Philip Holmes, a beloved friend and colleague, passed away at the age of 74 after devoting the majority of his life to studying Scandinavian languages and cultures, with a particular focus on the Swedish language.
He co-authored, with Ian Hinchliffe, a 630-page book titled "Swedish: A Comprehensive Grammar" in 1993. This book went on to have three editions and numerous shorter spin-offs. But his passion for the languages did not end there. He authored "Danish: A Comprehensive Grammar" in 1995, which was co-authored with Bob Allen and Tom Lundskær-Nielsen, and a Norwegian book of the same nature appeared a year ago, co-authored with Hans-Olav Enger.
In 2001, Phil won the prize named after the author and journalist Vilhelm Moberg for his biography of the same name. Then, in 2004, the Swedish Language Council awarded Phil, along with Hinchliffe, the Erik Wellander prize for their excellent research into the Swedish language.
Phil was born in King’s Norton, Birmingham, to Joan (nee Truscott) and Arthur Holmes, a former RAF pilot and accountant. After his family moved to Sweden in 1962, he started attending upper secondary school in Södertälje and quickly adapted to the Swedish language. He returned to Britain for A-levels but eventually completed his studies in geography and Swedish at Hull University.
After graduation in 1967, he earned a qualification in Nordic languages at Uppsala University. He received his PhD from Hull in 1968 and was named a Swedish lecturer the following year, during which he married Linda Periam, who was a teacher of religious studies.
In 1983, Phillip rose to the position of senior lecturer in Scandinavian studies at Hull and became a reader in that subject in 1997. He was the head of the university’s Scandinavian studies department from the 1980s to the 1990s and was also the chair of Hull University Press.
Phil retired in 2004 after Hull University closed down several smaller language departments. Despite struggling with that decision, he started his translation company and continued working on grammar publications, all while fulfilling his dream of owning a house in the French countryside.
Phil was a person of boundless energy with a wry sense of humour and unfailing loyalty. He was devoted to his family and friends. His dedication to his subject, Hull University, and the East Riding Liberals, and later the Liberal Democrats, was unwavering. As an academic and teacher, he was outspoken, brilliant and dedicated to ensuring his students’ progress and personal well-being. To his younger colleagues, he was a role model who could converse knowledgeably about a wide range of subjects, from astronomy to mycology.
Phil is survived by his wife Linda, two daughters named Rebekah and Emily, four grandchildren named Esme, Zoë, Torin and Benjamin, and a brother named Stephen.