Dec 102015

Amidst the laughter and good fellowship there was always a thoughtful, committed teacher and historian who believed deeply in the importance of good history teaching.

‘Hello, Ian up there, it’s Ian down here.’

That reference to up (me in Yorkshire) and down (him in Kent) was our standard greeting, exchanged many times over the last thirty years.  Ian’s voice, ever enthusiastic, always seeming on the brink of laughter, told you much about the man.

I first met Ian about 30 years ago when I ran a CPD session in Kent for SHP. Other visits followed as Ian moved from being head of department to advisory teacher to being Kent’s History adviser. Sometime in the late 80s we struck up a rapport because I invited Ian to write a book on The Roman Empire for a KS3 series I edited for the first National Curriculum in 1991 – it still stands up as a good book (one of the first to feature enquiry questions). More importantly it gave Ian regular opportunities to point out to me that if he’d accepted the invitation from Heinemann to write for them instead of for me, he and Liz would have been able to retire 20 years earlier. The Heinemann book – not a patch on ours – came out first, was sold at a daft price and sold in shedloads. But, we agreed, we had created a much better book and never mind the sales.

Ian then wrote more material for John Murray and was one of the early contributors and originators of The National Archive’s Learning Curve website. For those of us involved with SHP however it will always be Ian’s role as an SHP Fellow that we’ll remember first. He was a regular contributor to the annual conferences from the beginning in 1989, providing workshops every year and once a Saturday evening session when he loaded up his car with every conceivable example of archaeological evidence he could lay his hands on and simply enthused to us all for well over an hour about archaeology which had been his first degree. And then there was the Guinness in the bar afterwards! The success of the SHP Conference has not just been in the quality of its workshops and plenaries but in the atmosphere, the sense of community, and Ian’s role in creating that sense of community was and long continued to be central to the conference’s success.

Ian presents Chris with an original Coulson cartoon

When Chris Culpin took over as SHP Director in 1996 and set up the advisory ‘Fellows’ group Ian was a natural choice. From then on, for a dozen years, eight of us met up on a Friday evening in the less than glamorous surroundings of the Yeadon Stoops Travel Inn ‘restaurant’ and caught up with each other’s news. The business meeting followed the next day but we’d created the atmosphere on Friday evenings – some of the happiest hours I’ve spent and the beginning of lasting ties for us all.

Ian’s part in the creation of that happiness was central. He gave us warmth, humour, spontaneity, good fellowship – he had an immensely generous spirit, always eager to push others forward, to sing the praises of others. He himself was a great communicator, conveying his enthusiasm and knowledge with ease, variety, humour, clarity, but for someone who may have appeared to outsiders to be full ‘only’ of boisterous bonhomie he had a deep vein of humility – nothing gave him more pleasure than seeing those he respected being successful.

Teachers who use this website, Thinkinghistory, are in Ian’s debt as it was a conversation with him that led to me setting up this site. Back in 2002 I was being badgered by the College of HE where I worked to apply for a Higher Education teaching award. At first I didn’t see the point as I didn’t envisage staying in HE much longer but a conversation with Ian changed my mind. He turned my thoughts to using the funding that came with the award to support trainee-teachers rather than focussing on something to do with teaching on the history degree course. And so the idea of building the application around ‘active learning’ and creating a website was born – and Thinkinghistory then gave me a new lease of professional life, I think by far the most valuable part of the work that I’ve done.

And while I built on Thinkinghistory Ian got on with his ‘bits and pieces’. Much on at the moment? ‘Oh, you know, the usual bits and pieces.’ The bits and pieces in any given week usually involved something like two or three visits to history departments, ‘the troops’, in Kent, running an inset day for primary teachers, too many hours bashing his head against the brick wall of council stupidity that was Kent’s specialism, an evening talk to a local history society on the archaeology of the area, chasing uo a chapter for the History of Kent from a recalcitrant academic, a hard pounding game of basketball at a seriously good standard well into his late 50s and, of course, time for Liz, Jack and Clare. Amidst all this Ian found the time to be a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, played a key part in the development of the multi-volume History of Kent published by the academic publishers, Boydell and Brewer, and was in recent years, President of the Kent Archaeological Society, one of the foremost county archaeological societies in the country. He also built up a vast store of resources for use by Kent history teachers from archaeological artefacts to historical journals. He believed that teachers should stay in touch with the latest publications and students should be shown and handle the evidence on which history is based.

Much of that activity was punctuated by Ian taking out his sketch pad or pack of postcards and working up a quick cartoon with snappy caption. Many’s the SHP meeting recorded more effectively by Ian’s running cartoon commentary than by my minutes – it was a happy gift that gave him and us great pleasure. I have no more treasured memento of my years in history teaching than the ‘biography’ Ian drew and captioned to mark my leaving SHP a few years ago.

Two minds with one thought: get on with the photograph, we’ve got archaeology to discuss! (Note the tea pot)

Amongst my trips to see Ian and Liz one visit stands out. About twelve years ago I spent a couple of days with them during the period when my wife, Pat, was having chemotherapy – one of the good weeks obviously when Pat packed me off to recharge my batteries. Ian took a couple of days off and we tramped the battlefield at Hastings, selected a spot from which to assault Bodiam castle, decided where we’d have deployed King John’s fat pigs at Rochester castle and went out of our way to find the tomb of Richard III’s supposed illegitimate son. At one point we pulled up in a small town so Ian could give me a brief lecture on the varieties of Kentish roof tiles – boy, did he know his stuff. And then, when I slumped off to bed, Ian headed for his study to do all the work he’d put aside to give me the break I needed.

I have no idea how to finish this. I think I just want to finish with two things. Firstly that the courage and sense of partnership shown by Ian and Liz since Ian was diagnosed with a brain tumour in June has been truly remarkable. And secondly that Ian’s great depths of generosity, energy, passion and joy in sharing his enthusiasms will always stay with me. His company has been a rare and happy pleasure.

From Ian up here to Ian down there,

Thank you

I feel there’s many other experiences shared and details I could have added. I do hope others will take the opportunities to add your appreciation of Ian by using the Comment column.

