Obituary: Ian Campbell
Ian Campbell, the Oban architect who was also known as the Birdman of Oban, had died at the age of 79.
IAN was born in Glenelg, at his grandmother’s house. He attended Glenelg Primary School and Mallaig High School, and completed his education at Plockton High.
As a young man, he had developed an interest in fashion, and he took up an apprenticeship with Mateusz Zajac, a Polish tailor who had escaped from Eastern Europe and set up business in Inverness. Zajac recognised that Ian could do more with his life than ‘sew on buttons’, and encouraged him to become an architect.
Ian took his advice and found a job in the drawing office of Inverness County Council while studying at night school. He passed into Robert Gordon’s Technical College, Aberdeen, and completed the sevenyear architecture course in five.
In 1962, his final year, he won the medal of the Aberdeen Society of Architects together with a bursary for a year’s study in America at Washington University in St Louis. There, in 1963, he took a master's degree in architecture and urban design.
Ian was excited by contemporary developments in American architecture, and, following graduation, he worked for two years in Santa Rosa, California.
Returning to Britain, he took a job with Frederick Gibberd, the consultant architect planner for the Harlow New Town Development Corporation, which commissioned some of Britain’s most distinguished modernist architects to design its public buildings.
But the north called and, after two years, he returned to Scotland. Initially, he planned to set up his own practice in Letterfearn, but was encouraged to take up a post with W G Crerar of Oban, becoming a partner in due course, where he remained for the rest of his career.
Ian made a considerable impact on the built environment of the Highlands and Islands. Among other things, he worked on hotels on Mull, Gigha, Inverness, Skye, Ullapool and Barra (which won a Europa Nostra award, the EU prize for cultural heritage); an oil terminal for Shell/ BP on Islay; factories for Caithness Glass in Caithness and for the Highlands and Islands Development Board in Campbeltown; the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Dunstaffnage; and private and social housing throughout the Highlands.
The project of which he was perhaps most proud was Our Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Stornoway, and for some years he was the architect for Catholic properties in the Outer Hebrides.
Ian was a quiet and reserved man, but had a wide range of friends. Among these was his next door neighbour, who had for many years fed the swans in Oban Bay. On his retirement, Ian became her apprentice and, following her death, he took up the role – from which he acquired the sobriquet ‘the Birdman of Oban’ – and even opened a bank account in the name of the swans.
Ian his survived by his brothers Donald and Eric, who live in Letterfearn, and his sisters Fiona and Jane, who live in Vancouver.