Development & Alumni Relations Office 


Michel de Dadelsen, BA (died 1 June 2019, aged 69)

Obituary provided by Nicholas Anderson

Michel de Dadelsen, a well-known and much respected member of the London branch of the Queen’s Association, died suddenly on 1 June 2019 following a brain haemorrhage at the age of 69.


Michel Francois Nicolas de Dadelsen was born in Paris on 9 September 1949, the son of Jean-Paul de Dadelsen, a French Protestant journalist, broadcaster and poet from Alsace-Lorraine, and Ann Heffernan, an actress who was the daughter of a Royal Navy surgeon from County Tipperary. Michel moved to London with his mother when he was still an infant and received his education at the French Lycée in London and Ratcliffe College, a Catholic boarding school in Leicestershire.


It was his mother’s theatrical connections with the then Chancellor of Queen’s, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, which was the primary motivating factor behind his choice of Belfast for his undergraduate studies. Arriving at Queen’s in October 1970 after a year spent in Vienna perfecting his German, Michel quickly became a popular and instantly recognisable figure on campus with his dark good looks, trademark moustache and infectious laugh. Although a native speaker of two languages and fluent in a third (he later additionally acquired an excellent knowledge of Dutch), he chose not to study for an Honours degree but graduated in 1973 with an Ordinary degree in French and German with Scholastic Philosophy as a minor subject.


After graduation, he returned to Austria to enrol at the University of Vienna for an academic year but decided the UK was the best place to seek more permanent employment.


He initially sought work which provided an outlet for his linguistic skills and his cultural interests (eg arts administration), but this goal largely eluded him for the first twenty years of his career after graduation. He passed various professional accountancy examinations and spent many years as a number cruncher, including spells at the Prices and Incomes Commission and Cable & Wireless prior to privatisation.


Following the breakdown of his marriage in the late 1980s, he moved to the Netherlands where he worked for several years as office manager for the CTA, an EU-funded body that promotes agricultural and rural development in the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries. Returning to the UK in the late 1990s, he spent the remainder of his career before retiring in 2014 as a translator/editor of French, German and Dutch business articles for Precise Media Monitoring in London.


As the product of a ‘mixed’ marriage in terms of both religion and language, Michel was firmly opposed to all forms of bigotry and intolerance. He loved to visit France, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, as well as relatives and old friends in County Tipperary, Belfast, Scotland and further afield in Poland. Fond as he was of all these countries and of the UK as a whole, he was equally aware of the individual foibles of each nation. Best described therefore as a pan-European, he was an early enthusiast in the early 1970s for the UK’s accession to the EEC and paid a study visit to Berlin whilst an undergraduate at Queen’s through the auspices of the European Movement. He was correspondingly disappointed and frustrated by the outcome of the 2016 referendum.


Outside his busy professional life, Michel was a keen tennis player to the very end of his life and was also an active and enthusiastic member of several amateur dramatic and choral societies. Earlier on, he had also been a fine pianist, practising for hours on the grand piano at the Queen’s Elms Halls of Residence.


His marriage to Christine (née Swayne) ended in divorce in 1989 but characteristically he remained on good terms with her in Ireland and with other members of her family. There were no children from the marriage. He is survived by two half-sisters from his father’s previous marriage and three cousins in Ireland. A regular attender of the annual London dinners, he will also be sorely missed by the Queen’s community in London and by his many friends across Europe.


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