 Posted by at 1:03 pm

  39 Responses to “Ian Coulson: In Memoriam”

  1. Thanks Ian ‘up there’. This is a fitting tribute to a wonderful man.

    Can I add some tributes of my own to Ian ‘down here’.

    First to Ian as a writer. I was proud to publish ‘Medicine and Health through time’ by the two Ians – Coulson and Dawson – nearly 20 years ago, and it is a tribute to the Ians’ writing talents and teaching insight that the book – which we affectionately call The White Book – is still selling thousands of copies a year today. It has been copied by others but never bettered. A brilliant book by a brilliant team.

    Second to Ian as a tenacious battler. One of my earliest publishing ventures was, at Ian’s prompting, some Sourcebooks from the Public Record Office. There were massive obstacles to overcome, but Ian approached this task with typical commitment: finding authors, nurturing and encouraging them through the research and writing progress, never flagging in his enthusiasm despite this being only one of his many responsibilities. The resulting books helped start a process that led to the National Archives’ Learning Curve and the brilliant online resources they offer schools today.

    My final thank you is more personal. Some of you will recall the big shock we all felt in at John Murray when we got the news that after 234 years of independence our precious outfit had been sold to Hodder Headline back in 2002. I got good-will wishes from many people but Ian, in his inimitable way, arrived in my office, unannounced, carrying doughnuts, to find out how I was feeling about it all and to offer counsel. This was typically generous and caring from a man who always had time for others and encouraged and strengthened them with his enthusiasm and humour. But it was not only doughnuts. He then proceeded to offer me his house as well! ‘I think you need a break Jim. We are going to Florida next month to escape the Golden Jubillee’ he said and proceeded to hand over the keys to his precious Tudor farmhouse in Wye. ‘spend as long as you want there’. So I did.

    Thank you Ian. Your generous heart and infectious enthusiasm have blessed me and blessed many others too.

  2. I am currently working on various ‘bits and pieces’ (as Ian would have said) for the new GCSEs in history which will start in September 2016. The particular section I am working on at the moment is the compulsory local study which all GCSE history students will now take. As a fundamental mover and shaker in the development of SHP he wold be glad to know his influence lives on, knowing that thousands of kids will do local history units. In the course I have developed then they will all do units on castles, a decision I made not least because of many happy hours with Ian visiting and talking about castles and other historic sites in our various collaborations over the years. His work will also have a more direct influence in that many of the resources I am using will be pinching his ideas and will also be using documents from the National Archives. The opening up of the National Archives to teachers and students is just one more of Ian’s wonderful achievements and contributions over time.

    When you add in a bottomless well of good humour and empathy, a steely determination to battle unfairness in any form, a passion for motorcyles and an epic capacity for beer and good company you get a small measure of the admiration, respect and affection which he was held. It is deeply sad that he is gone but he his life is worthy of celebration.

  3. I would like to add another instance of Ian’s huge generosity, as well as the breadth of his interests.
    All four of us in the family have been thinking of Ian this week. Our younger son Ben was completing his archaeology degree in spring 2014 with a thesis on archaeology in the planning process. He was looking for case-studies beyond Somerset and I remembered several conversations I had had with Ian over a glass of something warming about planning issues in Wye, in which he was deeply involved. I made a tentative phone call and suddenly all of us were invited to Kent. Ian set up meetings for Ben with archaeologists, planners and archaeologist-planners and then we all had the extraordinary experience of staying at Yewtrees. That evening we all, but especially Ben, marvelled at Ian’s wonderful sketch-book record of their holiday in the Far East. We picked our way through the book-piles and left the next morning for Canterbury, where Ben had another fruitful meeting with Ian’s colleagues in the Kent Archaeology Trust. Meanwhile we were given the best possible tour of the city, its vernacular buildings and Coulson-interpreted history. Ian’s parting gift to Ben was a set of water-colour pens.

  4. When I was ill in the January of this year a card arrived from Ian. It contained few words but his beautifully drawn and humorous sketch of a Triumph motorcycle being ridden freely gave me a huge boost at exactly the right time. Quietly, Ian had realised what a fellow motorcyclist needed and had provided something special to great effect. This was typical of him. Countless pupils, students, teachers and teacher trainers have benefited from that finesse of touch backed by his human understanding and generosity of spirit. What a difference he has made to so many others over so many years.

    The gently spoken ‘kidda’, the razor-sharp advice and the twinkle in the eye enormously enhanced many an evening in the bar at SHP and elsewhere. Accompanying Dale, Russell and I on the ‘Lenin Historical Walk’ through London – a barely disguised pub crawl – Ian sat back and observed with wry humour and brilliant sketches his companions’ clumsy attempts to construct what could barely be dignified with the name ‘debates’ over a pint or two. I can still hear him chuckling as I write.
    Our community is immeasurably the poorer with the loss of this generous, warm hearted, considerate man whose immense talent was matched only by his great sense of fun. It was a privilege to have known him.

  5. Thank you Ian ‘up there’ for this fine and fitting tribute.

    At a history advisers’ conference in Canterbury in the late 1990s Ian ‘down there’ offered to take a bunch of us on a tour of the city’s wonderful medieval religious buildings. As he stood in front of a parish church his enthusiasm simply poured out. With deep knowledge and a lightness of touch, he somehow managed to make the stratigraphy of a medieval church tower the most fascinating thing in the world. Before we moved on from the church, Ian gave us all a very useful piece of advice for helping young children to understand the sequence of building in medieval parish churches: he held up his thumb – a Norman window, his little finger – an early English window, three fingers – a perpendicular window. I tried it with a primary class visiting a church in Somerset and it worked a treat. This tiny glimpse of Ian in action gives us the measure of his gifts as an educator – his generosity, scholarship, enthusiasm and lightness of touch. Anyone taught by him was very lucky indeed.

    Between 1998 and 2004 Ian served on the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Group on National Archives, as the ‘educational voice’ on the group. When his term of office came to an end he asked me if he could put my name forward as his successor. It was a kind and generous thought. Over the course of three years on the group I attended some fascinating meetings which determined the fate of recent released government documents in the light of the Freedom of Information Act. Before I started, Ian pointed out that several members of the group were members of the House of Lords and that he had often felt like the representative peasant from Kent. He thought that I’d have no trouble playing the same role from Somerset! I was reassured.

