1st May 1943 - 10th March 1998
Pioneering Scottish lesbigay campaigner Ian Dunn died suddenly in Edinburgh on Tuesday 10th March. He collapsed as he was leaving Edinburgh Royal Infirmary whence he had been discharged after receiving tests for shortness of breath and chest pains. He was readmitted, but doctors were unable to revive him.
Educated at Hillhead High School in Glasgow, Ian worked for a time for the Met Office at Prestwick Airport and later in London. If he had remained with the Met Office, his next promotion would have been to present TV weather bulletins.
However, he moved to Edinburgh, attending Heriot Watt University where he studied Town Planning. Unfortunately, his work in co-organising the world's first International Gay Conference in 1974 meant that he neglected his studies and didn't graduate - something he was careful to hide from his parents. Nevertheless, he worked for many years in the City's planning department until he took early retirement during the recent local government reorganisation.
In 1969, he was a founder member of the Scottish Minorities Group (which became the Scottish Homosexual Rights Group and is now OUTRIGHT Scotland). He was Convenor of OUTRIGHT Scotland at the time of his death and played a pivotal role in the organisation over the years. His main success was in persuading Robin Cook to move the amendment to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 which decriminalised sex for gay men aged 21 and over, but he continued to lobby for complete social and legal equality for homosexuals.
He was also a founder member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, not because he was a paedophile, but because he believed in the rights of sexual minorities to organise politically.
When he agreed to act as 'postbox' for a paedophile theoretical journal called Minor Problems (which had been expelled from its previous mailing facility), he was the subject of a front page expose by the Sunday Mail and, although he sued the paper, he later quietly dropped the action.
The tabloid reports led to the Labour Party dumping him as a local council candidate, so he joined the breakaway Scottish Socialist Party but to no electoral success. He eventually rejoined the Scottish Labour Party of which he nevertheless remained publicly critical until his death. He was looking forward to the new Scottish Parliament - yet another of his campaigning issues - and had applied to the Labour Party to be considered as a Candidate.
As a Humanist Officiant, he regularly conducted secular 'wedding' ceremonies for lesbian and gay couples which brought him further tabloid opprobrium. However, he was at the forefront of the debate between homosexual Humanists and Christians and organised two major lesbigay theological conferences (Changing Church Attitudes) and was working on a third due to take place in 2000.
He was active in most radical causes in Edinburgh over the last quarter century or so, including the much lamented 1st of May Bookshop (with which he shared his birthday).
In the Broughton area of Edinburgh, in which he lived for most of his adult life, he took a keen part in the activities of local civic amenity and conservation groups. Most recently, he was overjoyed at the success of the campaign to save the Phoebe Traquair murals at Mansfield Place Church. It is fitting that his funeral took place there.
A prolific writer, he was a Director of Gay News, the first Editor of Gay Scotland and more recently contributed to both ScotsGay and Cruise Magazines.
He is survived by his lover Ross Watt, his parents Donald and Audrey and sister Lorna.
Ian was a complex character, who was hard not to love - much as he frustrated all of us who knew him by his consummate self publicity and pig headed obstinacy. At least he never claimed to be an angel.
He clearly suffered from his middle class upbringing (he came from a well-off family which had made its money in the biscuit trade) and his parents just as clearly suffered from him - neither of them nor his sister turned up at his funeral. Long time friend Marion Bowles tells of a family wedding when she was commanded by Ian's parents to act as much like Ian's girlfriend as possible at the reception in Glasgow's posh RSAC. However, on returning to stay at Ian's parents for the night, they weren't permitted, for reasons of morality, to sleep in the same room although absolutely nothing was likely to have happened!
I first worked with Ian when he was Editor of Gay Scotland and found that, as long as you paid him what he considered to be due deference, he was a delight to be around. However, although many people's talents and efforts went to produce the magazine, it was Ian who took most of the credit and it was Ian who appeared in far too many of the photographs!
Over the years, a succession of folk came and went from the organisations with which he was involved - many of them forced out because they just weren't prepared to do the Dunn thing.
More recently, Ian was thrown out of OUTRIGHT Scotland because he refused to stop speaking on behalf of the organisation without being authorised to do so. He fought back, was readmitted and it was others (myself included) who left. It's interesting to note that some of the people who replaced us didn't last long and were no longer on speaking terms with Ian when he died, whilst many oldtimers, although despising his Cult of the Personality, recognised that our politics were nearer his than the Johnny Come Lately types who are more interested in making a fast buck than contributing to our Community.
Ian suffered in his last few years from chronic financial problems which eventually forced him to sell up (for the benefit of his bankers) his beloved 30 Gayfield Square and move into modest rented accommodation next door. The final blow to his finances appears to have been running the Lesbian Gay & Bisexual Centre's Cafe - something he did to ensure the future of the Centre after an unfortunate cock-up by him in the Centre's planning status. Things weren't helped by an informal boycott by many of the people who used the Centre. It didn't help either that Ian really hadn't a clue how to run a catering establishment - much as he appeared to enjoy trying. Nevertheless, he told me only a few weeks ago that it had been one of the most enriching periods of his life.
I often thought Ian to be on the stingy side - George Broadhead of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association remarked to me recently that Ian was the only Humanist officiant who didn't send at least a token donation from their officiant's fee to GALHA - but he surpassed himself at raising funds for causes which he supported. That was something which his parents certainly noticed: they sent him a Xmas card which basically said "We read in the papers how good you are at raising money for lots of organisations. Isn't it time you applied these talents to sorting out your own finances?"
In other ways, he was typically generous, especially if it didn't cost him anything. Our next issue was to have included his offer to grow cannabis plants at his Villa in Spain on behalf of folk who could then go out and harvest the plants (presumably whilst paying to stay at the villa!). It would have caused a stushie, no doubt. And Ian would have revelled in the publicity.
Always something of a sexual outlaw, he was typically forthright when it came to his sexual interests in piss and shit. The first was celebrated in the title he took when he was beatified by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence - translated freely, it meant: Saint Ian of the Recreational Urinals. The second by his fight with HM Customs to be allowed to import sexually explicit materials involving shit.
His funeral in the Mansfield Place Church which he worked so hard to save was well attended. Amongst the hundreds of mourners were people from all walks of life. From retired clerics to practising politicians. From homosexual campaigners to police officers (one Chief Inspector represented the local police force whilst others attended incognito). Some were obviously uncomfortable at the unconventionality of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence's celebration of Ian's life. One young man turned up to exorcise his own ghosts: he claims that Ian raped him when he was 15 (although I have always believed that it was more a case of mixed signals than any mens rea on Ian's part). He came, he said, "just to make sure".
Ian's coffin having been applauded out of the building, we stood around and ate the last of his favourite biscuits before going our separate ways, some of us to the Newtown for a wake of sorts.
Despite everything, I'll miss you Ian, auld bugger that you were.
Lines for Ian
A great oak's fallen, In our wood,
Strong and serene, in pride he stood.
We other trees, beneath his shade,
Grew well. We flourished; unafraid
We spread our branches far and free,
Nor reckoned with mortality.
Struck down so soon, he yet lives on,
For all he lived for is not gone.
To us, who strive to take his place,
Are left his courage, love and grace,
And memories, bright as the sun.
Farewell brave friend; great heart, well done
Ian Buist 16.03.98
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© 1998 ScotsGay Magazine