Jim Dickie and Kate Pryde reflect on the life
of an important figure in Scottish social work – Ian Gilmour.
The Association of Directors of Social Work
lost one of its most distinguished members and past presidents with
the death of Ian Gilmour on 19 December at the age of 57.
Ian had been an outstanding figure in Scottish
social work, having established a major reputation in the field of
children and family policy and services in a career that spanned
the period between the Kilbrandon Report in the 1960s and the
present day. When he retired in 1999 he was acting director of
social work in Glasgow Council, the new single tier authority set
up by the reorganisation of local government in 1996.
Ian’s career had started as a trainee social
worker in Stirling Council in 1962, moving through Clackmannan
where he was assistant director, then to Falkirk as depute and
lately as acting director. It was while with Central Regional
Council, to which he moved in 1975 after local government
reorganisation as chief assistant director, that he achieved
prominence on the national scene. During his time in Strathclyde
Region as divisional director and latterly as depute director for
child care, Ian became heavily involved in the Association of
Directors of Social Work, which he served with distinction as
secretary and then as president.
Ian combined great professional and personal
integrity with a very strong commitment to the interests of social
work clients. His style reflected an uncompromising commitment to
the importance of detail, and those with whom he worked quickly
learned to understand this element of his approach.
Ian’s last two years were beset by ill-health.
He contracted oesophageal cancer and fought it with the character
and commitment which we had come to expect of him. Even while he
was pursuing his own struggle with the illness, he found time to
campaign on behalf of those who suffered from this form of the
disease, and also to contribute to the work of voluntary
organisations in the city, including service in key housing.
No account of Ian’s life and achievements
would be complete without acknowledging his interest in music, and
membership of the band the Moonbeats throughout his youth. His
musical skills and enthusiasm were frequently evident in a range of
It is particularly tragic that Ian’s
retirement was blighted by ill-health and hospitalisation. His
death denies social work in Scotland and the ADSW, the counsel and
contribution of a highly respected and accomplished professional.
His funeral on 28 December reflected the respect in which he was
held among former colleagues and friends, and provided an
opportunity for his life to be celebrated.
Ian is survived by his wife Ann, and his
– Ian Gilmour, former acting director of
social work, Glasgow Council and president of ADSW 1992; Born 12
February 1944 Died 19 December 2001.
Jim Dickie is director of social work
at North Lanarkshire and president of the ADSW.
Some years ago, when Ian was a deputy director in the former
Strathclyde Regional Council, some staff discovered that Ian had
played in a band. A photograph from a newspaper had been found and
there was Ian looking like a band member from the late 1960s. This
came as a shock to many, who had a very different image of their
senior manager! There was some disbelief but I could confirm that I
had seen the band perform.
Ian and I first became colleagues when I
joined Clackmannan social work department in 1973 as a main grade
worker. Kay Richards, the first director of Clackmannanshire, had
appointed Ian as one of her senior managers to take on the child
care agenda. She welcomed “his freshness and commitment, initiative
and enthusiasm as well as maturity and understanding”. Kay further
said that “Ian’s contribution to Clackmannanshire cannot be
over-emphasised. Brothers and sisters were re-united, families
involved in decision-making, the adoption service was radically
upgraded and the children’s hearing system worked well”.
Ian Ross was director when I joined the
department. We were optimistic, had sound professional standards
and did feel that we could “promote social welfare”. We worked
hard, but also knew how to enjoy ourselves. Parties, some
pre-arranged, some impromptu were the norm to which Ian always came
with his guitar. Ian and I both moved on to Central Regional
Council after local government reorganisation in 1975, then later
were colleagues in Strathclyde. Ian’s period of office as president
of ADSW overlapped with my being chairperson of BASW. I was
delighted when he attended “my” conference in Inverness.
I last saw Ian in September 2001 when he
arrived unannounced at my office. He knew that he was approaching a
critical period in his prognosis, but was being positive. He was
concerned, still, about social work and its future and we had the
last, of many discussions about a shared concern. CC
Kate Pryde is head of service (adult
provision), Falkirk Council.