    Ian made an outstanding contribution the development of Schools History Project. In his ‘official’ roles as an SHP Fellow and Honorary Fellow he brought good sense and a clear focus on the things which really matter in history education. What often amazed me was Ian’s capacity to contribute so effectively to a discussion to to share an amusing cartoon with us all at the end. In his work as author of SHP resources, and as a conference presenter, Ian inspired so many teachers. His wise counsel, generosity and kindness will be much missed at SHP.

  6. I ran a workshop one year for Kent history teachers at Ian’s invitation. I can’t remember what it was about now but I can remember his generous hospitality at Yewtrees the night before, an astonishingly swift journey from his house across Kent to the conference next morning; and his kind gift of John Gillingham’s Richard the Lionheart which I read on the train back home to Dorset.

    It sits on my bookshelf still and will always remind me of committed historian.

  7. Although it was long foreshadowed, this is very sad news. What made Ian special for me was his boundless enthusiasm and the range and depth of his historical and archaeological knowledge and engagement. He was a great guy, and it seems so unfair that his life was cut short in this way.
    We won’t forget him…


  8. Very sad news. I sat down on a Saturday night at SHP in 2010 or 2011 with Ian and we spent the evening discussing working as a County Adviser. I was working as Hums Adviser in West Sussex at the time and was doing the same role in Kent. Ian was great company, gave me good advise and we had a thoroughly lovely beery evening. A warm, kind, generous fellow.

  9. I had the privilege of working with Ian on a number of cross curricular projects. I was working as an ICT Adviser for Kent CC and wanted to use video conferencing to engage pupils learning. I enlisted the help of Ian and Phil Bracegirdle on a Titanic project to mark 100 years since the Titanic sank. Ian played the part of Captain Rostron, the captain of the Carpathia and was interviewed by pupils from across Kent about the dreadful events of that night. Needless to say that we over ran with the sessions as the children wanted to ask so many questions as they were so inspired by Ian. A true gentlemen who brought history to life for so many and will be sadly missed.

  10. I first met Ian at Maidstone School for Boys as I had opted to take A level History and Ian was the new teacher. He was so young then that the caretaker told him off for walking in an area reserved only for teachers – which amused him greatly and the fact he told us, elevated him to legend status. His love of history was gifted to all by his enthusiasm for the subject. In addition, Ian encouraged me to pursue my enjoyment of basketball and he often came into the gym to play with us, as without this we would not be allowed to be there. I now coach the sport, but without Ian’s encouragement, hundreds of children would not have had the opportunity – the ripple effect that he caused. I met up with Ian when we both played in the Medway League (he played for Maidstone Jokers) and also caught up with him again when I worked at KCC and we went and had lunch together. I am deeply saddened by his passing, but am grateful that our paths crossed as mine was yet another enriched as a result.

  11. Reading these reflections has brought back many happy memories of time spent in Ian’s company.
    – 250 mile drives on a Friday night after work to Yeadon Stoops … time to catch up with friends and discuss the latest injuries that Ian and I had picked up trying to prolong our sporting careers (in my case veterans football, in Ian’s veterans basketball)
    – 15 SHP conferences where we would debate history … with the knowledgeable man from Kent frequently defeating the less well-read man from Suffolk
    – 10 ‘historic pubs’, all with a tenuous historical connections to Lenin, on an infamous London walk that later turned into a summer night stagger
    – 9 years working together as SHP Fellows, where Ian showed his passion for History education and an enormous commitment to supporting teachers across the country
    – 5 years of support, when Ian provided advice and inspiration as I struggled in the lonely job of a Humanities adviser
    – 2 History Conferences in Kent where Ian proved to a wise, witty and wonderful host
    – 1 wonderful human being who will be sorely missed by everyone who is lucky enough to have known him as a friend.

  12. I remember Ian’s thoughtful, incisive, generous contributions and absolute commitment to inclusiveness…as well as the wonderful cartoons.

  13. I was privileged to spend time with Ian at Fellows meetings and at conference and was always touched by his kindness, incredible knowledge on so many subjects and his commitment to the history teaching community. He would often say to me that the younger Fellows (myself, Donald and Jo) that we were the ones that should be talking instead of all the ‘old farts’, but we it was impossible not to listen and learn from great teachers like Ian. He will be sorely missed and so will his cartoons which illuminated every meeting.

  14. Very sad news indeed. I remember talking to Ian at my first every SHP and he was very generous with his time. I was struggling at my school (my first as an NQT and I was also Subject Leader) and he listened carefully and offered support. The tribute on the site is fitting and the comments from the ‘SHP gang’ reflect how much he was loved.

  15. I knew Ian too many years ago for comfort. This would be in the days of Paul Hastings as KEC inspector and Ian as an adviser. This is also when Eversley College at Folkestone played host to many lively conferences for History teachers. It was also the days of CSE and the championing of SHP by Henry Macintosh of the Southern Board for CSE. I became involved in the Examination world as a moderator for SHP for CSE when SREB and SEREB combined and for GCE in its various disguises and finally GCSE. I have fond memories spending time with Ian in various guises. I still have ball point pen he gave when I retired!

  16. I met Ian during my first year of teaching and got to know him really well over nearly 30 years. He was a fantastic help to my colleagues and me, his ideas enabling thousands of students to enjoy history. We always felt completely comfortable when he observed our lessons – very much as an adviser rather than an inspector. At conferences he would make us laugh with his catchphrases: “troops”, “bits and pieces”, “down in sunny Ramsgate”, “uncle [so and so]”; and not least his advice on what to do if the fire alarm should ring… When he came to help us design a new KS3 course he produced what looked like a silver telescope case from his bag, opened it and exclaimed: “Things always look better when you’ve had one of these”. Chocolate digestives. What a wonderful man!

