Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Doug Elliott, 1947–2021– "friend, ulster scot"

(reproducing here a Facebook post from a week ago)

If you hear a piper in Ballyholme at 3:30 this afternoon, it will be FMMPB Pipe Major Richard Parkes MBE, to accompany my friend Doug Elliott on his final journey. I came off the ferry from Scotland last night to find that, after a long illness, he had died. Although he had become understandably private in recent years, some of you will have known him, and I am sure June and Gareth and family would be happy for you to be present at Sheridan Drive later.

Doug was a phenomenon – a working class lad who became one of Belfast’s renowned architects and conservationists of his era; he rescued the Ormeau Baths building, regenerated the Gasworks site, won multiple RIBA architectural awards, assisted Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band (he and June took me to Glasgow to see FM win the Worlds on two occasions, for which an integral part of the pre-competition ceremony was a Friday night meal for the band and entourage at Café Gandolfi. We did some graphic design work together for the band as well, around '07. Doug, Richard and the FMMPB team invited me to compere a gala concert at the Ulster Hall, which I was truly honoured to do for them, on 30 March 2009  – previous post here).

Doug and I had known each other since the late 90's, we became friends around 2002 – and especially so when he conceptualised our house design about a decade later. He taught me to love Milanese espresso whilst introducing me to the vernacular Ulster traditions work of Prof Estyn Evans at QUB.

This is the square window we spent many afternoons beside - at the back of one of the award-winning landmark Gasworks buildings that he designed, and which his BATIK interiors and modern furnishings business moved to from their Adelaide Street former linen warehouse - overlooking the city and imagining new futures. Those of you who were part of GCAS may not know that around 2005 we had some chats with Doug about relocating the entire group of companies from Russell Court into this building.

His lasting legacy to me - friendship, guidance, clarity of thought, a respect for the rural - and a perfectly conceptualised family homestead that belongs to the landscape of the 'far east' Ulster townland that my family have toiled for centuries.

When we began that design process, Doug sent Hilary and I off many times, to absorb Philip Robinson's marvellous buildings conservation at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, and the Ulster American Folk Park, to immerse ourselves in their details and proportions, for inspiration but not straight reproduction. "Not allowed kerbs! No tarmac! Let the weeds grow!" We’ll finish it one day.

My friend Doug Elliott. Time is short. Life is precious.

(pic of Doug and June is from the FMMPB Facebook post).