Alison McCleery obituary

Other lives: Professor of economic and cultural geography at Edinburgh Napier University

My wife, Alison McCleery, who has died aged 69 of breast cancer, was a professor of economic and cultural geography who specialised in research on the economic, social and cultural development of the North Atlantic periphery.

Born and brought up in Edinburgh, Alison was the daughter of Margaret (nee Shillinglaw) and George Bruce. Her father, a teacher of French and German, was also a keen amateur singer and musician, enthusiasms he passed on to his daughter. As a schoolgirl at Mary Erskine school, Alison played the french horn in an orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles (then a pupil at George Watson’s college) and when she moved to St Andrews University in 1972, she played in the university orchestra while also singing in the chapel choir. It was at St Andrews that she and I met, and two years after Alison graduated with a first class degree in geography, we were married in 1978.

After gaining a PhD at Glasgow University, she became a senior researcher in the Central Research Unit of the Scottish Development Department. In 1981 she switched to Edinburgh Napier University, where she was to remain for 40 years, first as a senior lecturer, then as a professor with a remit to enhance its research reputation.

Fluent in French and German, Alison was seconded from Napier to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and also to Insead in Paris. Elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, she served as editor of the Scottish Geographical Journal and was visiting professor at the Institut National d’Études Démographiques, Paris. She served on the Population Group of the Institute of British Geographers, acting for many years as its secretary.

In addition she was on the Peripheral Regions Commission of the International Geographical Union, in which capacity she travelled widely, from the Falkland Islands to remote regions of China. Her last publication will appear posthumously later in 2023.

Outside work Alison had a vibrant family life, bringing up four children with the same love of singing and orchestral music that had inspired her, and for 22 years spent every summer holiday in the same village in Normandy so they would grow up with the same language fluency and love of France as she had.

She is survived by me, and our children, Catriona, Roderick, Neil and Alexander, and three grandsons, Angus, Archie and Max.

Alistair McCleery

The GuardianTramp

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