I'm not usually a person who's lost for words but I am finding it very hard at the moment to describe my feelings having recently heard of the death of Patrick Waterson.
I first encountered Patrick in the Strategos/Lost Battles yahoo groups, where it was immediately clear that he was a person of formidible intellect and seemingly inexhaustable knowledge of ancient authors and ancient warfare.
His ideas always came fully formed. He wasn't a person who reached conclusions tentatively, after a few false starts; he worked backwards from his conclusion, using almost Socratic techniques, to draw fellow conversationalists in to see the problem from his perspective.
He believed that the best and most reliable way to approach ancient history was to read the ancient authors and use common sense. He had little time for most modern commentators, who he felt lacked that common sense and were wedded to an academic narrowness. One modern commentator he did respect however was Phil Sabin, author of Lost Battles, and once Patrick had adopted a set of rules - as he did Lost Battles - there was no one that could turn him against them.
Patrick combined love of dialogue, broad knowledge and a talent for research with a genuine interest in widening people's horizons. He felt that wargames were an excellent avenue for approaching military history, and he would devote time and immense energy to discussing them, testing them, pointing out their strengths and weaknesses, and explaining what he felt they taught best.
He delighted in argument, and enjoyed playing devil's advocate. One of his favourite topics was the issue of numbers in the ancient texts. When someone brought up (say) the incredible size given for the Persian forces in Xerxes' expedition against Greece as evidence that the ancients were unreliable on this score, and must therefore be unreliable on other matters too, he would ask the question, what if Herodotus was right? And he would lead the unsuspecting person into the argument of his life.
But Patrick was also charming and gentlemanly. He took ideas seriously, but he was fond of a joke, and did not seem to hold grudges. If he agreed with something, he would say so; if he disagreed, he would also say so, but only if he felt the person was sufficiently robust to deal with disagreement. He was not oppositional in the common way that if so and so said it, it must be wrong; he was oppositional in the sense that if so and so was not taking such and such into account, or was not paying aspect A due respect, then it would be wrong.
To me personally he was always thoughtful and considerate, even if I was obviously exasperated with him, which I occasionally was. I've not met anyone who was quite so eager to help others to develop their ideas. In this he would provide all kinds of assistance. If there was something that I wanted to know, some quotation or passage I wanted to find, an idea I wanted to test, Patrick was the person I would turn to. And he acted in this way for many others as well (as Treasurer and more lately Secretary of the Society of Ancients, there were *a lot* of people wanting to bounce ideas off him).
Although I knew Patrick for about thirteen years, and was in weekly contact with him for a large proportion of that time, I did not know much about his private life. His private life he did keep private. I gathered from our conversations that for some time his mother was not well, and got the sense that he must have been hit very hard by her death, but he would sidestep such topics, and I never wanted to press him.
Perhaps though I should have pressed harder.
Over the last two years we fell out of touch, as I was too caught up in my own family circumstances to have much time for anything else. I regret this now.
Man is often a poor thing. A petty thing. We are often by default small-minded, mundane, concerned about immediate day-to-day things, and that which affects us directly. Patrick was not like that. He lived amongst ideas.
It was a thing of rare privilege to know him. He was utterly unique, and I will miss him terribly.