  17. So sad to hear this news. Ian helped me to believe in what I was doing when I became a new head of department and inspired me to keep going when forces were against me. At least once a week I paraphrase him in class “ask the questions, find the clues ad explain the answer”. Also his use of illustration to explain a point is something that I continue to fail to deliver to his high standards!!

    In a world where so much INSET and advice is about how to be successful at playing the latest game Ian was someone who actually spoke about, with such passion and clarity, how to be successful at teaching and as such he will be sorely missed by not only the the History teachers of Kent but by their pupils.

    I will try my hardest to keep your spirit alive Ian but yours are big shoes, literally, to fill.

  18. Ian was one of my heroes.

    Our paths crossed many times in my 33 year career as a Primary School teacher and teacher trainer in Kent, starting with a 20 day course for non specialists and ending with us dancing to ‘Werewolves of London’ at a mutual friend’s 60th birthday bash!!

    Having children of the same age, we used to compare notes on their progress through the Biff and Chip reading scheme books. My thoughts are with Jack, Clare and of course Liz at this sad time.

    Despite all of the irritating meddlings in education from upon high over the years, Ian’s view of what constitutes good teaching and learning in schools didn’t waver. His belief in enquiry was at the core and he made our own learning on History courses an absolute joy…the cartoons, anecdotes and amazing subject knowledge (delivered with such a light touch) were his trademark. I could have listened to him for hours.

    Ian made the stressful world of teaching a pleasure, with his uncomplicated view of how changes could be made workable and his never ending enthusiasm and support. Through his teacher training, project work and writing, he has made the experiences of children learning History in Primary schools across Kent such a rich and unforgettable one, ‘make sure you mention poo’, in their search to be ‘sceptically informed’.

    When he presented our school one of the first PGQM awards, we enjoyed the shared joke of it being for Geography, or what he always used to refer to as the ‘colouring in’ department!

    Ian, you will be so sorely missed.

  19. I was very sad to hear about Ian, who I got to know well when I was teaching at Dover Grammar School for Girls between 2000 and 2005. More recently we met at Historical Association meetings in Canterbury.He was always positive, cheerful and deeply loved History. He was instrumental in promoting “An Historical Atlas of Kent”. He will be greatly missed.

  20. “Keep fighting the good fight” that is what Ian used to always say to us at the end of his AST meetings! I had attended one of his Archive meetings back in 1998 and realised then just how small I was as a history teacher compared to this giant called Ian Coulson. So how privileged I felt a couple of years later when I became a history AST and thus under his ‘control’ so to speak. Always a gentleman, always a great sense of humour and always a thirst and demand for us to teach ‘proper’ history. I hope I never let you down Ian and I hope I never will. Notwithstanding the luminary names on this site, I feel he was the best amongst us all.

  21. This is very sad news indeed. Although I have not known Ian as long as many other people who have posted their thoughts, I will always remember our first meeting. When he knew I was Ofsted’s National Lead for history, he took the opportunity to make sure I understood what was wrong and what needed to be done. All the time we talked he doodled a cartoon of a former secretary of state for education – I wish I had kept it!

    Ian was a formidable individual – passionate in his belief in the importance of history, determined to make history in schools better, and resolute to do something about it. He will be sorely missed and well remembered by those of us ‘down here’ or ‘up here’ if you live in the North.

  22. Very sad to have just heard the news. Ian was a real inspiration to me as a young history teacher over twenty years ago. I remember attending his teacher meetings at the History centre in Maidstone and coming away with so many fresh ideas and plans for exciting lessons. In the days before the internet his photo and document archive was an amazing resource to tap in to. No matter what topic you were teaching, he always seemed to have a book to lend to you or some useful ideas for how to make it exciting. I remember on one of his courses he took us out for a pub lunch in Maidstone and on the walk over there he kept stopping to point to out little historical details about a particular building or other but nobody seemed to mind because he just knew so much and could tell it so well. Ian always convinced me that teaching History was the most important job out there and he always made me chuckle whenever he referred to Geography as the ‘colouring in department’. A great educator and a really nice guy. Will be very sadly missed.

  23. Thanks to Ian Dawson for a wonderful tribute. Much of his experience I can echo having worked with Ian for many years. His ‘song and a dance’ will certainly be missed. As for the cartoons…he could be very naughty…and I recall one being passed around under the tables at a meeting being delivered entirely in French. I guess Ian would say he was driven to it :).

  24. I was fortunate to benefit from attending history conferences run by Ian in Kent. The resources and ideas were always fabulous and stand the test of time, as does the “white medicine book”, despite the changes constantly going on in education.
    Thank you for providing so many with inspiration.

  25. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to ask Ian for his advice, suggestions, wit and wisdom on many occasions and he was always so generous with his time and so pragmatic at navigating towards the options. ‘Bits and Pieces’ will forever be enshrined in all things History; the magic of those inspirational ‘Bits and Pieces’! A gentleman in the very truest sense, who will be greatly missed.

  26. I had the huge pleasure of working with Ian at the Kent History Centre for 6 happy years in the ’90s. I wasn’t the easiest person to work with at times and Ian was always extremely patient with me. I regret the fact that we only rarely saw each other when the centre closed, more my fault than his. I regret the fact that the centre closed at all. It was a unique place to work and I’ve had no finer job. I’d like to send my condolences to his family and friends and my gratitude to him for his warmth, humour, guidance, encouragement, knowledge, kindness and of course his endless supply of Mars Bars! Perhaps the best thing I can say about anyone is that I’m glad that I knew them. I can say that about Ian unreservedly.

  27. I met Ian when I was an NQT at Senacre, which was then in Special Measures. I was the head of history with little experience so he was asked to come and suport me. I loved our meetings so much. He was like taking 5 cans of Red Bull because the minute he left I would have so much enthusiasm and was filled with a drive to make my teaching so much more interesting and FUN. He was the same to an individual as he was to a class or when giving a talk, genuine, honest and funny The last time I saw him was at a talk he gave at Charing where he said at one point, oh I have overrun shall I stop? We all said no as he had rambled somewhat but it was all so fascinating we could have listened hours more. We had a chat and talked about meeting up again and then he got on his bike and left. We never did and I’m so sad that I will never get to be in the company of such a truly great human being again. He was warm and funny and nurtured a love of history in so many teachers that we then passed on to others. He was instrumental in getting my department Becon status and gave me encoragment and resources to write a local history book. His passion for all things history was a passion for all people, young or old and we are all blessed to have known such a fantastic man. My condolences to all his family and close friends, but he was truly a man whose life made a great difference. God Bless.

