Chris Mawson 1953-2020

A tribute by Dr Wendy Brown.

Our dear friend and ex-colleague, Chris Mawson, sadly passed away on November 9, 2020.

At the time of his death, aged only 67, he was a practising Psychoanalyst, though he started his professional life as a Clinical Psychologist, having qualified on the BPS course then run by Freda Levinson; this course eventually became the PhD course run at UCL by Peter Fonagy and Shirley Williams.

Chris did not always intend to be a mental health clinician: indeed, he applied through the former UCCA scheme to study Dentistry, but regrettably for the dental profession his unexpectedly poor (even abysmal) A-level results left him in Clearing. His then girlfriend (and later his wife) Susan did a lot of research into what these A-levels would allow him to study and Psychology won the day. Very much later in his professional life he was to spend 11 years producing the definitive work on Wilfred Bion, the famous Psycholoanalyst, but I digress.

Chris was born on July 7, 1953 to Bob and Eileen, the oldest of three boys; Martin was born in 1955 and Nick in 1957. Neither brother sought academia, Martin going on to join the police and Nick to become a telecommunications engineer. Chris completed his first degree at Goldsmiths College, acquiring a BSc in 1974. He then elected to study for a PhD at Sheffield University under Professor Alec Jenner. His research concerned the attention and dreaming of manic depressive patients, whose episodes uniquely lasted only 48 hours. At the end of that period in June 1977 he married Susan, whom he had met when they were both 17, and who, at the same time as he had, had completed her Law degree. They were married for 39 years but sadly separated in 2016.

We got to know Chris initially when he joined the Psychology Department under Dr Richard Mein, whose recent obituary was published online with the BPS. The nature of his training was consecutive six month placements in different specialisms and it was our luck, and his initial misfortune, that there was a complete breakdown of his second placement owing to irreconcilable differences between him and his supervisor and so he started a placement at Harperbury. Chris was so taken with his experience at Harperbury that he continued to travel on his motorbike to remain a  member of the group we ourselves started and held after work on Mondays; we clearly remember Chris arriving frozen to the bone from the long journeys to Radlett from the nether regions of London. This was a huge committment on Chris’s part as he continued this journey every week until he completed his training in 1980, and reflects very much on the dedication he was to show throughout his career as both a practitioner and a teacher.

Immediately on qualifying as a Clinical Psychologist Chris commenced a two year course at the Tavistock Clinic in the Child and Adolescent Department, at the end of which he was employed at St.Mary’s Hospital, London, working with children and adolescents in the days when children could receive psychoanalysis on the NHS. During this time Chris undertook training at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and later became a training analyst himself; he also published several papers and the aforementioned work on Bion.

Outside of his professional work Chris was a keen walker, skier, ex-high board diver (in his youth he dived for his County), bon viveur, witty raconteur, amazing impressionist and a really nice guy.

Chris leaves behind his former wife, Sue, their daughter Hannah and son Jamie, grandson Rory as well as his partner, Donna.

At his funeral the first piece of music played was Dire Straits “Romeo and Juliet” from their live performance in Verona. We think it is fitting to end this tribute to Chris’s life with a line from that very song “when you gonna realise that it was just that the time was wrong, Chris”. 

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