George Bull was liked and much respected by many at this college especially through his life-long involvement with the Chesterton Institute. I am very glad that, a month or so before his untimely death, the Principal of the College, Mr Michael Blade, and I, together visited George and his dear wife Dido in their house in London, where we had a wonderful time and enjoyed the gifts of conversation, friendship, food and drinks. It was a memorable occasion as it was the last time that I saw George.
For me, true happiness, amongst others, is to have a great friend, to be able to mentor him, to observe him and learn from him, to be stretched and challenged by him and, above all, through him to reach out to the ultimate friend, the unconditional one, God himself, and to learn how to love Him.
Since the mid-1980s I have been that happy man. I found that friend and mentor and he instilled in me the true love of God. George had a magnetic personality, was disarming in his forthrightness and the simplicity of his manners, vast in the breadth and scope of his learning, and had a prodigiously retentive memory. His charming innocence, universal compassion and thirst for true knowledge mark him out as a teacher in the great traditions of religious and philosophical sages who embrace the one universal truth. He was – and still is – a giant among men, who truly deserves to be described as a "friend to mankind" a "Renaissance man" a "bridge of reconciliation between cultures".
George had a gift for friendship. He brought out the best in his friends. A conversation with him was not only very enjoyable and entertaining, but it also left you intellectually challenged and excited, with new questions in your mind, new books and articles to read, new friends to contact, topics to explore further and so on.
Who was George Bull? What kind of man was he? George was born in 1929 to working class parents in the East End of London. His father died when he was very young. His mother, who came from an Irish immigrant background, became the main support to the family. George was educated by the Society of Jesus, for whom he retained a life-long love and support. The Society took him to Wimbledon College and from there to Brasenose College, Oxford. While at Wimbledon, he started, and edited, a school magazine, called The Distributist, inspired by his devotion to G K Chesterton's ideas and writings. All his life he remained a true Chestertonian. His love of, and respect for, Catholicism meant much involvement with Catholic causes. He was director and trustee of The Tablet and The Universe; governor of Westminster Choir School, St Thomas More School and St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill. Moreover, for three years he chaired the International Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales. He also wrote Vatican Politics and Inside the Vatican.
His love of Catholicism in turn meant a special love for Italy, Italian Classics and civilisation. He was a biographer of, and the translator of many great books on the lives and works of, Michelangelo, Vasari, Cellini, Castiglione, Aretino and Pietro della Valle. Penguin Classics published these books and most were reprinted many times. For example, his translation of The Prince, by Machiavelli, has been in continuous print for the last forty years and has sold over one million copies. At the time of his death, he was well advanced on a book on the life and works of Dante. Other publications include a major study of the Renaissance as well as Venice: The Most Triumphant City, published by the Folio Society. He also wrote The Director, His Money and His Job and Industrial Relations: The Boadroom View. George was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL).
In 1986 he became the Director of the Anglo Japanese Economic Institute in London. This is when, and where, I met him first. He introduced me to Japan and to many Japanese friends, and facilitated some of my trips to Japan. We did many national and international conferences together, including: Japan and the UK Economy, Forgiveness and Reconciliation, NAFTA and the EU, Japan and the Global Economy, Iran and the Emerging Global Order and the Ambassador's Lecture Series; resulting in many publications.
George, amongst other publications and journals, established and edited International Minds to bring together psychological and political aspects of international affairs. I was very honoured when he invited me to join the journal as an advisor on the relationship between economics, politics and business with ethics and morality as well as on interfaith dialogue. He was also most helpful in focusing my mind on my forthcoming book Market Economy, Free Trade and Globalisation: A Common Good Approach.
In recognition of his achievements, in 1990, he was appointed OBE and, in 1999, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory. In the same year he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese Emperor. Now that I have introduced George to you and explained his intellectual and scholastic impact upon me, I would like to share with you the way in which he influenced my love of God, leading to my attainment of happiness. George taught me much about what is good in Catholicism, its deep and constant respect for justice, equality, love, solidarity and common good, as well as the Church's love and care for the disadvantaged, marginalised and excluded. I learned from him about true Catholicism and its respect for others, its ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue. He introduced me to Vatican Council II, especially the section on Nostra Aetate. He encouraged me to read The Tablet, which I have done. He taught me that by respecting and valuing others I would start to respect and value myself more fully. He taught me to love and enjoy the world, with all its wonders of diversity and beauty. We also, on many different occasions, had the opportunity to share with each other our love of and interest in old civilisations and cultures, particularly Japan and Persia. I cannot be thankful and grateful enough to him. He was instrumental in directing my thoughts on the current project at Plater College, Oxford that we were both involved with. As I am sure this is what he wants now, I will redouble my efforts to ensure that his dream will materialise, as a fitting tribute to his life and work.
I can only say that I have lost my greatest friend and mentor. I will never forget his loving smile, warm words and positive attitudes towards me. I am praying in my own way for my friend George and I ask The Almighty to ensure George's continuous love for me to inspire me for what I do and what I am. God grant George eternal rest; he was, in the old idiom, a lovely man, who if required may still be a peacemaker in heaven.