Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Director's Notes - October 2013

Monthly update from EWH Director Adam Wilkinson.

Oct 8, 2013

With these Director’s Notes I mark the passing of Charles McKean, EWH Chairman 2006-12.

I first met Charles in The Lamb on Conduit Street in London (a pub in the middle of the Rugby Estate in Bloomsbury, developed in the early nineteenth century) when he was trying to convince me to accept the board’s offer to take on the role of Director of EWH. Our conversation was not about the fine Georgian surroundings, nor the beer we were enjoying, but about the reasons for taking on the role. Charles’ mind was in its favourite gear, overdrive, opening up more questions than it answered.

This ability to think through all the different angles of a question was one of the tremendous strengths Charles brought to EWH, ensuring rigour in the board’s decision making processes and the rationale behind the team’s activities. The routes this questioning took were frequently novel, often amusing and yet somehow always ended up in the right place, a sort of intellectual magic trick. This magic was most evident in Charles’ lectures – ebullient, stimulating and provocative.

This thoughtfulness and thoroughness were of great value to EWH during his chairmanship, which encompassed difficult times for the organisation. His phenomenal architectural knowledge and past experience as chief executive of the RIAS added reassurance. In spite of being very aware of what others might think or how they might react to a situation, he was always interested to challenge established thinking, be it in the world of architectural history, the planning of the city or the running of an organisation. The combination of his professorial role at Dundee and past experience at the sharp end of business meant that he took a welcome and somewhat pastoral role with the team here, always cheery, interested and encouraging.

The sad irony of his untimely death, almost a year to the day after handing on the baton of Chair, at an Annual General Meeting where he called for a minute’s silence to mark the passing of board member Alan Donaldson, would not be lost on him

Our thoughts are with Margaret and their sons.

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