Dr R.C. Reid


Appreciations of R.C. REID

From TDGNHAS Series III, Vol. XL, pp.9–12

The Society and archaeological and historical research generally has suffered a great loss by the death of Dr R. C. Reid, to whom this centenary volume [Series III, Vol. XL] is dedicated. A few appreciations by leading workers who knew and were stimulated by him follow: the writer himself, who worked intimately with Dr Reid for some 16 years, and saw the immense breadth of his interests and activities, as well as the warm humanity of the man (Dr Reid had a share in his appointment to the Museum and assisted him in every way throughout) is only beginning to feel the void left by his passing. — Ed. [A E Truckell]

From R.B.K. STEVENSON, Esq., M.A., F.S.A., F.M.A.
Keeper of the National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh

To have known R. C. Reid was to be drawn into his schemes by a stimulating mixture of cajolery and bullying, schemes of wide value though focused by local patriotism. Two most fruitful ideas of his began to take shape early in the 17 years I can speak of at first hand. One was to enlist experts from the outside to try to solve the archaeological and historical problems of St. Ninian and Whithorn, which led to Mr Ralegh Radford's work there (and then later in other parts of Scotland), and to the Society's Ninian volume and further echoes not yet ended. The other was to bring the four Scottish Universities to sponsor a joint scheme by which students were helped to get experience and training in excavation. For many years one of the mainstays of this was Mr John Clark's excavation at Milton. Then when last year a more ambitious - systematic and - expensive stage was inaugurated by concentrating on a single training site for a number of years, it must have given Mr Reid particular pleasure that that site is Birrens. One failure may be mentioned - to tackle Burnswark on an adequate scale proved impossible, and rightly nothing else would do. For the rest the pages of the Transactions show his success in producing archaeologists as well as fellow historians, but they give no glimpse of the irresistible warmth and courage to which the ovation at the Centenary meeting was our public tribute.

From C.A. RALEGH RADFORD, Esq., M.A., F.S.A.

It is sad to think that Dr Reid, who so largely inspired the planning of this Centenary Volume, has not lived to see its publication. The Centenary Meeting of the Society, the proceedings of which this volume incorporates, was the occasion of his last public appearance and the papers presented at that meeting represented the summary and culmination of a whole series of investigations which he had undertaken and encouraged. R.C. Reid, as he was known to all, was a Dumfriesshire man with a cousinage extending over the whole of that county and of Galloway. On his return to his native Mouswald he devoted a large part of a full and active life to the study of the local history and antiquities of the south-west. Others have written of his public life and his researches in various fields. My own memories date from 1948 and are concerned with medieval and Christian antiquities. At Whithorn, which first brought us together, the 'hunch' which led him to seek my co-operation was richly rewarded by the discovery of Candida Casa, the oratory within which St. Ninian lay, a result which neither of us would have dared to forecast when the first sod was turned. Whithorn, Chapel Finnian, Hoddom and Unthank - I name only the more important - represent a series of investigations planned by Reid and executed for his Society by myself. It is a series that would do credit to any learned body; nowhere else have I had the same possibility of carrying through so extensive a planned programme designed to illustrate comprehensively one whole field of regional study. I must be excused if I have spoken of our collaboration; it is his activity that I know most fully and can best appreciate. But it does not stand alone. He had already worked in a cognate field with W. G. Collingwood recording the early Christian crosses and sculptures of the three counties. Reid's own chosen subject was the preservation and publishing of charters and local records, including genealogical studies. Wigtownshire Charters, in the Transactions of the Scottish History Society, of which he was President in 1953, is the most comprehensive and systematic of his publications, but there is scarcely a volume of the Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Society in the last fifty years which does not contain an article or a note illustrating the history of some place in the south-west and of the families connected with it.

No one who was associated, however fleetingly, with these researches will forget the man who inspired them. His enthusiasm was infectious; in spite of the lameness, which handicapped him throughout life, his energy was untiring. He spared neither himself nor his companions in his determination to bring the work in hand to a successful conclusion. When the result was achieved he was always generous in his appreciation of the contribution of his colleagues and many scholars will remember with gratitude the help and encouragement given at the beginning of their careers, not least in providing the space in the Society's Transactions for the publication of their researches. He was a charming companion and the expeditions which he led in the pursuit of knowled ge were always enlivened and smoothed by his wit and his courtesy.


In the last twenty-five years our knowledge of Roman activities in S.W Scotland has grown beyond all anticipation. No small part of the credit for this is due to Dr R.C. Reid. He himself may not have discovered or excavated any Roman sites, but by his stimulating enthusiasm he inspired others to do so, and by his unfailing helpfulness he made it possible for their projects in the field to be carried to fruition . He was the cause of discovery and excavation in others.

Romano-British archaeologists who enjoyed (literally) Dr Reid's co-operation in S.W. Scotland included Mr John Clarke, so recently lost to us, Professor Eric Birley, Professor Ian Richmond, Dr I. K . St. Joseph, Mr C. Daniels and myself. I know I speak for the others when I say that even more welcome than Dr Reid's every-ready practical assistance was Dr Reid himself: His visits to excavations, latterly made under a severe physical strain courageously borne, were eagerly awaited and always rewarding. His insight and his understanding of archaeological problems made him a most sympathetic and clear-thinking adviser.

One of the many schemes close to Dr Reid's heart was the establishment of a semi-per manent Training School in Field Archaeology under the auspices of the four Scottish Universities at the Roman site of Birrens, Dumfriesshire. The School began its first season in 1962, but by then Dr Reid was physically unable to visit it. He (and Mrs Reid ) were, however, kept informed of its progress and of plans for its future development. It is good to remember that he played a part in a scheme which, among its other results, seems likely to ensure a steady flow of young excavators eager to work in Dr Reid's beloved S.W. Scotland.

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