Professor of English at Glasgow University and authority on Robert Browning. An appreciation

Born: January 16, 1925;

Died: January 11, 2018

PHILIP Drew, who has died aged 92, was an academic, teacher, writer and a former Professor of English at Glasgow recognised for his authoritative work on the poet Robert Browning. He was also a leading figure in the conservation of the architecture of the West End of Glasgow and helped pioneer the university's West End Lectures which are still drawing enthusiastic audiences today.

He was born in London in January 1925, the son of Arthur Drew and Ruby Ellisdon, but when his father died from pneumonia in 1938, Ruby was forced to keep the family on a single woman's earnings and took them to live over the sweet shop Arthur had opened in Peckham. Thirteen-year old Philip used to run home from school at 4pm to keep the shop till 9pm, completing his homework at the till.

Ironically, for him, evacuation during the Second World War may have come as a relief; in September he went with the school to Oxted – a bizarre location for an evacuated school, just a couple of miles from Biggin Hill, the RAF base responsible for guarding air approaches to London. He was befriended by a local resident, Bill Thorne, who took Philip into his family, and through frequent poetry evenings introduced him to many of the poets Philip came to admire.

Leaving school in 1943, having been elected to a King Charles scholarship at Pembroke College, Oxford to read Classics, Philip was instead called up to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He entered at 18 as a 5'9" midshipman. Over the next three years, serving on HMS Chiddingfold in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific, he grew to become Lieutenant Drew, and 6'4". His abiding memory of the war was of being hungry all the time (and struggling to find clothes to fit), but his reading continued unabated.

He was demobilised in 1946, by which point his Latin and Greek were too rusty to allow him to read classics. Luckily, Pembroke allowed him to change to English, and in October 1946, living (barely) on his scholarship of £100 a year, he went up to Oxford, where his lecturers included Tolkien and CS Lewis. In June 1949 he gained one of only eight First class degrees awarded.

It was perhaps surprising, given this strong academic performance, that Philip then joined the civil service. Entry was by competitive examination, and Philip had scored the top result in the country in 1949. He chose – for reasons that even he admitted were misguided – to join the Board of Trade as an assistant principal and spent the next excruciatingly boring year dealing with timber imports from Yugoslavia. "Very poor quality - the timber from the Balkans," he recollected. "Full of bullets." Fortunately, he met his former tutor tutor, Leonard Rice-Oxley in the street one day and confessed how bored he was. Rice-Oxley turned to his companion, Norman Davis, a war-time hero who was then teaching English at Glasgow University. "Norman, surely you can find room for Drew in Glasgow?" Norman could.

So in 1950, at the age of 25, Philip moved into digs in the West End of Glasgow, the area where he lived for the next 60 years.

Almost as soon as he started teaching, he met Lindsay McCormick, a student seven years his junior, and by 1952, when he was appointed lecturer, they were engaged, marrying just after the Coronation, on 30 June 1953. Philip was an affectionate father to their children Sarah, Kate and John and relished inventing bed-time stories. He created "The Toughest Town in the West" about the ineffective cowboys, Mean Moses and Spiteful Jake and their sagacious horses, Louisa and Persnickety, which later featured on Jackanory.

During this period, Philip wrote his first two books on Robert Browning. Philip's books were well-received and are still regarded as seminal critical works.

In 1977, Philip became an Emeritus Professor of English at Glasgow; this was a very busy time for him. Not only was he writing and teaching, but he was also much in demand as a diligent and supportive supervisor for students writing doctoral theses. He was on many departmental and university committees, where his calm good sense and thoroughness were greatly valued.

At the same time, he was writing his most important book, "The Meaning of Freedom", which uses the lens of English literature to consider whether man is governed by a pre-determined fate, or whether he has any genuine free will.

And who could forget his other writings such as his prize-winning 1976 Mars Bar competition limerick, which - to Lindsay's great glee - netted him a freezer? "Said my cabby, "Who needs perestroika?/Your average communist woiker/Would trade it all in/For a bottle of gin/And a goil in the back of a troika."

After taking early retirement from the university in 1984, he became one of the founding trustees of the Glasgow West Conservation Trust in 1990. Working with the trust's assistant director Gordon Urquhart, he also initiated the West End Lectures through the University of Glasgow's Department of Adult and Continuing Education. The first 10-week course was delivered in 1992.

His final illness was mercifully short. He was pre-deceased by Lindsay and is survived by his sister, his three children and seven grand-children.