RIP, Martin John Crossley Evans. You weren’t my warden during my three years in Bristol. But you were the warden of Manor Hall and a mentor to many who lived there, and didn’t live there. At least among the people I hung out with, if anyone referred to “Warden” we all knew that was you, not the wardens of other halls. Quite frankly, you are the only warden I would refer to with a capital ‘W’.
I was fortunate, during my last visit to Bristol in July 2008, to have bumped into you along Queens Road. I believe you popped out of the Whole Foods store, talking with someone else.
For a brief moment, I thought, “Should I even call out to him? I never stayed in Manor Hall.” But I remembered the profound respect you had commanded among many of us. So I called out, “Warden!”, and you stopped to have a brief chat with me.
I recall re-introducing myself, mentioning that I had not lived in your hall but in a neighbouring one, and that I had served for a term at the Malaysian-Singaporean Students’ Association, which you had guided. I also updated you about a mutual friend of ours who had become Catholic, and you had sounded pleased to hear about it. You indicated I was welcome to drop by anytime, although I wasn’t sure how often I could return to Bristol and whether I should be taking up more of your valuable time.
My key interactions with you were during my stint at the MSSA, circa 1998. We would sit in your office, which I recall was a decently large room with traditional furnishings. Once, you lit a pipe and sat beside the fireplace, pausing to reflect on the situation for a while. Looking at your side profile while you were in deep thought, I thought immediately of Sherlock Holmes.
I remember the time that most exco members met with you before the end of our term. I had asked you a specific question about whether someone had consulted you yet on a key matter, and you replied calmly and clearly, “No.” We knew that we had to expedite the matter. You did advise us further on what the proper procedures were but you never talked down to us. That was something I appreciated.
The second interaction was after I had ‘retired’ from my role, circa 1999, and had dropped by the Manor Hall kitchen to check in on my juniors after a massive nasi lemak cookout. Counterparts from the Chinese Society were helping with the cleanup. There was a mountain of dishes to wash and it was getting late. You appeared, rolled up your sleeves and started helping to wash the dishes!
You turned on the hot water tap and told us that using hot water would wash the dishes more quickly. Others around you were stunned and tried to stop you, but you continued washing dishes. Later on, observers criticised the committee for making the Warden do such work (it is so difficult to please everyone). But we couldn’t stop you!
So my experiences with you may be far fewer and shallower than the many who have lived in your hall, but I always remember your dignity and poise, your care and concern for every student who interacted with you, and your wisdom and humility. And I sometimes think of you when I wash the dishes. With hot water, of course.
Thank you for taking the time to be with us, Warden. You may have departed from this physical world but you have left a deep imprint on many students and alumni of the University of Bristol.