Dr Frank Stubbings

Daily Telegraph Obituary

Life Fellow; sometime University Orator.


Frank Henry Stubbings came to Emmanuel on an Entrance Scholarship in 1933 from the Perse School. Besides taking a first class in Part I of the Classical Tripos (1935), in those days mostly concerned with knowledge of the ancient languages, he won the Browne university scholarship and the Porson Prize for Greek verse composition. A first in Part II (1937) was accompanied by the second Chancellor’s Medal for Classics. After graduation, College and University studentships enabled him to undertake research in Mycenaean archaeology, a choice of subject inevitably influenced by Alan Wace, then Laurence Professor in Cambridge and long pre-eminent in that field.

In 1937-8 at the British School at Athens, he worked on Mycenaean pottery from Attica, and took part in Mycenaean excavations in Ithaca. In 1938-9 he widened his field to cover the Mycenaean pottery found over many years in Cyprus, Syria and Egypt, and was on Wace’s staff in renewed excavations at Mycenae. Meanwhile, the writing-up of his first year’s researches (subsequently published in vol. XLII of the British School Annual) gained him a three-year research fellowship of Emmanuel (elected June 1939).

The outbreak of war in September 1939 found him still in Athens, where like some other classicists he was enlisted for wartime secretarial work at the British Legation, which continued until the withdrawal of allied forces from Greece in April 1941. Evacuated to Egypt, he was similarly employed in Cairo.

He returned to England in 1944 and in 1945 was released from Government service to resume his academical career. He was admitted to his long-delayed fellowship in October 1945, completed his PhD in 1948 (published at Mycenaean Pottery from the Levant, CUP 1951) and was appointed to a University lectureship in 1949, renewed in 1952 to the retiring age. His University lectures were always mainly in Greek prehistory; but he also became increasingly committed to College duties, as director of studies in Classics, and from 1959 as College Librarian. He served as Vice-Master 1965-9. From Professor Wace he succeeded to the joint editorship of A Companion to Homer, a major reference work, planned before the war and eventually published by Macmillan in 1962 (reprinted 1963). Overall, the book illustrates the important relation between the epic picture of Bronze Age Greece and the archaeological record. His Prehistoric Greece (Hart-Davis, 1972) is a small-scale introduction for undergraduates and others.

From 1974 to 1982 Dr Stubbings was Cambridge University Orator. It was shortly after his election that the University rejected a proposal that the Orator’s speeches should no longer be in Latin.

After formal retirement (1980) from University and College duties he continued as honorary keeper of special collections in the Library until September 2000. His years as College Librarian saw the building of the south wing, thenceforward the principal storage area for modern books, releasing older buildings for the restoration (begun by H S Bennett) to their original classification of the 6000 volumes bequeathed by Archbishop William Sancroft in 1693; also for the worthy housing of the unparalleled treasure of 18th-19th century colour-plate books presented by our Honorary Fellow Graham Watson in 1975. Retirement gave time to publish Bedders Bulldogs and Bedells, a glossary of Cambridge words and usages, originally (1991) at his own expense, but in 1995 at their own request reissued by the Cambridge University Press.

Frank Stubbings died on 29 October 2005 at the age of 90.

The College quatercentenary in 1984 occasioned publication of Forty-nine Lives, an anthology of short Emmanuel biographies, and an edition with translation of the Founder’s original statutes.