Obituary: Alison Hillhouse, health campaigner, 76

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HEALTH campaigner Alison Janet Hillhouse has died in Edinburgh at the age of 76.

Alison Hillhouse played a leading part in changing public and personal attitudes to smoking and reducing its adverse effects on the health of the people of Scotland during her 20 years of work for Action and Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland.

Alison’s father, Barclay Fraser, was a schoolmaster and latterly a senior HMI. Soon after Alison’s birth he moved back to Edinburgh where Alison attended Mary Erskine School. After reading history at Oxford and work in the Foreign Office and the public Record Office she married Russell Hillhouse, a civil servant, and moved back to Edinburgh, where her two daughters were born.

In 1975, once the girls were settled at school, Alison looked around for a part-time job and found herself working as assistant to Eileen Crofton, the director of the fledgling ASH Scotland.

Alison took over as director in 1984 when Eileen retired, and served until 1995. Through Alison’s leadership, ASH Scotland grew from just two people working part-time to an organisation of 17 staff providing a range of services. It also became an independent organisation, though still part of the ASH UK family, which enabled it to work more effectively with Scottish institutions and media.

Alison played a crucial, pioneering role in raising the public’s and politicians’ awareness of the importance of taking action on smoking.

In 1984, the UK ASH Women and Smoking Group was established, which produced a series of ground-breaking expert reports on women and smoking issues.

In 1990 she became a founding member of the International Network of Women Against Tobacco, and played a key role in establishing INWAT Europe. She continued to be an active member long after she retired.

Scotland led Europe in developing community-based projects which used innovative approaches to help disadvantaged women quit smoking.

To all these activities Alison brought enthusiasm, vitality, intelligence, bright ideas, common-sense, wisdom and, above all, a wicked sense of humour and fun.

Alison’s life was always grounded in her warm extended family, and latterly she took great delight in watching the development of her much-loved grandchildren.

She was a supportive mother, an adventurous cook and a keen gardener, loved books and theatre and was prepared to support her husband’s enthusiasm for music. Her greatest passion was probably birdwatching, which led to many exciting foreign holidays.

Alison leaves behind her husband Russell, her brother Andrew, her daughters Catriona and Susie and her grandchildren Lewis, Sylvia, Magnus and Sandy.

Professor Amanda Amos