It is awful to write that my publisher passed away on Saturday 9th December. He was not just my publisher but a great friend with so much in common from birds, butterflies and football. It all started back in 2011when I visited the Scottish Bird Fair where Ian had a stand. He had a great relationship with Scotland having worked for Scottish Natural Heritage based in several areas before joining Natural England at Peterborough .
My neighbour, Ashley was going to the fair so I managed to get a lift. It was a small event in those days and so we had plenty of time to look around. Ashley was a wildlife artist so Ian's stand was visited several times as his books were world known. I started talking about several things with Ian including football as I often show the colours of my team regardless of the event. Ian was a keen, no fanatical West Brom fan and it was not long before we were talking about the Geoff Astle goal that robbed us of the league and the invasion of the pitch as the goal was off side twice and the Leeds players had stopped play even though the ref waved play on! We had both been at that match but not as friends then!
At one meeting along with Ashley we discussed writing a book on Black Grouse with myself being the author and Ashley the artist and that is how we left the fair talking about the possibilities on the way home to Cumbria from Edinburgh.
After a few weeks I rang Ian to discuss things and popped the question about writing children's books. Ian had published 2 so far and wanted to get into this side of the book publishing knowing how important it was to get children started. I had written one while writing one of my other adult books based on Hadrian's Wildlife. This children's book was Kitty the Toon adding wildlife and football which we both loved.
Ian bit the bullet and 7 books down the line we have plenty for children to read. I presume the special one for Ian was Mavis the Song Thrush as it was based around his football team having a Song Thrush on their shirts and West Brom being a mis spelling of Broom and the whole area had been a heathland before being built on. Also the area is called the Black Country after its development of metal works and the anvil was used by man for working metal and the Song Thrush's stone anvil for smashing snail shells!
We even launched the book at the football ground in 2016 giving out books to the young fans as well as giving copies to the RSPB at their local reserve at Sandwell Valley. Sadly the RSPB refused to sell any of the books which Ian was very upset about. It is sad when politics gets in the way of education!
Of course it was not all about books but going out into the countryside to watch wildlife and it was great to see Angie, his wife, Ian and Mark his nephew and his wife when they popped up to see the breeding Bee-eaters in 2015 here at Brampton. Not only did they see these birds we went to Langholm where Ian used to work living in a caravan as a student working on Barn Owls. I had many a days out with Ian back in Lincolnshire and Norfolk looking at the many wildlife reserves and staying with him.
Ian was a very generous man giving lots of books away to raise money and promote many charities. He gave my son Ewan many books to gain money for protecting and research on Hen Harriers with a satellite tag presently on a bird ringed in Mull. It would be great to see a Hen Harrier named after Ian in 2018.
I may not have known Ian for as long as some people but I know he will be sadly missed
and hope Angie and Zoe, his daughter will be able to come to terms over this sad loss to their lives.