Obituary: John Gifford, 66

John Gifford. Picture: contributed
John Gifford. Picture: contributed
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TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the leading champions of Scottish architecture who recently passed away.

John Gifford, 66, who had lived in the Capital for more than 40 years, was taken ill while visiting his brother on the Kinnordy Estate on June 13.

He is survived by David Bassett.

John was a great lover of Scotland’s history and its buildings remained a passion throughout his life, writing many books and contributing to numerous architectural magazines on the subject.

Born in London as his father was then working as an economist in the Foreign Office, the family often returned to Scotland and holidayed in Angus and on his grandfather’s farm at Pogbie, Humbie, East Lothian.

He read Modern History at New College, Oxford and carried out extensive research on Victorian restorations of English cathedrals. John then spent four years as an Inspector of Historic Buildings in the Scottish Office, during which time he published a book on East Lothian villages.

His grandfather was TJ Carlyle Gifford who founded Baillie Gifford & Co – the investment arm of the law firm of the same name.

John was also a devout Christian and worshipped daily at St Mary’s Cathedral in the Capital, and was also a member of the Edinburgh Diocesan Synod and of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Personal friend The Very Rev Canon Allan Maclean said: “Architecture, especially Scottish architecture, was John’s life. His knowledge was extensive and he was generous with his time and information to researchers and the young. He was much involved in ensuring the Episcopal Church preserved its buildings through Canon 35 which governs all alterations to its buildings.

“John was a modest and devout man who preserved a twinkle in the eye and was blessed with a fine sense of humour. He often said to me with a broad smile, ‘There is not a graveyard in Scotland that I have not visited.’”

John eventually took up the post of principal researcher and historian for The Buildings of Scotland series and was a major contributor to the online Dictionary of Scottish Architects.

He was appointed MBE in 2005 and was particularly honoured to be elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland in 2012.

Dr Aonghus Mackechnie of Historic Scotland said of his contribution to Scottish architectural history: “The Buildings of Scotland series was of a very high academic standard and John was meticulous in his research – unveiling many unknown facts. He had the ability and historical perspective to place Scottish architecture in a national context. John valued people on their own merit.”