  28. How sad to hear that Ian is no longer with us. I knew him first as a parent of children who attended Staplehurst School and when he was in charge of the History Centre in Ashford. Latterly I stumbled across him when I was with a walking group going through Wye and he very kindly invited us all into his home, on the spur of the moment. How very kind and hospitable. Latterly he was a great support to Smarden Heritage Centre when we were setting up our technology and applying for financial support and grants. Ian was a charming and talented man and we will miss him.

    Eric Spear, Smarden Local History Society

  29. We were all very sad to hear about the death of Ian. Members of the HTEN committee remember him so fondly at the HTEN conference hosted in Canterbury and his evening local history/pub walk around the city. His depth of knowledge and his enthusiasm absolutely shone through and he presented in that wonderful enquiry based approach that had us all entranced. Many of us have had the further pleasure of hearing speak at various conferences and working with him – you knew that you were in the presence of a giant in terms of history education. He was a superb historian and archaeologist and someone who really promoted ways of teaching history that so many of us hold dear.
    His passing will be greatly mourned by all within the history, archaeology and history education communities. He was an inspiration to many and such a lovely, gentle, kind man who wore his tremendous scholarship so lightly, and was so willing to help others.

  30. Ian was, as so many people have already written an exceptional historian. Over so many of my years at Queen Elizabeth’s Faversham he was an invaluable support and I and my colleagues looked forward to those courses at Eversley where he was erudite, witty and such good company. His early death is tragic but his legacy is phenonomal he was such an inspiration to so very many classroom historians.

  31. Very sad news. Mr Coulson taught me History in my second year at Bennett Memorial Girls School in the early 80s and I have never forgotten him. He was an inspirational teacher and so passionate about his subject, this made such an impact on me as I shared the same passion and always looked forward to my lessons with him. I bumped into him a few years ago at a Medieval fair at my Daughter’s secondary school and it was a pleasure to talk with him again. I could not bring myself to call him Ian, he will always be Mr Coulson to me and will be sadly missed.

  32. Very sad to hear of Ian’s passing. He was such an inspirational man with a great wealth of knowledge. I loved listening to his tales of history which he very cleverly brought alive. I was very fortunate to have worked with Ian on a number of ICT History projects across Kent. A truly remarkable man whom I admired very much. Ian, thanks for the many happy memories and for inspiring us all.

  33. An inspirational man. I first met him when I attended CPD sessions on history many years ago. He inspired my interest in history and sharing his ideas for learning with primary aged children. Over the years I attended almost every CPD session he led. And in other training in my role as a teacher.
    I recently began work at Maidstone Museum and reacquainted myself with Ian. He encouraged me in my work as learning officer and was ready to offer advice when approached. Ian always seemed to have a positive outlook and his energy for learning and sharing was infectious.
    Ian will be sorely missed but his legacy of inspiring learning will live on.

  34. Funeral service tribute 1 from Nimmy Sandhu

    Ian’s basketball career started at school and his developing professional and family life took him to many different leagues and clubs across the Country, most recently here in East Kent where he presented Canterbury College and Herne Bay. When he finally decided to hang up his boots he was a member of Folkestone Saints basketball club.

    Ian was particularly proud of the fact that he played competitive basketball in 5 consecutive decades, winning at least one trophy in each of those decades. Unfortunately, as with many sportsmen, it was ultimately the wear and tear on his knees and hips that culminated in the end of Ian’s playing career. Having said that, his knees and hips may have been aching but, as many of us who had to mark Ian on court can testify, there was nothing wrong with his elbows!

    By his own admission he would never call himself a star player, but he played the game in the right spirit – play hard, play fair and enjoy the game. He was dependable and reliable and a valuable addition to any team he represented. Not only could he be relied on when it came to his turn on court, he also brought an approach to the game that could lift his teammates. He was always happy to make way for others, even at the expense of his own time in the team. He was happy to offer advice to younger players and to encourage those players who may be out of sorts. In the heat of a game he was even able to calm down some of those players who may be getting over-enthusiastic in their play.

    When he was on court, Ian would often be discounted by the other team but if his opponents left him unmarked he could score many points with his trademark jump shot from 15 feet. Having said that, there were days when he could barely ‘hit a barn door with a banjo’, but he took it in good grace and always had a joke about it in the bar after the match.

    Despite his own heavy commitments, Ian was also always willing to help with the running of the teams that he joined and was on hand should the Club need his assistance in any respect, the type of person that is vital in running sport at a local level.

    In latter years, Ian was able to join some of his more experienced basketball colleagues in playing in Masters tournament around the country, where players over 50 joined together to play basketball and socialise, all under the popular mantra ‘ The older I get, the better I was’!

    Our first trip was to Exeter and who can forget the leather-clad motorcyclist staggering into the hotel bar at 11 o’clock at night, absolutely soaked to the skin from head to toe after travelling down from Kent through a thunder storm? He took off his crash helmet, issued some fruity northern expletives about the weather in the south west and then sat down for a pint of real ale with a smile on his face. I suppose at some time during that evening it would have dawned on him, of course, that in two days time he would have to make the same journey home again.

    As well as playing basketball and socialising, Ian introduced a new tradition at the Masters tournaments, where after breakfast on the Sunday morning we would all wander around the local town for an impromptu history lesson and talk – and boy could Ian talk. We are now all trained on the history of Newcastle town centre, we feel like old friends of Dobson & Grainger and many of us can still identify the age of a building by the style of the windows. It’s an indication of Ians engaging personality and charisma that a group of people who left school many, many years ago could still be captivated and enthralled by all he was telling us.

    The stories of Ian could go on – we could talk about his collection of unusual jumpers and the fact that he is still the only person we know who could sketch an exact map of the world on the back of a paper napkin in a curry house.

