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'Stan died. No flowers or tears'

Bill Leece salutes Stan Kelly- Bootle, a founding father of modern computing and Liverpool folk legend

Written by . Published on April 17th 2014.

'Stan died. No flowers or tears'

Stan KellyStan Kelly

STAN Bootle was one of the most formidable minds that Liverpool has produced. 

A streetwise scouser from Wavertree who had won a place at the grammar school, he went on to take a first class degree in maths at Cambridge, was hand-picked to take the first post-graduate computing degree anywhere in the world, and had a glittering career as a high-flying business executive. 

He could be the most engaging of company, yet sharp in his put-downs of those who were parading ignorance dressed up as knowledge 

So too, in his own way, was the other Stan, Stan Kelly. The singer and songwriter with a 50-year career who had penned I Wish I was Back in Liverpool with Leon Rosselson for The Dubliners and Liverpool Lullaby for Cilla Black, had jammed with Paul Robeson and who had the sheer nerve to sing The Sash MyFather Wore in a Belfast Republican club. They were one and the same. 

Stan With His Son, DavidStan With His Son, DavidFew people can have had such a remarkable dual career as the combined Stan and Stan, who died on Wednesday aged 84, a proud son of Liverpool - and supporter of Liverpool FC - right to the very end. 

He was a product of the Liverpool Institute school, where from the 1930s to the 1960s the formidable head, J R Edwards, saw it as his mission to get ordinary lads into university, and preferably Oxford or Cambridge. 

Few fulfilled the dream more than Stan Bootle, although what the martinet Edwards later thought of the more louche and Bohemian Stan Kelly is not recorded. 

Wearing his mathematician's hat, Stan Bootle was a direct link to the days of Alan Turing, the man credited with much of the basic thought processes behind modern computing. 

With plenty of cash for fast cars in 1964With plenty of cash for fast cars in 1964

"Don't say he invented the computer, though," Stan would remark. "He didn't. He was just a fucking genius." 

After he and a handful of others had taken the first postgrad diplomas in computing anywhere, he went on to work first for IBM and then for Sperry-Univac. 

It was a time when serious money was around, with one friend remembering him reappearing in Liverpool in the 1960s with an open-top Porsche and all the aura of a pop star. Easy on a salary of £30,000 - and that was in 1964 prices.

13451_1415133392481_2970161_NWearing his computer coding hatBy this time his alter ego, Stan Kelly, was also up and running. In Cambridge he had co-founded the St Lawrence Folk Song Society and he went from strength to strength. 

To talk to him in later life was to risk dismissing him as a compulsive name-dropper before the realisation grew that yes, he had known, befriended and worked with these people from the Seegers to Paul Robeson and Dominic Behan. It was Behan who was his co-conspirator and performer on that night of singing The Sash in the Republican club, which probably explains how he lived to tell the tale. 

His knowledge of linguistics and language was deep, and he found a kindred spirit in the late Fritz Spiegl. They shared a mischievous delight in the foibles of the English language, and were co-authors of the first in a long series of Lern Yerself Scouse books, published by Fritz's Scouse Press. 

Stan KellyWith Roger McGough in 2009Eventually he gave up the business career for a writing one, from serious computer textbooks to waspish commentaries on digital work in magazines and on line. He could be the most engaging of company, yet sharp in his put-downs of those who were parading ignorance dressed up as knowledge. And above all, he was a realist who lived for the here and now, despite his poor health of later years. 

By the end, his two persona had merged into one, Stan Kelly-Bootle, and his own self-penned epitaph was revealed by his son David on the day of his death: "Stan died. No flowers or tears". 

Stan Kelly Bootle: 1929-2014.

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

John BradleyApril 17th 2014.


Phil CooperApril 18th 2014.

Where did Stan die? Was it in Liverpool?

AnonymousApril 18th 2014.

cracking tribute

AnonymousMay 16th 2014.

Great tribute to a truly great man/ A typical Scouser, Stan always made himself feel right at home wherever he went and in whoever's company he happened to find himself...!!!

Reader XxxJune 4th 2014.

No flowers or tears, but clearly a life well worth remembering. Well done Bill Leece for writing this obituary.

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