In Memoriam: Alyson J.K. Bailes

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Alyson Bailes, Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Iceland (UI), in the Scottish Borders on Friday 29th of April.

Alyson was born in Manchester on the 6th of April 1949. She spent most of her career as a British diplomat and served as Ambassador to Finland in 2000-2002. From 2002-2007 she was Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI. Since then Alyson taught at the University of Iceland and the College of Europe in Bruges.

Alyson served on the board of the Institute of International Affairs (IIA) at the University of Iceland for many years, including two years as Chair of the Board. She was an integral part of the IIA during her time in Iceland and her tireless efforts combined with her experience and expertise were invaluable to the institute. 

Alyson was an extraordinary woman. I first met Alyson in 2004 when she visited Iceland and gave a talk at the University. She told me over dinner that her dream was to retire in Iceland and teach part time at our Faculty. I was so impressed by her lecture and her ideas about teaching and research that I offered her to join us in the Faculty before dinner was over without having any authority to do so! Three years later, she had ‘retired’ (before planned) and was working full time in our Faculty as Visiting Professor.

We worked together for 10 years, shared the same enthusiasm for small state studies, wrote several articles together and went on a lecture tour in Scotland. I have profound memories of the tour. We presented a paper on Scotland as an independent small state. Alyson was at her best in the lecture hall and the audience was always impressed by her knowledge and performance. She was a great public speaker. She was very pleased with the fact that both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps used our paper to provide evidence for their cause.

I learned a lot from working with Alyson. I always felt that I learned something new every time we spoke – even though we only exchanged a few words in the Faculty’s hallway.

She was a remarkable teacher and always willing to assist her students and young researchers. She helped many of our students to find a suitable carrier after graduation. She leaves a profound mark on our small society in Iceland.

Alyson was not only an outstanding scholar and diplomat (she served in the British Foreign Service for 30 years). She was a fan of heavy metal music and movies and sang in many choruses. Her favourite metal band was Týr, a Faroese metal band. It was fascinating to discuss all these topics with her.

The funeral is to be at the Borders Crematorium near Melrose on Monday 9th May at 1pm. However there is to be a Memorial service in Iceland and England at a later date.

Alyson was a dear family friend

We miss her very much
Baldur Þórhallsson