Obituary: Ian Smith

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The Independent Online
Ian Mervyn Smith, archaeologist: born Sheffield 13 October 1957; married 1985 Pamela Bell (one son, one daughter); died Canna 3 July 1994.

IAN SMITH had a full and distinguished archaeological career ahead of him, yet he had already packed the living of a whole life into the short time available to him. He died at the age of 36 as the result of a fall while out walking on the Hebridean island of Canna.

The range of Smith's interests and expertise is indicated by the fact that (in 1979-81) he conducted the excavation of the Iron Age settlement at the Dod, in Roxburghshire, in the Scottishborders, and (in 1979-83) was director of the survey of the site of one of the earliest monasteries in the Christian west, on the island of Lerins off the coast of Provence, in France.

Smith was born and brought up in Sheffield and studied archaeology at Durham University, where, supervised by Professor Rosemary Cramp, he wrote a thesis on the early historic settlement of the eastern Scottish borders, for which he received his doctorate in 1990. In 1983 he was appointed an archaeological investigator in the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Smith brought enthusiasm, energy and clarity to everything he did. He had the industry to collect information on a vast scale, the gift of organising it into an easily digestible form, and the entrepreneurial flair to see that it appeared in print. When asked to contribute a 3,000-word essay on the problems and opportunities associated with the history of the Church in southern Pictland, he produced a text of over 12,000 words. The editors had no difficulty in accepting this, both because everything in it was exactly to the point and because Smith had independently raised the funds necessary to cover the extra costs of publishing it.

He was a member of the Scottish Vernacular Buildings Group and the Scottish Archaeological Forum, as well as a member elect of the Council of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. As secretary of the Churches Committee of the Council for Scottish Archaeology, he displayed an ability to transform an agenda from one which represented a staid run-through of the committee's business to something which galvanised the members into focused discussion and decisive action. He was also able to combine his knowledge of churches with his expertise in computing, to help in the production of the committee's Inventory of the Scottish Church Heritage. His handling of the casework of the committee required his mixture of forcefulness and tact in raising cases of neglect, or worse, with those responsible for the church buildings of Scotland.

His involvement with the monuments was more than simply professional, and he had, in particular, an abiding fondness for the Priory Church of St Mary at Mount Carmel, across the Forth from his home in Fife. His family was the pivot of everything else: his wife Pamela and his two young children, Rachelle and Ronan, to whom he was devoted.

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