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Frank Bechhofer - 1935-2018

Refugee, Cambridge graduate, Royal Artillery officer, engineer, Shakespearean actor and director, sociology professor, folk club organiser, folk music agent – Frank Bechhofer was a veritable polymath indeed. As his family confirm, he seldom spoke in depth about the first of these attributes, yet they recognise that his experience of arriving in Nottingham from Nuremburg at the age of three, without a word of English, as his Jewish family fled the Nazi regime, undoubtedly shaped his outlook on life in subtle ways. Committed to the politics of inclusion and social justice, his door was always open, and a warm welcome awaited inside for all comers.

And many came. Together with his wife, Jean, their decision to establish the Bechhofer Agency in 1981, and their decades-long association with the Edinburgh Folk Club, meant that there was a steady stream of world class folk musicians who broke their tours with a stopover in Barnton, and for their children, Kirsten and Sean, the school day often began by having to step over a snoozing body or two on their way out the door. The list of the musicians Frank represented reads like a who’s who of high pedigree performers, including Nic Jones, Andy Irvine, Archie Fisher, Rod Paterson, Rab Noakes, Duck Baker, Bruce Molsky, Tommy Sands, Chris Stout, Catriona Mackay and Hans Theessink.

Frank had met Jean, a proud Shetland lass, at Cambridge in the 1950s, and while they already shared a love of theatre and walking, it was Jean, with her fine store of songs, that helped to convert Frank into a life-long folky. And while he never followed a musical path himself, he was certainly no stranger to a stage, most often in Shakespearean garb, or indeed off stage as a producer and director of note.

Having converted from engineer to social scientist, Frank took up a lecturing post at the University of Edinburgh in 1965, where he remained for the rest of his highly distinguished academic career, becoming Professor of Social Research in 1987, and being elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2008. Often working in partnership with David McCrone, the pairing was a potent one, and as they turned their attention to the sociology of Scottish identity and constitutional change, their research has contributed enormously to our understanding of just what makes this nation tick.

Following a mercifully short illness, Frank died in Edinburgh on December 10th, having packed an immense amount into his 83 years, and earning himself many friends and huge respect along the way. He will be sorely missed in all the worlds in which he walked.

Gary West