Ian Hamilton died of cancer on 27 December 2001, aged 63. It was a death that the 'LRB' has especial cause to lament. He was a great support to this paper, helping to get it going in 1979, serving ever since on its editorial board, and above all contributing many exact, unsparing and funny pieces on poetry, on novels - and on football. He will be missed more than we can say.
Where shall we begin? How far back do you want to go? Why don't we go back to the Battle of Bannockburn?
No, not that far. Your schooling. Your birthplace.
King's Lynn. I was born in Norfolk.
Were both your parents Scottish?
And your father was an engineer?
Yes. A civil engineer, built sewers, I think.
- Which is a very Scottish thing to be doing.
No, being an engineer.
In King's Lynn where he had his job? This was 1938. He'd been working and living in Scotland, got married, then got a job. He was on short-term contracts when the war came. He moved to King's Lynn and had some job to do with airfield runways - which there were a lot of in East Anglia. He was also in the Royal Observer Corps. Well, he'd have been then about forty. He was born in 1900. I think I was about twelve when we moved to the North. After the war he was on short contracts all around the place and was rarely at home. Then - in 1951 - came this opportunity to get a longer contract in Darlington, County Durham. So he moved the whole family up there and proceeded to die less than a year later. So there we were in Darlington, not quite knowing why.
LRB 14 January 2002 | PDF Download