    When we met to jot down these notes it was potentially a sombre occasion but somehow when we spoke about our memories of Ian you couldn’t help but smile.

    How best to sum him up? – He was just a genuinely nice bloke and it was a pleasure to have known Ian as a team mate, opponent and friend. He will be sorely missed by us all.

  35. Funeral service tribute 2 from Laurie Smith

    Lynn and I met Liz and Ian because Clare and Kerrie were mates at Wye primary school, but it was talking about motorbikes that really started my friendship with Ian.
    Ian was a real biker – not a ‘born again biker’ revisiting his youth, not someone having a mid-life crisis with a new shiny toy. Ian had a bike since he was a student. Then it was his only means of transport, later in life it was his preferred way to get around.
    He had some great stories:
    – fixing an old Norton by the side of the road,
    – rides back to University in Cardiff dressed in an army greatcoat lined with rolled newspaper to keep out the cold,
    – and visits to the wilds of the Isle of Sheppey on a 250 Honda to visit a certain young lady.
    As you have heard, Ian rode in all weathers, commuting to work by bike when possible, and visiting schools all over Kent. He rejoiced when he finally had a bike with panniers big enough for papers and computer on one side, and wet weather gear to cover a jacket and tie on the other.
    I never asked Ian why he liked bikes. It’s a stupid question. On a motorbike every journey, whether its to the shops or across Europe, becomes an event, an expedition, a test of skills and a challenge to be relished. Ian got that. Perhaps it’s the best way to engage with most things in life. Ian got that too!
    Early in our friendship we decided to do a trip – 5000 miles, 12 days and two crossings of the Arctic Circle later we had been to the North Cape of Norway – most northerly point in the EU.
    Furthest East to the Black Sea, followed. Later the Alps and Dolomites, the Pyrenees, the Black Forest and in 2014 a trip around the coast of Ireland.
    The conversation before usually went something like this – shall we ride to the Black Sea? Why not says Ian – I think I have enough maps to cover the route, I definitely already have the guide books for the countries we will pass through.
    Ian was never fazed by the plan – or the lack of one. Never fazed in the face of a 600 mile day needed to get back to the ferry, never fazed by not knowing where we would finish at the end of the day or where we would sleep.
    The aforementioned and capacious panniers could be relied upon to produce whatever item might be needed – tools and gaffer tape for running repairs, picnic utensils half way up a mountain, artist’s materials for a landscape sketch or cartoon, and chocolate at moments of crisis.
    In the far north of Scandinavia we were actually blessed with warm weather, but whatever you have read about Goretex and breathability, don’t believe it if you have to sit on a bike for 8 hours a day in the sunshine. Ian’s solution to overheating, and a little chafing, just lower your trousers to half mast for ventilation at every roadside stop and layby. Fortunately you can get away with this in remotest Norway without being arrested!
    Stops almost anywhere else in the inhabited parts of Europe were always enlivened by a short and pertinent explanation of architecture, troop dispositions in the World Wars or other notable aspects of history (and geography).
    Every evening while we shared a beer, Ian would produce a sketch map of the day’s route complete with sketches and cartoons. The latter usually of me going the wrong way up a one way street or narrowly avoiding the rear end of a passing reindeer, or himself consuming a particularly unhealthy example of local cuisine – large hot dogs and calzone pizzas being favourites. I am sure you will hear more about Ian’s skills as a communicator but these records of our travels strike a chord with all who see them.
    Ian was never short of a few good words but I will most remember sitting in silence somewhere on the side of a mountain, eating baguette and cheese, contemplating the view, how far we had come and how far we still had to travel. Comfortable in the right trousers for that day! And comfortable in an easy and rewarding companionship.

  36. Funeral service tribute 3 from Chris Smith

    I met Ian in 1977, at Oakwood Park Grammar School, where we both started teaching. It was the same year that Star Wars came out, and since then, the force that was Ian has always been with us. It was a rich environment where a number of young teachers met and established friendships which have lasted until today. Ian was very much a part of that group but it was obvious from the start that he was different. This week I’ve been trying to isolate exactly what he had as a teacher that made him stand out, and I’ve found it impossible because he was so many things. Here are just ten adjectives, but I reached 30 before I paused:
    Many teachers have 4 or 5 of these qualities; very few all of them. Ian had these and more. He didn’t just inspire the bright and committed, he inspired the indifferent and the disenchanted. He also inspired the staffroom; it is not often that hoary old schoolmasters latch on to the ideas of young upstarts, but people in that staffroom did.
    I can remember one teacher in particular asking how on earth Ian had managed to get homework out of a particularly difficult class, and Ian replying nonplussed that he’d just got them interested in the subject. And how could he do this? Because he knew everything. Irritatingly for the rest of us, there didn’t seem a single age or period of history that Ian didn’t know about and there wasn’t a single person who he wouldn’t help if they wanted to know about history. All 4 of my children studied History A level, and all 4 of them got help from Ian about different syllabuses,- ideas were exchanged, books lent and advice given. It was there same with adults. If we got something wrong historically during dinner party discussion, Ian would be only too willing to explain why we were wrong, what the common misconceptions were, and what the truth was. He was a walking Wikipedia. It was no surprise that Ian would go on not just to inspire children but to inspire teachers too.
    All good teachers have the ability to be inclusive and contain apparent contradictions. Unusually, Ian was always very moral, but he did not rush to judgement; he had very firm views, but he wasn’t dogmatic; he had very clear guidelines, but he always gave people second chances; he was approachable, but he was strict. The kids knew this, and they knew that he cared, about both them, and about their learning, so they loved him. But most of all, they loved him for his passion for the subject, and his integrity. It was impossible to listen to Ian talk about history and not be drawn into his world, and to realise how important History is.
    He didn’t just confine himself to the classroom though. At Oakwood he was involved in everything- staff pantomimes as Little John, camping at third year camp, staff vs boys matches at hockey and football, and basketball coaching most lunchtimes. For Ian teaching wasn’t a job; it was a way of life. Though later he acted as an Ofsted inspector, he never forgot that it was never enough to value what you could measure, and that it was sometimes impossible to measure what ought to be valued.
    Last year I came across a speech by Tim Minchin in which he gave advice to a room full of new graduates at the University of West Australia. I’d like to finish by quoting you a couple of sentences from it which struck me as sentences Ian could have spoken and would have certainly endorsed.
    “Please? Please be a teacher. Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. You don’t have to do it forever, but if you’re in doubt about what to do, be an amazing teacher. …….. Especially if you’re a bloke – Even if you’re not a Teacher, be a teacher. Share your ideas. Don’t take for granted your education. Rejoice in what you learn, and spray it.”
    Ian was, above all else, a teacher. He rejoiced in what he learned, and he certainly sprayed it. He started teaching in 1977, and the rest is history.

