Nick Duncan 1946-2006

Originally published in the July 2006 edition of the Membership Newsletter (No.40)

Nick Duncan 1946-2006

It is with great sadness that we report the untimely death of a long-term BSSS and founder IPSS member Nick Duncan.

After graduating from St Andrews University in 1969, Nick joined the Soil Survey of Scotland.  He was quickly drawn to the bright lights of Edinburgh and for his entire career with the Survey was based at the Edinburgh office in the company of Martin Ragg.  Highlights included escapes to the quieter landscape of Orkney, although tales relate to the work being less quiet!  An expert on soils in the Central Belt, Nick mapped all the variations of the Rowanhill Series, including those on the bleak landscape of Slammanan, Life was never dull and Nick’s stories of being stoned by Glasgow school children on holiday are legend.

In 1979, after a spell seconded to Hunting Technical Services to work on the Umm Er Radhuma irrigation project in Saudi Arabia, Nick moved south to Cambridge and joined Land Capability Consultants as their soil specialist, where he worked on a variety of projects including quarry restoration, road schemes and the installation and reinstatement of oil and gas pipelines north of the border.  There was clearly a strong pull from Scotland so, in 1984, Nick moved back to start his own soil and land use consultancy practice, where he continued his work on pipelines and undertook a second overseas project, this time in Ethiopia.  As the oil and gas boom years disappeared, so did the work for independent consultants and in 1987 Nick reluctantly became an employee again, in ADAS’s Resource Planning Group.  However, it was not long before N A Duncan Associates was resurrected and enjoyed many successful years until Nick’s untimely death earlier tis year.

Nick had a strong interest throughout his career in working overseas and he has contributed his soils expertise to resource or irrigation projects in Ethiopia, UAE, Egypt, Sudan and Oman.  Nick also developed a strong interest in training others and in 2003 spent time in Albania training staff from the Soils Research Institute, Tirana in soil survey and land suitability assessment.  These overseas projects were sandwiched between work in the UK for a wide variety of clients ranging from quarry companies, oil companies, developers, landowners and government agencies.  Nick was Union Railways’ soil and land reinstatement expert on the Channel Runnel Rail Link and, at the time of his death, was part of the research team for a DEFRA project looking at the potential for interpreting ALC survey data for other soil functions.

Away from work Nick had a much loved family – wife Kate and children Emma, Ben and Jo – and a strong involvement in Emmanuel Church, an involvement that was behind Nick and Kate’s move to Oxford in autumn 2005.  Nick loved the outdoors and was a keen participant in a walking group made up of friends from his former local in Over.  They arranged trips to several parts of Europe where, as those who knew Nick will testify, the evening socializing in a local bar would have been just as important as the daytime walking.  Many an evening at BSSS and IPSS conferences would have been the poorer without Nick’s contributions!

Nick was a member of BSSS for nearly 30 years, a member of IPSS since its establishment and was to be the next IPSS President.  He is greatly missed by all of those who had the pleasure in working and socialising with him and especially by his family, Kate, Emma, Ben and Jo.