Royhull-ium/The Roy Hull Chemical Society (R-HCS)

Yesterday, at the beautifully situated church of St. Saviour in Wildboarclough, we said our goodbyes to one of heterocyclic chemistry’s essential elements: Royhull-ium. He was a month short of 98 or 7 x 14. That these factors constitute the atomic number and atomic weight of Nitrogen would have been relished by Roy. What an enthusiast and what a great ambassador for chemistry and lifelong advocate for that of the heterocyclic persuasion!
Here’s a poem I wrote for Roy on the occasion of his 95th. birthday on 5th. October, 2014. I have (probably) taken liberties with the practicalities and intricate details of heterocyclic chemistry, but asked for the indulgence of Roy and anyone else who recognised or recognises this. Please don’t try these reactions at home!
Roy Hull of Heild End Farm, Wildboarclough,
b. 5th. October, 1919 / d. 6th. September, 2017

The Roy Hull Chemical Society (R-HCS)

When ICI seemed here to stay
from Frank Rose’ to McKillop’s day,
one man there is was never phased
by complex rings which left us dazed,
who rolled down lab coat sleeves with glee
when time came round for chemistry
of N, S, O heterocycles.
(Some routes used Fischers, others Michaels).

Roy Hull defined without a blink
each bond, substituent and link,
completely unambiguously,
spoke heterocyclic chemistry.
Safe behind protective glasses,
he squirted acids, bubbled gases,
problems foresaw and thus avoided.
Best strategy? That’s what Roy did.

So when he wished to synthesise
some arcane molecule, his eyes
lit up. He rubbed his gloves, reflected,
never once became dejected.
An imidazoquinoline?
Now which isomer did you mean?
“From pyridines I’ll make a start”
He was of course versed in the art.

He relished challenges like these
(though for him it was a breeze).
He’d prise apart those naphthalenes,
smash C-C bonds to smithereens,
insert an ‘N’, an ‘S’ or ‘O’.
Voila a cycle, hetero-.
Diels-Alder, Wittig, Hofmann, Prins?
Hey presto! Thenocoumarins.

Roy Hull, heterocyclotron,
it’s time to fire guns 21
to celebrate you’re 95
still on the ball, still have the drive:
in Heild End Farm in Wildboarclough,
the chemist who can’t get enough,
pied piperidinojethrotull,
the incomparable Roy Hull.

© Phil Poyser, Australia, 29th. September, 2014
PS Happy birthday, Roy. I have great memories of 1965 and my summer vacation training in Exploratory Chemistry with Paddy Mulholland and Bryan Haydock, of your visit to Reims and hearing la nomenclature heterocyclique rattled off en français and of course the years we overlapped at Alderley Park. I particularly treasure your final salvo (i.e Section Meeting) delivered eyeball to eyeball with Tom himself.




  1. STEPHEN JOSEPH · September 21, 2017

    Always a blessing to have your friends and family sing your praises before departing this world. You are/were a good friend to let him know you cared.

    Sent from my iPad



  2. mph26 · September 21, 2017

    Quite an accolade, or epitaph. Not everyone could work the nomenclature of heterocyclic compounds into a poem, and notwithstanding your disclaimer I didn’t see any blunders!


  3. Alan Horne · September 22, 2017

    This is great, Phil, even if I don’t understand the chemistry. And “…eyeball to eyeball with Tom himself” sounds like another poem!


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