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" "

Chris Currie 1952-2005

[This is the full text of the article written by the Section Chair for Newsletter 44, Autumn 2005]

It was with a great sense of shock and sadness that I learned of Chris' death. I had worked with Chris since the foundation of the Landscape Section in 1986. He made a tremendous contribution to the Section, doing more than any other individual to ensure its success. In this tribute to his work for the Landscape Section I have used the files of its correspondence, minutes and fliers since its inception. If members notice any gaps in the record I present, please feel free to inform me so that I can set the record straight in a future edition.

Section Committee Meetings

In September 1986 Michael Hicks, the then Secretary, called a meeting of people who were interested in the formation of a new section for the Field Club. Chris, as I did, came along to that meeting and signed the 'register' confirming his interest in and willingness to contribute to the new section. I feel sure that Chris must have had a contribution to make, but unfortunately have no record of what he said.

He was not able to attend either of the Steering Committee meetings that quickly followed, when the Section Constitution was decided and the beginnings of a programme of events were planned. However, Chris did attend the Inaugural Meeting of the Landscape Section Committee on the 6th December 1986, when he moved the resolution that the Landscape Section be established as a section of the HFC. Despite what Neil Rushton notes in his obituary, this was the beginning of a long stint of work from Chris on the Landscape Section Committee; from 1986 until 1998, when pressure of work made his attendance very difficult, he played a full and active part in the business of the committee.

To give an example of an early contribution, on 16th July 1987, Chris reported that he had sent Newsletter items, concerning Southwick Park & Landscape Courses. He suggested publicity for the 'Maps & Landscape' conference taking place in November of that year. He also put forward a speaker for the conference in the following year. Chris agreed to take over as Programme Secretary if only for a year, while I was on an exchange visit to the USA. Finally, he brought to the attention of the Committee a series of lectures on Landscape Studies he was due to give at Fareham and Chandlers Ford. These contributions were to prove typical: he wrote numerous articles for the Newsletter over the years; he was a regular source of suggestions for speakers on a wide range of topics; he took on key roles on the committee, beginning with this position and continuing until his untimely death.

Chris had strong views on most issues and he sometimes aired these at meetings; in 1992-93 he was concerned about the way in which work for Proceedings was reviewed. He felt that the Landscape Section should have a representative on the Editorial Board and he encouraged the committee members who sat on Council to put this forward for discussion. Even when he was no longer able to attend, he would put forward his views to another member to relay to the rest of the committee.

Work as an officer of the committee

As was mentioned above Chris took over as Programme Secretary on a temporary basis in 1987. While in this post he oversaw the 'Maps & the Landscape' Conference and organised the next three:
  • Art, Literature and Landscape - Nov. 1988
  • Woodland and the Landscape - Mar. 1989
  • Water Management in the Landscape - Nov. 1989

He requested that he be relieved of this post, but was willing to swap with me and take over as treasurer. Chris was a careful steward moving the major part of the funds to a deposit account to gain some interest. He regularly reported on the accounts, both at Section meetings and AGM. At the end of 1995, he agreed to take on the Editorship of the Newsletter, while continuing as treasurer, though it was not until the end of the following year that he took over as editor. He relinquished his position of treasurer at the end of 1997, but continued as editor, with his last published edition being 'Newsletter 43'. The Newsletter will be Chris' most lasting memorial, for his many contributions and for the variety of work that he attracted from other contributors. I know that Chris valued the Newsletter very highly and that he regularly used his back copies when researching.

Conference & AGM

According to the Section records, Chris gave talks on at least six occasions. What was very impressive was his ability to speak so fluently on his topic without reference to any notes. I first noticed this when Chris gave a talk at the 'Woodlands in the Landscape' conference held at Botley. Some examples of his other talks reflect some of the interests that Neil Rushton mentions:
  • 'Fishery management, past and present, and its impact on the landscape' at the 'Water, Water Management and the Landscape' conference in 1989;
  • 'Gardens Archaeology Project: The application of archaeological methods to the restoration of historic park and garden landscapes.' at the 'Gardens in the Landscape' conference in 1991;
  • 'Recent Estate Surveys in Hampshire' at the 10th Anniversary Conference in 1997.
He did maintain that his offering to the 1998 conference would be his last, but I'm pleased to say we were able to get him to speak last October, when he gave an account of a wide variety of Estate Surveys.

Summer Field Trips

While Chris made an important contribution as a speaker, his work as a leader of trips to the Landscape of Hampshire was more important still in establishing the Section as a fully fledged part of the Field Club. He began by co-leading a trip in our first year and continued until 2004. I list the trips for which I have found records:
  • June 87 -Southwick Priory
  • March 89 - Woodland around Botley.
  • May 89 - North Stoneham Park
  • May 91 - Farley Mount Country Park
  • May 92 - Compton
  • May 93 - Bishopstoke & Horton Heath
  • May 95 - St. Cross Hospital
  • May 98 - The Chawton House Estate
  • May 02 - Wey Navigation
  • May 04 - The Chawton House Estate
  • June 04 - The Cadland Estate
You can see that Chris had a preference for leading visits early in the summer, maintaining that after May the nettles and bracken often obscured the features of the landscape that he wished to show. This was certainly the case last June, when it took some time for him to locate a possible Bronze Age burial mound in waist high bracken. Those members, who came on trips let by Chris, will have their own favourites from this list, but overall it can be agreed that attendance at one of these events left one better informed and more familiar with Hampshire and its surroundings.

The Landscape Section and the Field Club as a whole was very fortunate to have someone like Chris who was prepared to give so freely of his time and expertise.

Contact
Any questions about the Landscape Section?
Then email Mike Broderick
Chairman, Landscape Section