Sally McKeown on Inclusive Technology's popular and highly respected SEN adviser Jamie Munro
My most enduring memory of Jamie Munro, who died suddenly and unexpectedly on Christmas Day 2016, will be of seeing his rear end disappearing under table cloths.
We never worked for the same company but for more than 20 years we worked in tandem and he became one of my favourite 'go to' people for articles. In fact, the last time I spoke to him was about 10 days before he died when I wanted to pick his brains about a feature I was writing for Special World.
Became the UK face of Don Johnston software
We met in the 1990s, I think at Bett one year when he had just become the official UK face of Don Johnston software. I was the official face of dyslexia at the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET, later to be Becta), and I really liked the Don Johnston products which offered literacy support for people who struggled to express themselves through reading and writing.
I could see the benefits for those with dyslexia but there were other audiences too. I was working with the deaf community – both children and adults – and we trialled Co:Writer as part of a "Focus on Deaf" project with three colleges. We ran a conference at the Commonwealth Institute, opened by the MP Jack Ashley and filmed by the BBC's See Hear. Jamie ran one of the seminars introducing Co:Writer to a whole new British audience.
After that we worked together on ESOL courses run by Network Training and I discovered the Don Johnston Start to Finish books. As someone from an adult literacy background I hated 'baby' books and phonic schemes and here was a series that offered 'proper' books: The life of Rosa Parkes, Scandal in Bohemia and The Diary of Anne Frank. These conferences also offered a chance to see Jamie's amazing technical skills in action.
At that time events were often held in hotels that were punching above their weight. "Yes, we have internet," they'd say, "and of course we have a sound system and speakers." Jamie had an account at Maplins and when he wasn't refreshing the venue's antiquated systems he was crawling round on all fours making my technology work. Never flustered, never defeated, always non-judgmental, he performed miracles.
Inclusive Technology became the UK publisher for Don Johnston software titles in 2009 and Jamie moved over to become part of the consultancy and training team. I didn't see as much of him but we kept in touch via Facebook.
Known to teachers across the UK for his work with Inclusive
For many teachers, he became the face of Inclusive Technology as he travelled the length and breadth of the UK. Those of us connected to him on Facebook regularly enjoyed his View from my Bedroom Window, featuring some of the least attractive bits of Britain — the back end of race courses, bins and car parks.
It's a hard world being on the road so much but he treated the discomforts with good humour. Ten years ago, he nearly died at the toll booth on the M42 motorway. As he took off his seat belt to reach for his credit card, a car ran into the back of him propelling his vehicle through the barrier. He was airlifted to a hospital in Sutton Coldfield where he woke up among injured servicemen from Afghanistan. He downplayed the drama. "I thought I was an extra in Mash and thought I might end up with Klinger and not Houlihan," he quipped.
This year had not been a particularly happy one for Jamie. His faithful dog Sylvester died, but he and his wife Sue found Molly at a rescue home and he was introducing her to the delights of the local pubs. Just before Christmas he posted: "Well we've done our good deed for Christmas now. Found an old man flat out in the middle of the road so carried him back to his boat on the canal, got his generator going and got him comfy with his shopping. Which seem to consist of a bottle of vodka, but hey it's Christmas."
Three days later Jamie posted that he was suffering from chest pains and had been to see the doctor: "Heart fine, blood pressure great, seemed it's just indigestion." He died in the early hours of Christmas Day.
I will miss Jamie, his Liverpudlian humour and his humanity. His final Facebook post (above right) was a fitting finale.
Sal McKeown, is a freelance journalist covering disability, education and technology. She was CIPR Business Education Journalist of the year 2015
RIP Jamie Munro 1957-2016
Funeral at Lytham St Annes Crematorium (Regent Avenue, Lytham St Annes, Lancaster FY8 4AB) at 11.30am on January 17.
Followed by reception for family friends and colleagues at the Crofters Hotel (Garstang By-Pass Road, A6 Cabus, Garstang PR3 1PH).