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Dis Manibus - Paul McDonnell-Staff

Relief of a steersman from Cologne - Paul McDonnell-Staff rowed on the Olympias and was very interested in ancient naval warfare as well.

Last Saturday I woke up to the shocking news that Paul McDonnell-Staff had passed away on March 12. Regular readers of Ancient Warfare surely recognise his name from the dozens of contributions he published in the magazine since issue II.2. In fact, you read his work without knowing it was he, for Paul wrote Tactically Speaking under the nom-de-plume 'Tacticus'. For me, and likely for many of you as well, issue II.2 wasn't the first time I'd ever read anything he had written as Paul had been the research assistant for John Warry's Warfare in the Classical World.

Looking back, I see Paul first subscribed on the day issue I.1 returned from the printer, June 18, 2007. Not long after, I got the first message in what was to become a regular to-and-fro email conversation. This was added to later by occasional chats on Skype. Paul can also be heard in some of the earliest Ancient Warfare podcasts.

Living in Queensland, Australia, Paul's emails were often waiting for me in the morning. To be honest, those didn't always go down well before my first coffee. Paul was truly passionate about ancient military history and that was expressed in both his criticism and his praise. He'd tease, cajole, and encourage me to make Ancient Warfare into what he thought it ought to be. That didn't always mesh with my ideas, or what I thought was doable and possible. Somehow, however, we always managed to straighten things out when strong minds collided, probably due to the quirky end to his sign-off that always ended in "...from sunny Brisbane" (it never seemed to be bad weather there).

Paul will live on in the already published issues of Ancient Warfare as well as in one or two more issues for which he'd already submitted content. I'll miss him going forward and I wish his loved ones strength and courage in the time to come.

6 thoughts on “Dis Manibus - Paul McDonnell-Staff”

  • Víctor

    Sit tibi terra levis, Paul.

  • Larry Mager

    What sad news this is: Paul was a star in the Ancient Warfare firmament. I hope this wasn't due to the Covid-19 virus. I always looked forward to any article that He wrote because I knew that He would combine the best of scholarship and an entertaining style of writing. Jaqui and my prayers are with Paul's family. May they, like us all, be comforted by our memories of Paul. Sincerely,
    Larry and Jaqui Mager

  • Michael Park

    I'd wondered why getting hold of him was so difficult recently. I won't go into the nature of his illness but it always amazed me how much he wrote (and emailed) given it. As with you Jasper, the "Old Man" (we traded in nick names over email) and I ("Bertie Old Thing") didn't always agree and occasionally these disagreements were long and passionate. That, though, never spoiled a relationship which advanced both our understanding of ancient warfare. More recently we tended far more to agree on much - including the poor state of politics in Australia - a function of age?! I likely still have those long email trees saved somewhere. I recall phoning him one time to find out if he was still corporeal due to missing a deadline. The "Old Man" was quite taken aback noting that clearly he was for, if not, the whole world would.... and we pushed Demades' stinging line no further.

    I will miss the Old Man as will the boards of RAT and Pothos. Farewell old friend.

  • Paul Bardunias
    Paul Bardunias March 27, 2020 at 1:59 am

    He and I fought like brothers on the old chat boards, sometimes in accord, but just as often in conflict. Many whithered under the bite of his words and often insurmountable logic. In a very real sense he made me a historian from a hobbyist. Many of us of a certain age came to ancient war through Warry's book, but few know how much of that was Paul. In recent years he fought through a truly debilitating condition to keep teaching. I salute him.

  • Mia McDonnell-Staff
    Mia McDonnell-Staff July 6, 2020 at 5:54 am

    Thank you for your kind words about Paul. It is amazing how much we miss talking and listening to him. We are endeavouring to ensure that his books, research notes and historical memorabilia find a suitable home, a huge task as he had thousands of books.

    Paul also had a great interest in World War II aircraft and his exceptionally executed models and works will live on in the Redlands Museum in Cleveland.

    Paul also enjoyed war games and his armies, including complete 7 Year's War Minatures which he lovingly painted over the years and finished complete with banners and flags in such great detail are yet to find a worthy home but we are working on it.

    Again thank you everyone, it fills our hearts to see how loved and respected he was by all. Mia, Ross and Rory

  • Ross McDonnell-Staff
    Ross McDonnell-Staff July 6, 2020 at 6:07 am

    The study of history in general, and ancient warfare in particular was my Dad's passion in life.

    The opportunity to work (and argue...) with all of you meant the world to him, there is truly nothing that he would have rather spent his life doing.

    He was very glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the magazine. He took a lot of pride in his work, and would spend days meticulously researching each of his articles.

    Thank you all for your kind words, and for working with him these many years. It really was his greatest happiness.

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