Allan McNeill 1958-2016
As well as being a gifted academic with a genuine passion and enthusiasm for psychology, Dr Allan McNeill, who died in September at the age of 57 after a long battle with cancer, was also a very special human being. Ask anyone who knew him what they remember about him and a host of stories emerge. Who knows for example, how many people believed him, that ‘haggis’ was a little Scottish, flightless bird with one leg shorter than the other from walking around the hills in one direction!
His love of people and talking to them was almost legendary. Whether you were eight, eighteen or eighty if you were privileged enough to be in his presence, you could be sure of an interesting and lively conversation focused on you. Allan loved people and being around them, and he had that gift of making you feel really listened to and important.
One thing that defined Allan was his love of music. In his teenage years and early twenties he had an exciting but short-lived musical career as a guitarist in a punk-rock band with a prominent name ‘Johnny and the Self Abusers’, which later became a founding basis of Simple Minds. He then went on to open a recording studio in Berkeley Street in Glasgow in the early 80s. Many people passed through his doors but one day two young lads turned up. The two teenagers were Pat and Greg Kane, and that was the beginning of Hue and Cry. Allan thought they were too good to let them get lost in the jungle of the music business and he became their manager.
Later, Allan went on to re-invent himself and became a psychologist. He undertook his PhD with Professor Mike Burton, with whom he became friends. For years he represented academic face research in the courts, and a great many colleagues directed forensic enquiries his way. He was brilliant in this role - a safe pair of hands when describing the most relevant research findings. Most of the time he delivered unwelcome news saying: ‘no - you can’t reliably make an identification from that evidence’, but his authority and affability made him a very popular expert witness. A couple of times, Allan and Mike went to see bands in the Barrowlands, a legendary Glasgow venue. He seemed to know everyone there, and he cut through the crowds - that friendly authority again. Allan achieved something not often managed by 57-year old academics. He was cool.
When Allan died, he was a senior lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University and a devoted fighter for the workers’ union. For many years he had also been a stalwart member of the BPS Cognitive Section Committee, most recently as Treasurer, providing fascinating research by day and unforgettably good company by night at the Section’s Annual Conference. Allan in a kilt at the conference ceilidh in 2012 was classic Allan.
In recent years, Allan found deep happiness in his personal life with fellow psychologist Dr Monika McNeill who he married in a ceremony on the Isle of Arran in December 2015. As well as Monika, Allan leaves behind 3 children Mhairi, Lewis and Caitlin, his father Joe, sister Elizabeth and a host of friends and colleagues whose lives were richer for having him in them.
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