Graham Ritchie MA, MBA, PhD, FSA, FSAScot: 1942-2005

By Mercer, Roger | Antiquity, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Graham Ritchie MA, MBA, PhD, FSA, FSAScot: 1942-2005


Mercer, Roger, Antiquity


James Neil Graham Ritchie entered the world, as he left it, in Edinburgh, and the city always held a very special place in both his intellectual and physical affection. His father, William, was a Classical scholar of commanding presence, well over six foot in height; his mother, Ada, a diminutive lady of great vitality, who taught Scottish country dancing. It was in this good Scots tilth that Graham's linguistic abilities and historical sensitivity took root. A homebred familiarity with Caesar and Tacitus, combined with a deep love of Scotland, accompanied him to the University of Edinburgh in October 1960 to read English with 'Archaeology 1' as an outside subject, taught with characteristic idiosyncrasy, brio and challenge by Charles Thomas with contributions by Mary-Jane Mountain and Stuart Piggott. 1 can still sense the excitement that 'flared off' from that course and Graham had clearly felt the same--for that was the end of his degree in English! In 1962 he opted for Interhonours Fine Art (David Talbot-Rice in the driving seat), History (with Geoffrey Barrow batting for medieval Scotland) and, of course, Archaeology, with Stuart Piggott leading from the front in every aspect of European and Near Eastern prehistory from Byblos to Bylany and from Varna to Vix. Exciting times--and then in the magical fourth year a whole intact period to carry out the work of a 'Dissertation'. Graham, with his excellent French, chose to examine "Early Metallurgy in Languedoc'--a choice no doubt fuelled by familiarity with the enthusiast Piggott and the propagandist Caesar.

With the Edinburgh Honours degree came six weeks' fieldwork per year in order to obtain the crucial DP (Duly Performed) certificate. Graham worked with Charles Thomas at Gwithian during the last seasons there and on Ardwall Island off the coast of Galloway and at Wayland's Smithy, with Piggott and Atkinson, and in these locations he learnt the tools of his trade. Graduating with an excellent 2:1 degree, Graham proceeded to doctoral research on the whole range of 'Celtic' (how times have changed!) defensive armour in Iron Age Europe. Hehnets, shields, and body armour became the preoccupation of his life for a period and it was at this time that 1 met him first. I remember with gratitude his welcome to the Departmental 'Research Room' and his interest in my own distantly related researches into Bronze Age archery. Indeed Graham was always esteemed for the encouragement, thoughtfulness and kindness he was willing to extend to colleagues and, particularly, to younger members of the profession. His PhD was ultimately published (in a tightly compressed form-an admirable example set, but not often followed) in the three times reprinted little Shire volume 'Celtic Warriors', dedicated to Stuart Piggott and undertaken with the 'textual' input of his father.

In 1965 Anna Bachelier arrived in Edinburgh from Cardiff, where she had been taught by Richard Atkinson and Leslie Alcock, in order to 'expand her horizons' and to undertake PhD research on the settlement enclosures of Iron Age Britain. Before long Graham and she became friends, and to good effect, as they were married in 1968. Following the resignation of Dick Feachem, Graham joined the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and was immediately allocated to the ongoing survey of Argyll. It was always inherent ill Graham's character to wish to describe and order things meticulously-his hobbies and other interests demonstrate this. And rightly so: the recording, description and classification of artefacts, whether movable or immovable, remains at the heart of archaeology, despite the impression readily gained from some current writers, teachers and, indeed, practitioners, that this is a 'plinth-job', 'done and dusted', ready now for the 'foundation layer' of the breeze blocks (or 'wheeze-blocks' as Graham's occasionally wicked sense of humour would have had it) of 'interpretation'. …

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