Warm memories of Dr Ian Adamson, historian, physician and politician

Dr Ian Adamson, at Belfast City Hall in 2011. In the 1990s he was lord mayor
Dr Ian Adamson, at Belfast City Hall in 2011. In the 1990s he was lord mayor

In the year 2000 I first met Dr Ian Adamson, at his medical travel clinic in Belfast.

I had been taking a year out and was passing through Northern Ireland from South America, with plans to head to the far East, and so I got vaccinations from his part-time clinic. In the 1990s, when Dr Adamson was lord mayor of Belfast, I lived in London and so was only loosely aware of his political career.

I never travelled east, because I got journalism work here. The following year, 2001, as a reporter at the Belfast Telegraph, I began to get to know Dr Adamson when I phoned him about historical stories, often on CS Lewis and controversies around development plans at the writer’s old Belfast home and a building linked to him, Red Hall.

After leaving the Telegraph, and travelling abroad again, I got malaria in Mali in late 2006. I emailed Dr Adamson for advice, and even phoned him when I began to fear I might have the (usually fatal) cerebral strain of the disease. I didn’t, and he was kind and reassuring.

Many times since I spoke to him for stories about Ulster history or politics. He told me about the history of my surname, as he did many other people about their names.

He was, certainly on the surface, philosophical and dignified after his career as an Ulster Unionist MLA ended in surprise deselection.

In the last year or two, he often on social media described the News Letter as part of the ‘pro republican media,’ yet still wrote us letters for publication and was friendly when phoned for a quote, so I wondered if his ridiculous, baffling criticisms of us were a sign of age or illness.

I have warm and vivid memories of him, at events such as our 275th News Letter anniversary reception in 2012 and the centenary of the Somme at the Ulster Tower, Thiepval in 2016, where he chatted away to me about the history of that appalling July day in 1916.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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