A Vivid Man

‘As a man Hugh was a wholly delightful companion. He was extremely lively and talkative, full of ideas and genuinely interested in everything that his friends were doing. He liked arguing for its own sake, but was never quarrelsome. He was the kind of person who, when he came into a room, always appeared to make everybody feel more alive. In fact he was the most vivid person I have ever met.

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Hugh Alexander in 1939

Hugh was entirely natural and spontaneous. He was the most open of men, and said exactly what he thought without beating about the bush. There was never any sense of strain, because you always knew where you stood with him. He viewed himself with the same dispassion as he did others, and was his own sternest critic. If anything went wrong in his life, or if he made an error of judgment, he was always ready to admit – not always rightly – that he was to blame. He was never sorry for himself, even when he was ill; nor did he expect others to be sorry for him; neither did he encourage others to be sorry for themselves.

Hugh AlexanderHugh himself used to say that he did not particularly care for people, did not particularly mind when they were not there, and could get on perfectly well without them. The first statement was manifestly true, but it may well be that he was more interested in ideas than people; and he was certainly far from being a sentimentalist. There was plenty of Irish toughness about him, and his realistic attitude to life sometimes bordered on ruthlessness. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, he was a true and staunch friend in good times and in bad. He had a particular gift for putting himself on terms with the young, with whom he talked as though they were his contemporaries. to my son, when he was at school in Cheltenham, he showed particular kindness, but to all of the children he was always ready with practical help and encouragement. There are not many of one’s friends, however fond of them one may be, of whom it can be said that one is invariably glad to see them arrive, sorry to see them go, and looks forward eagerly to seeing again. I am sure all Hugh’s friends felt the same about him.’

Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, ‘C.H.O.’D. Alexander – A Personal Memoir’ in Harry Golombek and William Hartston, The best games of C.H.O.’D. Alexander (Oxford University Press, 1976), p.9

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Hugh Alexander (played by Matthew Goode) features in the movie The Imitation Game released in the UK this week.

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Matthew Goode


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