William Theodore Roy (emeritus professor at the University of Waikato), service No 421758, captain, Gurkha Brigade, died at Waikato Hospital on 19 December 2013. Born in Lucknow, India, Theo was the son of an Indian professor of English. His mother, a New Zealander from a South Island family, was a CMS missionary. He first went to school in the Himalayan foothills, where he stayed with his Cornish grandmother. In the winter he joined his parents in Lucknow. When his parents went for two years to England, Theo, at the age of nine, stayed with Seyed Rashid Ali Abbasi, Taluqadar (feudal lord) of Karori. It was here that Theo received a thorough education in Islam.
His formal education was undertaken at La Martiniere Military Academy in Lucknow. This was followed by the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun, after which he was commissioned in the Indian Army. Joining the 3/3 Gurkha Rifles, he was involved, at the age of eighteen, in the Burma Campaign, serving as a platoon and later company commander. He was the only one of his siblings to survive the war.
After 1945 Theo went to Lucknow University and after graduation he joined the Indian Civil Service. When his father died in 1950, Theo's mother decided to return to New Zealand and Theo enrolled for a masters degree in Indian languages at the University of Auckland. After graduation he joined the Adult Education Department of the University of Auckland and became a lecturer in history. Theo's course on comparative religion was famous in Auckland. His mother had taught him the Bible and he could quote whole pages by heart. His considerable knowledge of Islam and Judaism attracted many supporters from these communities in Auckland to his course.
In 1961 Theo was appointed as a lecturer in history in the Waikato branch of the University of Auckland, which in 1963 was to become the University of Waikato. In 1970 he was appointed professor of politics and he remained departmental chairperson until he retired in 1987. In 1974 Theo and I established the NZIIA's Hamilton branch, with Theo becoming its first president. From that year on the branch convened between twelve to fourteen lectures each year. These lectures were attended not only by students and academic staff but also by many members of the Waikato community. Theo himself was a popular lecturer in the community and never turned down an invitation to speak. He was one of the most colourful characters at the university. His students simply...