Peter Molloy obituary

Other lives: Worker on the UK’s early ballistic missile programme who became a computer engineer and academic

My stepfather, Peter Molloy, who has died aged 86, was for many years a lecturer in computing, having first worked in the defence industry on the UK’s early ballistic missile programme.

He was born in Depression-era Greenwich, in south-east London, to James Molloy, who ran a coffee stall, and his wife, Edith (nee Moore). During the second world war the Molloy home was directly in the line of the Luftwaffe bombers that attacked the London docks. Recalling the loss of school friends, Peter said the only good thing about that period was that it gave him an opportunity to expand his knowledge, from books salvaged from the rubble of destroyed houses.

After attending the Addey and Stanhope school, Lewisham, he graduated from Southampton University with a BSc and did national service in the RAF, where he was commissioned as a pilot officer. Afterwards, for Hawker Siddeley in Stevenage, he worked as a statistical analyst on the UK’s nascent ballistic missile programme, and in 1965 moved to Coventry to take up a bursary for a research position at Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University), exploring acoustics and mobility for blind people.

Teaching, though, was his great talent and allowed his finest qualities of generosity, patience and tolerance to come to the fore. In 1971 he took up a post as a senior lecturer in computer engineering at Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University), where he stayed until his retirement in 1994. During this period he was also a consultant for the television company ATV in Birmingham, working on new camera technologies.

Following the breakup of his first marriage, to Patricia (nee Wallace), in 1970, he managed to juggle life as a single father to three young daughters with the demands of work. My mother, Barbara Perillo (nee Burton), met Peter in Coventry through Gingerbread, an organisation for single parents, and they married in 1985.

After his retirement they enjoyed backpacking in the far east, as well as sailing. At home Peter made his own wine and could create excellent Chinese dishes at a time when many men of his generation could not even cook passable English food. His annual pig roast and garden party was popular with friends and neighbours, the pig turning on a powered spit that he had fashioned from an electric motor salvaged from a Vulcan bomber’s bomb-bay doors. He always said that the greatest thing you could give anyone was time, because it could never be replaced – and he always had time for everyone.

He is survived by Barbara, by his daughters from his first marriage, Michelle, Lisa and Francesca, and by Barbara’s two sons, Andrew and me.

Fran Perillo

The GuardianTramp

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