the Union Bar, but most especially over the post-covid revival of the RCSA and of the RCSA Trust. MC, who struggled to write emails and texts, was sufficiently dutiful to write hundreds of them, and he gave very freely of his time, of his knowledge and of his intellectual energy.

    Thank you MC. You have been a great help to me and to many others and you will be much missed. And, as you love a bit of Latin….. Requiesce in pace.

  2. I remember MC from the RCSU and RCSA, having held the same post as him (RCSU Honorary Secretary).

    I would be regularly drinking out of the post’s pewter tankard in the Union Bar and he would come in and challenge me for the pot, which was tradition.

    These were usually on Saturday nights. When I asked him why he was in the bar, he said it was for a Masonic meeting of Imperial College Lodge, of which he was an active member. He was an eccentric character, who was well liked within the College and Union community.

    It is a sad loss and my thoughts are with his family.

  3. I was very friendly with Martin C Black (as he was then known) during our years at Imperial, and knew him well during the time we were both on the RCSA Committee.

    In later life he changed his name to MC, and if anyone addressed him by his old name of Martin he would show them the copy of the deed poll he kept in his beloved Filofax.

    In 2019 he roped me into helping to organise a reunion of the Physics class of 1969. Like me, he thought that classes ought to be known by the year they started rather than the year they graduated (lucky for me as I took an extra year to graduate).

    He perhaps would like to be remembered, partly at least, by the biography he submitted to the booklet we created for the reunion, which included his old class photograph and one of him as he was then. I’ve posted the extract here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1P4lU0K2–YHn4HywGfD8ivCBn9HaGVaS/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=103018719713606173167&rtpof=true&sd=true

  4. MC and I go back an awfully long way to his student days! He was one of life’s interesting and valuable, even if frequently misunderstood, characters. He was a completely sincere soul and committed to whatever he became involved in. His integrity in those regards was perhaps his greatest attribute and a role model for others. One had to admire his perpetual positive efforts to engage others in the higher duties and qualities of life.

  5. We’ve known MC – Martin – MCB since Imperial College days. He was one of several IC folk at our wedding in 1973, and managed to photo bomb the Group Photo! He was ICU Hon Sec in 1972, and I was ICU Deputy President. The ICU President-elect decided to study politics at Sussex, and left MCB and me to find a new one. After at least one inquorate election, we got one. He was communist which was a challenge to MC!
    As others will all agree, MC was a one-off in almost every way. Not many students in the early 70s wore a suit and waistcoat, or wrote with a fountain pen in green ink. Not many smoked a pipe either. It would stand him good stead in later life when he developed his fascination for Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Occasionally he would call Jane and ask if it was okay to come and stay for a few days in Edinburgh so he could go on one of the Conan Doyle walking tours of the Old and New Town. Off he’d set in his multi-pocketed field jacket with the pockets stuffed with maps and various sleuth paraphernalia.
    When he telephoned earlier last year, he said he was planning to come up to Edinburgh, but that he might have to stay somewhere where there were no stairs. Apparently, he now had a mobility scooter. Jane spoke with him again, just before Christmas. There was a ritual – we would send a Christmas card wishing him happy Hanukkah, and he would reply saying “As you know, I don’t celebrate Christmas”. He also mentioned that he was now Dr MC Black, having just been awarded a PhD for a thesis he’d written on Victorian Detectives. Well, why not?!
    He would occasionally parody himself and be a bit gruff and disapproving about ‘modern’ trends (ie post 1960), but at heart he was a kind and caring man, and a loyal friend. He looked after his aged mother for years. And he was very thoughtful about others too. When our daughter Hannah got a place at University to study Architecture, he sent her a book on the subject, even though he hardly knew her. Jane recalls having a meal at a restaurant with him. He got out his credit card to pay. It was one of several he had in various fanciful names – Count this, Lord that etc. He told Jane it helped when booking tables at restaurants!
    They broke the mould with Martin.
    When we heard that he’d died I tried Google to see if I could find out anything. It turned out there was a rap artist called Mc Black, though I doubt MC would have been aware of that! Eventually I found something on the Old Askeans website – https://www.oldaskean.org.uk/mc-black-rip/ . And then, of course, this page on the RCSA website.
    Farewell, dear friend.

    Paul and Jane Jowitt

  6. I very much regret that I cannot attend MC Black’s funeral on Thursday, which I would most certainly have done in normal circumstances. Unfortunately I am arranging my own father’s funeral, as he passed away suddenly in January, and so I will be away tomorrow.

