On Saturday, March 8, I saw the sad news on Facebook that Ian Dunbar had passed away. I forget the first time we actually spoke, my first email from him is February 2009 but we exchanged a few messages at the F2C board prior to that.
In some ways, I owe my career to Ian. I was still studying at university when we began talking and he asked me to edit his book, More Than A Puff of Smoke*, which I did along with supplying the foreword (he also provided the foreword to Smoke Screens), and that set me off on the path of being an editor (in addition to writing). In reading the book, I saw what a remarkable man Ian was, with an incredible life to reflect on. From Canada to the Arctic and the Middle East, Ian had seen it all – only to be let down by his own country’s system. Like, I’m sure, everyone else who heard his story, I was stunned to hear that the NHS had not paid him in decades, and he was living off a very modest pension. And yet he was still unwaveringly generous – many times I can remember collecting the post from my front door only to find a parcel of tobacco that he had purchased for me on his regular trips to France. I also remember him driving to my student house on two occasions, just to chat and ponder life over some Gauloises and Gitanes – the pack of which he would always leave on my table as a parting gift (he knew they were my favourite and unavailable where I lived). Then there was the time when he jumped on a train and travelled over 2 hours just to give me some relaxation techniques for an upcoming flight I was dreading, then another 2 hours on the train home.
Ian had a kindness of spirit that is so greatly appreciated and will be so greatly missed. Always willing to lend his wisdom and experience to an enquiring mind, he would always reply promptly and in detail to all of my emails, and this is a quality of his that many others experienced too.
I got the impression that Ian was a lonely man. Despite being so committed to his duty as a doctor that he voluntarily tried heroin just to determine how it worked, he was ostracised from the medical community, and described his situation as a personal gulag. As he put it:
In the meantime, lack of a living precluded a wife, family, and new friends or be an uncle to a nephew and five nieces. In fact I have been, and continue to live in a form of ‘solitary confinement’ as if in a gulag!
But in looking at the outpouring of support and emotion over his death, I think the freedom of choice movement was like a new lease of life for him. Deservedly, he found a following. I put him in touch with ‘Grandad’ at Smoking Out The Truth, who built Ian his shiny new website, and Ian utilised the blogging platform to impart his years of experience, opinions and wisdom. His blog is here, and now is a good time to read what he had to say during his time with us.
I feel privileged to have known Ian personally, and in the years between releasing More Than A Puff of Smoke and his death he created a legacy as a strong member of the freedom of choice movement, whose words will be read and remembered for a long time.
Rest in peace Ian, and may death bring you the peace you didn’t find in life.
*In finding the link for his book, I noticed that at the time of writing it has no reviews on Amazon. In memory of his life and contribution, I would like to urge anyone reading this to purchase the book (no, I don’t earn anything from it!) and leave a review so others can learn of Ian Dunbar and what he had to say.