Asia Research Institute

Sir Stanley and Lady Tomlinson

The University of Nottingham's Asia Research Institute enjoys a generous bequest by the late Sir Stanley and Lady Tomlinson.

Sir Stanley Tomlinson was born in 1912, attended High Pavement School, Nottingham and went on to read Education at University College, Nottingham, which was then a College of the University of London. He often recalled the enjoyment of roaming around the rough parkland which constituted some of the less developed area of the Nottingham campus before the war.

Known to his friends as 'Tommy Tomlinson' he became a diplomat and between 1935 and 1941 served in a number of locations in Japan and acquired excellent Japanese. This reflected the nature of a British diplomatic career before the war, which often emphasised training diplomats who were specialists in one region. Sir Stanley spent most of the war in the United States and after the war developed his interests in South East Asia, including a period in the Philippines. He eventually headed the South East Asia Department in London during the eventful mid-1950s, the years punctuated by the Bandung Conference, the ending of the Malayan Emergency and growing troubles in Vietnam.

The early 1960s brought an exciting period as Minister in the UK Delegation to NATO in Paris when de Gaulle dominated the French scene and in a period which brought with it the demanding intensities of the Cuban Missile Crisis. By 1966 Sir Stanley was High Commissioner in Ceylon and he ended his career in London as Deputy Under Secretary in the Foreign Office in the early 1970s. In recognition of his achievements he was awarded an honorary LL.D by the University of Nottingham.

Throughout his life Sir Stanley maintained number of abiding interests. He was fascinated by the countries of Asia, especially Japan. He was a talented linguist who always tried to understand the people, the culture and language of the countries in which he worked. It was typical of him that no sooner had he arrived in Colombo in 1966 than he began to learn Sinhalese. Above all he maintained a firm belief in the practical benefits of education and training, attempting to bring this to bear in all aspects of this work especially in his dealings with individuals.

Nancy Tomlinson née Gleeson-White was born into a literary family in Chalfont St Giles in 1928. Her paternal grandfather, Joseph White, who wrote under the name of Gleeson-White, had been an eminent Victorian art critic and her aunt Cicely an opera singer. The family later changed its name to Gleeson-White. Her father worked for the Bank of England but his first loves were music and poetry and he often told his children stories from the opera. Nancy herself had a life long passion for learning and curiosity despite, or perhaps because, her schooling was disrupted by severe illness and an acting career.

She spent more years at university than she did at school, acting in Australian children's classic , the film "Seven Little Australians" and as the eponymous heroine in a radio serial "Dot and the Kangaroo" after her family emigrated to Australia in 1939. She matriculated to Sydney University to study for a BA honours when she was only just sixteen and went on to achieve a first class honours in Economic History, the first woman in Australia to do so.

She was also Australia's first woman diplomat, serving in London until her marriage in 1958 to Stanley 'Tommy' Tomlinson whereupon she was obliged to relinquish her post (as was the rule at the time) to become the Diplomat Wife. She particularly enjoyed their time in what was then Ceylon, where Tommy was the British High Commissioner because she could be involved in local events. She supported Tommy gracefully in his long suffering with Parkinson's. The Tomlinson bequest which she established in memory of her husband was a testament to her deep interest in political economy and the importance of informed understanding of issues facing the modern world.

But there was a frivolous side to her - she loved musicals, and garden parties and it is said that no one could dance the Charleston as well as she did.

The Sir Stanley and Lady Tomlinson bequest particularly commemorates their belief in the positive and practical benefits of education.


Asia Research Institute

Law and Social Sciences building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 828 3087