    I am pleased to have this means of passing on my condolences and expressing our great admiration for MC’s dedication and stalwart efforts on behalf of the RCSA and RCSU over the years. He was incredibly dedicated in this and many other endeavours and his tragic passing is a huge shock

  7. I did not know MC at University being a spring chicken as a ’77 entrant, I knew him in Masonic circles. I only met him some twenty years ago when I asked to visit Imperial College Lodge, this led to a friendship to the present day.
    Over the years I had the pleasure meeting him in the most unlikely Masonic places, often at one of the Masonic centres around the south of England. I often went to a group he arranged for a Cambridge University Lodge in Cambridge, his efficiency as Secretary was legendary.
    I recently spent some time corresponding with MC about his views of the de-Christianising a Masonic Order which his faith prevented him for applying. Unfortunately, I will never know his final view on this.
    RIP MC, you lived respected and died regretted.

  8. Farewell to MC Black. I have known MC since my College days. He was always hard working and helpful – whether it was putting in a phone line for my sister Clare or serving as a Governor of Imperial College. He will be sadly missed by many.

  9. I have known MCB since my College days (1967-1971) and am very sad to hear of his death.

    Please pass my condolences on to Andrew and his family.

    When I first knew him, he was only mildly eccentric. Virtually all his possessions were prominently marked ‘MCB’, hence his moniker. I cannot recall the exact details of all the Milk Bars we visited, but I do recall one occasion when we were quietly drinking in a pub near Southside (possible called the Lord Nelson). It was a Saturday; his pipe was already out on the table and he asked me several times to go outside to see if I could see any stars in the sky – this being the sign that he could light up.
    After I moved to North Wales in 1974, he came up to stay with me (later us) on several occasions from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, and we visited many North Wales tourist attractions during those visits. His technique for driving along narrow single-track Welsh roads was not to brake for bends but to sound the horn long and loud; as a result, my wife preferred to offer to drive us around in her car. When we had a bar meal in an up-market pub in Ruthin, MC offered to pay and produced a credit card in the name of Lord Robertson, a minor character in one of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Keeping a completely straight face he signed the slip ‘Robertson’ while the two barmaids looked on bemused. Although we have not met face-to-face for over 20 years, we still communicated occasionally by e-mail and ‘phone.

    Andrew – I hope you take comfort from the fact that, as demonstrated by the tributes on this page, he will be sadly missed by many, many people.

  10. I first met Martin (as he then was) back in 1974, when we both taught at Langley Park Boys’ School, and we had remained friends ever since. As well as helping his students to remarkably good exam results, he was very active in outdoor activities, and he and I led many groups of students to the school study centre in Derbyshire, where we indulged in long walks and introduced many of the boys to the underground world – caves but particularly the local lead mines – great fun but you couldn’t do it nowadays. We also ran an annual trip to Hadrian’s Wall – in February! We never quite managed to get snowed in, although we did sometimes have to dig the minibus out of a snowdrift in the morning. He will be missed by many of his former students, with a number of whom he was still in touch. After MC left LPBS we remained friends. I last saw him when he kindly invited me to Henley Regatta in 2022, and I was looking forward to meeting for a meal on his next trip to Cambridge. I do have a few photos of him from the old days, and will happily forward copies if you contact me.

  11. Andrew,
    First may I say how sad my colleagues and I of the Ware Wine & Beer Circle(WWBC) were to hear of MC’s passing. MC had been a member of WWBC for many years, indeed his mother (Tina) came to our meetings while she was able. A lively lady we missed her visits when she passed.
    Sadly although one of our ex-members told us about MC’s passing, we did not find out about MC’s funeral otherwise some of the WWBC members would have attended.
    MC was a very busy man, he was also on the WWBC committee for some years and has been our auditor many years. He was always willing to help. He organised a visit to the Tower of London guided by a Yeoman warder a through his many contacts which was fascinating.

  12. Unfortunately although we, the Ware Wine & Beer Circle, heard of MC’s passing we did not have information regarding his funeral as we did not have any contacts with his close friends. I am sorry that none of the Circle was able to attend.
    MC was a member of the Circle for many years. The Circle, which I founded, is probably the most successful amateur wine and beer making Circle in the UK in terms of winning competitions. MC was a committee member and was still the Circle’s auditor up until his passing. MC was always keen to help the Circle and we had planned an illustrated talk later in the year based on MC’s Sherlock Holmes London walk. Last year he invited Circle members to join a tour of the Tower of London. We will miss MC, he was somewhat eccentric but always helpful and a true gentleman.

