Celebrating the Life of Allan Rimmer 1938-2007

Sue, Allan's family, friends and colleagues of Allan, my contribution to this farewell to Allan is born out of more than 25 years of friendship and work both within the professional association we were both active in, and at the University of Birmingham.

It was at the annual conference of what was then known as the Association of Workers for Maladjusted Children and Therapeutic Education in the early 1980s that I managed to persuade Allan to stand as our Honorary General Secretary. He served the Association in this capacity for over 20 years, seeing it through its various metamorphoses to its current title of the Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties Association. He gave unstintingly of his time and energy, embodying to a high degree the positive philanthropic virtues of those who pioneered the education of children and young people that we used to call 'maladjusted'.

He played a crucial part in maintaining and developing the work of the Association through many challenges over those years. When he stepped down he left the Association with a sound financial base, a reputation for providing high quality professional support and as a key player in the development of national policies in relation to the education of children and young people with Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD).

Allan had a great capacity for attention to detail; an ability for sustained concentration and focus together with a fluent command of the English language. A well and widely read professional, his intelligence was much appreciated by his colleagues. These talents were not only to the Association's administration but also to its courses and publications. Most tellingly he brought these talents to bear on the Association's responses, consultations and deliberations with central government. His contributions were particularly influential in shaping what remains the official definition of SEBD established in 1994.

His depth of experience, wisdom and understanding of our children's behaviours and emotions, which so many professionals and parents find challenging, incomprehensible and troubling was something he freely and with great humility shred with those he came into contact with. It was a great joy and privilege for me when he agreed to be one of the first tutors for post-graduate courses in SEBD developed in 1992 at the University of Birmingham. He was an outstanding tutor. Students were by turns encouraged, challenged, supported and at times provoked into assessing their practice, reviewing their perspectives, widening their understanding and developing their therapeutic skills. His students gained a significant number of the annually awarded prizes for the best Master's dissertation. A number of his students have gone on to take leading roles in the provision made for children and young people with SEBD. His influence lives on in their work.

Our memories as tutors include late nights in the bar, quiet reflective one-to-one conversations, laughter and fun in sharing experiences. He enriched not only the lives of children but ours as well. His work made a significant contribution to the reputation of the course as one of high quality which promotes an evidence-based practice to meeting the needs of children and young people with SEBD.

In all this he was his own man, able to argue succinctly and to the point when he felt we were in danger of pursuing erroneous ideas. He would be direct and sharp at times, but was always a loyal friend who provided support.

On a personal note I recall, as doubtless so many of you here today can as well, joining Sue and Allan in their home on many occasions; a home made welcoming and hospitable by them both; a home where home brew was shared late into the night with conversations on all aspects of our work.

Whatever the topic, the insights, reflections, critiques and comments made by Allan would always reverberate around my thoughts for many days afterwards. I am particularly grateful for discussions which eventually led to work that I published on 'Eternal Verities'.

Sue and the family will remain in our thoughts as they mourn the loss of a husband, father and grandfather. They can take great pride in all that Allan achieved. The Association mourns the loss of a great contributor to its work. Allan will live on in all our memories and his influence will remain in the work that we do.

John Visser
Professor of Education, University of Birmingham