The Ian McGregor


Team Insights


Damien Ronan

NAA’s Christmas card appeal is in honour of the late Ian McGregor who sadly passed away in December 2020. This year, we'll be raising money for Diabetes UK.

Here, Damien reminisces about Ian as an archaeologist, colleague and friend.

‘Some of my earliest memories of Ian are from a little place called Whithorn, in Galloway, near where he used to live. He arrived on site as one of a small group of raw recruits with no archaeological knowledge but some anticipation of being able to dig big holes (….one of his happiest pursuits). His face fell when I handed him a pencil and planning board!

‘That was my first experience of the McGregor grumble in the form of muttered protestations of “I cannae f***in draw”. Fortunately, it was a research-and-training excavation, so we had the time available to teach people. With planning frames and grid paper, it was possible, with patience, encouragement (and a little bit of pressure) to overcome his fear of pens and paper. We broke the process into smaller and smaller squares and turned it into a join-the-dots type of plotting approach. As Ian got involved in the process, he forgot that he couldn’t do it and started to produce passable, albeit slightly shaky, site plans.

‘A couple of years later he had enough experience and confidence in his new-found professional skills to apply for other jobs. He ventured out into the wider world and continued his over 30 years of service to British archaeology. Throughout that time, Ian spread his own unique combination of dour Scottish good cheer and light-hearted grumpiness around the country, and to many corners of the world.

‘His first, and possibly last, commercial work was with NAA and I have fond memories of him with a half-smile and ever-present ciggie trowelling on his knees with his ankles crossed and his feet raised trying to protect the archaeology from his steel toecaps. He always meticulously excavated every mole and bunny hole, both ancient and modern, with equal consideration. This work was followed by a detailed hachured plan of every facet of each of those burrows … along with the archaeology of course. Typically, there would be a disembodied chunter emerging from a deep hole along with copious amounts of, mostly, well-aimed spoil, as Ian tested the carrying capacity of some poor wheelbarrow.

‘I hope he has gone on to a place where the caramel wafers are plentiful, pizzas grow on trees, there is interesting archaeology to dig and, of course, good things to photograph and music to appreciate.

‘It’s ironic how someone who tried so hard to be a stereotypical figure of the stoic, taciturn, gruff Scotsman utterly failed to hide his true good-hearted, generous nature to those that knew him and will miss him.

‘Rest (…unlikely knowing Ian) In Peace (…probably unlikely too, he did like a good argument!)’

To help raise money for Diabetes UK, please visit our justgiving page

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