Tributes to Professor Keith Jeffery led by Lord Bew

Professor Keith Jeffrey with his book that chronicled the first 40 years of MI6
Professor Keith Jeffrey with his book that chronicled the first 40 years of MI6

Tributes have been paid to Professor Keith Jeffery, the acclaimed historian and author who died last Friday.

Prof Jeffery, from Belfast, attended Methodist College before starting his academic career in the USA and at Cambridge University (St John’s College).

Among those praising him on his work and “good humour” was his peer of 40-years, Professor Paul Bew (Lord Bew) who said he was “deeply saddened” at news of his death.

“I visited him the previous Friday, one week before he died,” he said.

“He was very gallant about his illness and I believe he was around 64-years-old. And what a career he had. He did history at Cambridge and his PhD there. He was married to a girl called Sally he met at Cambridge and they have two sons – one is an academic at the University of Chicago and the other son works in London.

“They have both been home.”

Lord Bew said he believed Prof Jeffery, amongst all his publications, was “very pleased” with a book he wrote detailing the first 40 years of the UK’s foreign intelligence service – MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949.

Before writing the publication, he was given access to the archives at MI6, which has the official title of the Secret Intelligence Service.

It has been reported that Prof Jeffery said that in researching he was allowed to view all files – and his only restriction was not to name some traitorous agents.

Lord Bew said he was “very pleased” that he was able to see his latest book – 1916 A Global History – published a short time before his death.

“He was lecturing until recently and even gave a big lecture in December in London from a wheelchair in the Irish embassy,” he said.

“There was a really packed audience for that. I always got on very well with him and he was a colleague of mine both in Jordanstown and in Queen’s at different phases of our lives.

“He was dedicated to research but he was very humorous and witty with a warm character.

“He was very easy to work with and that was his style. He was a very affable character and had a lot of graduate students who will miss him an awful lot.”

Tributes were also paid on social media by former Queen’s academic, Professor Pete Shirlow, who said: “Prof. Keith Jeffery has died. What a sad, sad day. He was a gent.”

Condolences were also expressed by QUB former pro-vice chancellor Tony Gallagher.