It is with great sadness that we report Paul’s death. Paul was a highly skilled professional accountant, a talented scholar, and finally an accomplished and qualified nurse. He also had a sharp wit that could reduce a room full of people to tears of laughter.
Paul was born a Yorkshire lad on 8th June 1956 in Doncaster Hospital to Stan and Beryl Bircher. After spending his first six years in the UK with his younger sister, Christine, his family moved to Kenya which was home for much of the next 16 years. His brother Andrew was born in Nairobi.
Paul won a scholarship to board at Repton. On leaving, he considered going into social work, but finally chose accounting. He went on to gain a first class honours degree in Accounting and Finance at Manchester University, followed by an MA. He started his working life at Arthur Young McClelland Moore in 1979, where he qualified as a chartered accountant and was a rising young star for five years.
Academic life then called him back. He studied for a Ph.D, which he gained in 1989 under the watchful eye of Anthony Hopwood. From 1986 to 1989, Paul was a Lecturer in Accounting and Finance at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Subsequently, he became a Visiting Assistant Professor at the London Business School, where he had started his doctoral studies, and later he was appointed as a Senior Visiting Fellow at LSE.
His thesis was titled: ‘From the Companies Act of 1929 to the Companies Act of 1948’. This was a meticulous historical study of the changes in law and accounting practice during this period, culminating in the 1948 legislation. Such work is highly challenging, and contributes greatly to our understanding of how accounting changes, and what influences such changes. The work coming out of this study remains a reference point in the literature today. The thesis was subsequently published as a book. In the meantime, from 1994 to 2000 he worked again for the newly merged Ernst & Young.
In 1998, Paul married Janette in Paris. In 2000, he moved to Croissy-sur-Seine, just outside Paris, with step-son Theo and Janette. He returned briefly to an accountancy post in Paris, and continued his passion for walking. It was in fact one such walk – a pilgrimage from Dieppe to Santiago de Compostela – that led him to change the direction of his life fundamentally. When he returned from this journey in 2004, he started a physiotherapy course. He then went into nursing, which was to be his last and final passion. He qualified as a nurse in 2009, and knew that being a ward nurse was not for him. He went straight to the trauma area, and worked in one of the busiest A&E departments in the UK at North Middlesex Hospital. Through his nursing and volunteering with St Johns Ambulance, he was able to give vent to his kind, generous and caring nature.
Paul set off for one more pilgrimage in September 2011, a journey he was sadly not to complete.
He is survived by his wife Janette, his stepson Theo, his mother Beryl and stepfather Archie, his brother Andrew and sister Christine. He also leaves behind many close friends and colleagues whose lives he touched and enriched. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.
Professor Peter Miller