  37. Funeral service tribute 4 from Andy Harmsworth

    I first met Ian in 1986. I joined a working group of Kent History teachers to produce materials for a new A Level History course and Ian chaired the group. We were both relatively new and inexperienced Heads of Department. I was immediately impressed by Ian’s enthusiasm, energy and grasp of the issues underlying good history teaching. We soon realised that we shared some common interests – music, football and the occasional beer – before too long we both had young families and we became friends as well as colleagues.
    It was no surprise to me when he was snapped up by the Local Education Authority, first as an Advisory Teacher and then History Inspector. When good teachers are taken out of the classroom they often lose sight of what is practical and achievable with students. Not so with Ian, he always kept his feet firmly on the ground and never forgot his classroom roots. His advice to teachers was always practical and down to earth and was usually accompanied by a wealth of his own teaching resources.
    He established Kent History Centre single-handedly in a large room in Cornwallis School, Maidstone. It housed not only Ian’s office but also a treasure trove of local history sources, a selection of textbooks and a rapidly growing collection of Ian’s own resources. It also served as a venue for popular training courses in which teachers could do some real ‘hands-on’ history.
    Ian’s work brought him into contact with a wide range of people for which his communication skills and personal charm were major assets but he could also, when necessary, ruffle the feathers of incompetent teachers , tyrannical headteachers, short-sighted politicians and LEA bureaucrats and academics who missed deadlines.
    There is hardly a school, university department, museum or history-related organisation in Kent which has not benefitted from Ian’s expertise at some time or another in the last 25 years. If a new school-related project was being planned either the organisers asked for Ian’s advice or he offered it.
    For example, a chance meeting with a newly appointed Education Officer in a car park sometime in 1990 marked the beginning of the beginning of an association with Canterbury Archaeological Trust which lasted over 25 years. Marion Green, the Education Officer, and Paul Bennett, the Director have greatly appreciated Ian’s advice on all their educational initiatives including their widely acclaimed CAT KITS (boxes of artefacts which were distributed to local schools) and the recent Dover Bronze Age Boat kit. Most importantly perhaps in 2000 it was Ian who secured the funding for the Trust to build their excellent website which has helped them enormously to disseminate their work :
    Ian had the ability to think on a grand scale. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the Kent History Project, an ambitious plan to publish the first multi-volume History of Kent for over a century. As series-editor he oversaw the work of dozens of academics and so far nine out of the ten planned books have been published.
    When retirement from the Advisory Service came in 2010 the timing was not of Ian’s choosing. Retirement ? Ian ? Are you kidding? In 2011 he became President of the Kent Archaeological Society, one of the most prestigious archaeological societies in the country. Typically he launched himself into the role with enormous energy, vision and a bit of ruffling feathers. He also made major contributions to two long-running local projects : ‘A Town Unearthed’, the history of Folkestone before 1500, and the excavation of an Anglo-Saxon Settlement in Lyminge . There are excellent publications about both of these projects :
    Ian was also a talented artist. His teaching resources were usually illustrated with his own drawings and he often enlivened the most tedious of meetings with a witty cartoon. Like many other people here today, I am the proud owner of a Coulson original or two. One is a drawing he gave me in 1999 just after my GCSE textbook on Elizabeth I was published. It shows me kneeling in front of Elizabeth I, presenting a copy of the book to her, and she is saying “Mr Harmsworth does this volume really combine a penetrative analysis of the syllabus content with a source-based enquiry approach or was it just written by a Faerie Queene ?”
    Ian ‘s strong passion for History and archaeology, his prodigious energy, his deep understanding of how people – not just children – learn and his generosity of spirit – was a remarkable combination. For some of the best moments in my teaching career, for inspiring a generation of Kent history teachers , for a rich array of memories and a phenomenal body of work – THANK YOU KIDDA!