  13. I’m MC’s brother Andrew. I’ve met some of you over the years, but not others — I’ve lived in the USA since 1981, so had the opportunity to see MC only a couple of time each year. He was quite dedicated to the care of our mother Tina up until she went to live at Price Edward Duke of Kent Court, after which MC had a little more freedom to follow his many other interests.

    One of these was woodturning. Perhaps he took up woodturning to make gavels for his various Masonic Lodges; certainly he did make many, and Steven Cann has told me that he received them from MC, stencilled-on the lodge numbers, and varnished them. On one of my visits to Ware, MC enlisted me to help him put a Yale lock on his _second_ woodworking shed — the first shed being over-full. As I recall, we mortised the edge of the door to take the lock, but found that it was also necessary to mortise the strike into the jam. For a woodworker, I was a bit surprised that MC was so tentative with mallet and chisel, so I took over and installed the strike. I tested my handiwork by pushing the door shut; the lock cleared the strike nicely, and the latch shot home with a satisfying “thunk”. It was at that point that we realised that all of the keys to the new lock were _inside_ the shed.

    Now that I’ve shared a story, perhaps some of you can fill me in on some details that I’m missing. One of these relates to a photograph I found amongst his things. It shows MC in front of some woodland wearing a Naval Captain’s uniform. It’s clearly a posed photograph, and was printed as an 8″x10″, so I’m assuming that one of MC’s friends took the photo and sent him a copy. Can anyone tell me more? Why a Naval Captain? Where was it taken?

    Another mystery to me is MC’s doctorate. He did tell me a few years ago that he was now a doctor, but was mysterious about the details. At the top of this page, it says “ShD”, and I’ve seen references to a “Doctorate in Sherlocania”. Did he actually write a doctoral thesis, or is this another piece of dissimulation, like “Lord Robertson”? Do any of you know the full story?

    I would also like to apologise to those of you who didn’t find out about MC’s passing until after the funeral. We notified the organizations that I knew of, but obviously missed many. Sometime in the spring of 2025 there will be a service to consecrate MC’s grave stone, and we plan to hold a gathering in connection with that. If you would like to be notified of the details, and have not already sent me a condolence email, please email me (my academic address is fine).

    1. Andrew
      I originally assumed that “ShD” was a mistype, perhaps meant to be “PhD”.
      Then I realised that MC would, in Holmes fashion, observe that S and P are not close on the keyboard!
      So now I’m not so sure.
      Paul Jowitt, p.w.jowitt@hw.ac.uk

    2. Hi Andrew, I only heard of MC’s passing today. Amongst his varied activities he was a volunteer at the Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey, At one time he was a regular on our public open days but not so much lately. He loved to turn up in various uniforms but usually as a Naval Officer and the photograph may well have been taken at the Mills. He was very much a character and the first to point out forcefully anything he saw amiss! RIP MC

  14. Dear Andrew,

    MC was a Friend of the Museum of Freemasonry and a regular reader in our Library for the 22 years that I have worked here. He was nearly always the first person to sign up for our events and talks, including all the online ones that we put on in lockdown. We had all seen him in the library a week before his death and it was a huge surprise to read of his passing. He will be missed by all the staff in the Museum. I am sorry that none of us attended the funeral. We did try and find out and some of us would have been honored to pay our respects to one of our longest supporters. He was liked by us all.

  15. Mr MC Black, as he I called him at first, was a member of the Peak District Mines Historical Society. As the manager of the museum owned by the Society I was the one who was easiest for him to contact and a routine communication began. In September each year his renewal to the Society was due and I knew that there would be an email and/or phone call from Mr MC Black and invariably there would be some concern about how to renew – the Society was moving over to an online membership renewal system and having now read about Mr MC Black’s dislike of computers I can confirm that he was not impressed! I would then reply that we would still happily take payment by cash, cheque or bank transfer and a cheque would then be sent. We would usually have a conversational catch up in two or three emails with me talking about how our museum was doing and him letting me know how he was doing.
    Then one year he became Dr MC Black. His email proudly drew my attention to the change and I duly replied to Dr MC Black with congratulations and asking what his PhD was in – I was not expecting Victorian Literature as the answer!
    Sadly I never met Dr MC Black, others in the Society who had spoke fondly of him and his ‘eccentricities’. Having read the messages from people who knew him well I wish I had had the chance to know him better but he will be someone I never forget. I suspect that many others will have him in mind for many, many years to come.

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