  38. Funeral service tribute 5 from Ian Dawson

    One Kent teacher, Kaye Sowden, summed up the impact of a visit from Ian to her school as like drinking 5 cans of Red Bull – she felt hugely energised, the impossible had become achievable and not only that – it had become fun.
    Fortunately for the rest of us it wasn’t just Ian’s home ‘patch’ in Kent that benefitted from that special Coulson Red Bull feeling. Here are just three of his legendary ‘bits and pieces’:
    – Ian wrote textbooks and compiled collections of documents used by many teachers all over the country. One GCSE book, I was fortunate to write with him twenty years ago, is still widely used – remarkable longevity in these days of incessant curriculum change. A teacher in Bristol who never met Ian told me he felt he did know him, so often had he used that pile of now dog-eared textbooks.
    – secondly Ian was a pioneer of websites that give students access to historical documents through the PRO’s Learning Curve site.
    – and thirdly Ian was a pillar of the Schools History Project for over 20 years. SHP is a national organization, very influential in our world of history teaching. It held its first national conference in 1989, an annual event attracting 300 teachers from all over Britain and abroad. Ian ran workshops almost from the beginning and for many years was on SHP’s steering committee.
    Three brief examples of Ian’s wider impact – but it’s not just what he did but how he did it that made Ian so well-loved. The sound of his voice in the corridor and appearance in the doorway always made us smile – and not just because of the chocolate digestives in his bag, the cartoons to be drawn or his devastating dissections of the incompetence of a succession of Education ministers.
    That last point is worth elaborating – Ian was a man of deeply held principles and while the smile was never far away he did have an impressive capacity for righteous anger and produced the most gloriously powerful invective aimed at national politicians – mostly Tories – and their local acolytes. Why? Because in their short-sighted incompetence they were messing up the lives and prospects of the children and teachers Ian cared for so much. There was in his DNA a strand that leads back to the Jarrow marchers, the Chartists, the principled opponents of Charles I and to those other Kentish villagers who stood up to another bunch of privileged incompetents way back in 1381.
    Teachers – and as you’ve heard Ian would always teach anyone, anywhere [I imagine that somewhere in northern Scandinavia reindeer is even now nodding thoughtfully and commenting to a companion ‘that chap on the motorbike – glad he stopped by, certainly made me rethink a few things’]– teachers do many valuable things but the most important is treating their students with respect. We all know how a careless word or put-down from a teacher lasts with people for decades. Conversely a supportive word, a generous gesture can have far-reaching positive effects. The best teachers are models of how to behave towards others. Ian fulfilled that ideal as well or better than anyone I’ve met – he was a superb model for us all of how to behave to our fellow-human beings.
    Now, if I was sharing a course with Ian, by this stage I’d feel his gaze upon me and he’d clearly be thinking ‘You’ve gone on long enough, Dawson, what these good folk need is an activity, not you wittering on.’
    So I’ll bow to his wishes and ask you to join in a short activity – an Ian Coulson special – an activity that stands as a rousing hymn to Ian’s love of architecture and of local history and to his genius for encapsulating complexity in a deceptively simple activity – the sort that leaves you think ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ I have taken a few liberties with it – in the spirit of Saturday evening events he and I often shared at conferences when the aim was to celebrate our love of history – this, I hope, celebrates Ian too.
    Just one word of warning –you need one hand free to join in!
    What Ian told me 25 years ago is that fingers are so amazing because they remind us of the medieval architectural styles that surround us.
    Let me take you back the battle of Hastings. William of Normandy is savouring his victory when he’s joined by his brother, Odo, who hails William with that traditional Norman greeting ‘How ya doing, Kidda?’
    William replied with a simple thumbs up sign and then paused, gazing at the gently rounded shape of his thumb. ‘That’s a canny shape for an arch’ thought William, ‘I know, we’ll rebuild every cathedral in the country with arches shaped like my thumb – and call them Norman arches.’
    So to help us all remember the shape of a Norman arch please hold a thumb up proudly and after I’ve counted you in we’ll all declaim together the words ‘a Norman arch’ – so 1, 2, 3 – A Norman arch.
    It was the late 12thC when another king, up at the crack of dawn, called in a yawning mason to discuss a new style for his castles and cathedrals. ‘Busy at the moment?’ the king asked the mason. ‘Oh, bits and pieces, my lord, bits and pieces, a nave here, a lancet there.’
    And then the mason explained lancet windows to the king by holding his little finger aloft to demonstrate the slim, sharply pointed arch. And the king thought ‘That’s a canny name for an arch. In memory of this dawn meeting we’ll call it the Early English arch’ – so, this time please hold your little fingers aloft to commemorate the Early English arch – 1, 2, 3 the Early English Arch.
    Another century on, around the 1270s, another king was walking through a cathedral, musing on a new broader arch – very like the shape of your middle three fingers – and trying to think of a name for it. Working nearby, putting the colourful stained glass into an arch, was a gang of glaziers –the ‘colouring-in’ department as they were known. The king was delighted by the work of the colouring-in department (it can happen!) – ‘How splendidly they have decorated that arch’ he thought and then in a linguistic throwback to his ancestors added ‘Decorated, that’s a canny name for an arch’. So, this time please hold your middle three fingers aloft to commemorate the Decorated arch – 1, 2, 3 the Decorated Arch – wider, taller and more cannily decorated with tracery than previous arches.
    And finally to 1381 when groups of villagers left their patch in Wye and the rest of Kent and headed for London for a bit of a song and dance, to put the country to rights. One of them, a tall, handsome, bearded cove, left the troops to fight the good fight and spent his time acquiring a huge stack of documents from the early scriveners in Paternoster Row – though some did doubt whether he could cram even more documents into his house back in Kent – but what struck a passing mason was the upright, you might say Perpendicular, bearing of this man. ‘Perpendicular’, that’s a canny name for my new broader arch’ thought the mason. And that may – or may not – be how the most glorious of medieval arches you can see so well in Canterbury cathedral got its name – and we remember it when we look at all our fingers – the broad base and but still pointed arch. The perpendicular – so, one last time 1, 2, 3 the Perpendicular arch.
    Norman, Early English, Decorated, Perpendicular – Ian’s simple but incredibly effective, handy guide to architecture
    So next time you get the chance follow Ian’s example and ‘spray’ knowledge and enjoyment in classrooms and out – you just need four fingers and a thumb to impart of a heap of lasting knowledge and, when you do, tell everyone ‘Ian Coulson taught me this.’

    Before I finish – we’ve talked about many aspects of Ian’s life but always at the core has been his family – his deeply-rooted partnership with Liz and his great pride in Claire and Jack. The sense of family they have shown has been remarkable but at the same time no more than we would expect of them. Liz has shown great compassion for the feelings of Ian’s friends – it does take a very special person to think of others in these circumastances.
    In describing Ian the same words recur time and again:
    Inspiration generosity wisdom passion integrity

    And always he did everything with genuine humility –
    I imagine him listening to me and saying
    ‘me special? I’ll get another pint in and you can stop being so daft.’

    I have never met anyone whose presence brought so many smiles to our faces, lifted so many spirits, did so much to strengthen our convictions, made the difficult seem possible and, quite simply, made so many people feel so much happier.
    Ian’s company has been one of the great pleasures of my life.
    His memory will live with us for as long as we have the capacity to remember.

  39. So sorry to hear this news. Ian was definitely someone you positively looked forward to seeing in school, [not always the case with LEA visitors!], Discussions would be fun and inspiring, and you could trust him. The qualities he exhibited when he himself taught, were exactly those he showed in the later phases of his career. Ian brought so much to his role as History Adviser, and clearly to all his myriad activities elsewhere. He was held in great affection by all who met him.

    Carlos Hood, [Swanley School]