Death of Ian Hill – art critic.

Leading Northern Ireland art critic Ian Hill has died suddenly.

Mr Hill a noted journalist and writer on travel and the arts passed away in the company of his wife Helena at their Strangford home at 10 o’ clock this morning.

He suffered a suspected heart attack. He had two grown up daughters.

Ian Hill studied dentistry at Queen’s but opted for a career in the arts world writing prolifically on all manifestations of the arts, a passion engendered from his student days at Queen’s where he edited Gown the college magazine.

He did drama and wrote about the theatre and art exhibitions and was deemed encyclopaedic on travel. One acquaintance said “no matter where in the world you mentioned Ian could tell you the name of a good restaurant.”

He worked for many publications including the Newsletter, the Irish Times, the Belfast Telegraph, and more recently The Ulster Tatler.

His grieving wife Helena told me this evening “he was just a great man dearly loved. I knew him since my student days.”
Eamonn Mallie

  • Sad news
    My condolences to Helena and his daughters

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Not a good month for local journalism following the news on Roisin Walsh.
    Art Critics are always pretentious. Mr Hill was the sole exception to this rule.

  • Granni Trixie

    I never wanted to be in the Tatler, Northern Women etc but thanks to Ian I was and many’s the laugh I had with him.
    I never knew of his dentistry credentials but I formed an impression of hias political and artistic orientation from a piece of research I conducted into student activity based on an overview of Gown.

    May he rest in peace and condolences to Helena and his family.

  • I knew Ian from the time we spent on a committee judging the Arts Awards for Belfast City Council. We had many sparring sessions over who would get on the short list. It was a pleasure to have known him and my deepest sympathy goes to his wife and family and his wider circle of friends for whom his death is a great loss indeed. His loss to the arts is immeasurable. A good critic is hard to find. He was more than a good critic – he was a great critic – even if I didn’t agree with every review!

  • Ian Will could write, and write well, for a dentist.

    What got to me was My Lagan Love (with water-colours by Gillian Lutton), because it was in the spirit of those gorgeous books Robert Gibbings did for Dentt in the ’40s and ’50s. It took me on a short, but emotive journey down one of the valleys of my newly-aquired “Ulster-Scots” in-laws (the others are the Bann and the Clyde). What knew I of Ireland, who only Dublin and West Cork knew?

    I suppose what essential truth got to me then (and what persists every time I’m in an Ulster town — and why I’m delighted about the ‘Derry “city of culture” thing) is what our local town planners daily try to correct:

    Go to any town on the river and look up above street level,and you’ll see the Georgian architecture, the Victorian architecture above the modern shop fronts.

    Then just find a nice pub, buy a copy of my book and read it in the pub.

    Whenever I can, I do just that (though I bring my own book). Hill’s favourite pub, as I recall, was the Hertford Arms in Bow Street, Lisburn (I’d settle for McConville’s in Portadown: just a plug, y’know).

    There’s another reason why I’m enamoured of My Lagan Love. Apparently it was conceived as Hill was on his way to Jacques Brel’s final concert (presumably the one at the Paris Olympia — there were others). Ah, Brel!. Anyone who likes Brel must have a soul.

    Another good man gone.

  • Donald Fraser

    Sorry to hear that. Sat beside him once at a Vega Sicilia tasting in DWS – a perfect gentleman.

  • Sound Bloke

    My God! I was talking to him at the launch of the Aspects Literary Festival in Nick’s Warehouse recentlyand we talked about the travel writing he planned to do. So sad.

  • Brian Walker

    I’m shocked and very saddened. I first met Ian on the old Flashpoint team gathered by Derek Bailey in UTV in the late 60s. His style was urbane and sophisticated with a touch of subversion and his acute observation was sardonic. He often left the impression that he could have spoken more boldly but didn’t want to frighten the horses too much. In earlier days Ian did a lot for Ulster theatre in his Guardian reviews. He was a fine host and a good companion. He deserved a wider canvas on which to operate ; nevertheless he enjoyed life, I hope and believe. He certainly gave much pleasure and a lot of fun. He will truly be missed.

  • Miriam

    Goodness, that’s quite a shock. Very sad news. My condolences to his family.

  • Very sad to hear this, I always enjoyed reading his latest piece of writing and seeing the accompanying photos of whats going on. Helena and Ian seemed to be at every arts event you went to and knew were the next bit of craic would be. I will miss his news and views, my condolences to his family.

  • madraj55

    BW When I saw Ian Hill on UTV late news a month or two ago, it was the first time I’d seen him on tv since he presented the first UTV reports in 1969 when it switched from after News at Ten to the early evening slot along with the presenter David Marlowe who also presented It’s all happening on friday nights around the same time. Gordon Burns took over soon after that what a memory for those years I have.

  • I must concur, he was such an intellignet and thoughtful man, aware of the confines of Ulster journalism and politics,
    (though this did change somewhat in recent years) he kept his hand close to his chest, but always suggesting and inferring that things could be better, done better, etc. He was a total hero of mine who’s complete unpretenesion and openess made me feel that I could talk to him about anything and everything. His openess kept him eternally young. I was as shocked to hear of his age, as of his death!
    RIP Ian Hill, it was a singular honour to know you

  • Colin Davis

    So shocked to hear this terrible news. Deepest sympathy to his wife Helena and family. He was a true gentleman. He will be sadly missed by many in the arts community and beyond. We are all left with fond memories of his great wit and charm. Neil Shawcross’s painting of Ian will be a great legacy to his name and character. R.I.P. Ian.

  • Very shocked and saddened to hear this news. Ian displayed an omnipresence that always fascinated me and I enjoyed it when our paths crossed. He had much praise for my work and was very keen to “get his hands on a piece”, unfortunately time was against us in sealing the deal. I will miss bumping into him.

  • Erskine Holmes

    I read his first piece in QUB Labour Group mag. 1961 “The Golden Tie of Keneth Tynan” a serious piece on the interelationship of the arts and left wing politics of the day.Typical of Ian but perhaps not typical of students of dentistry. Recently he was working on the story of Ulster’s Inland Waterways as a fervent supporter of the reopening of the abandonned canals. In 1961 he wrote that he was a convert to emotional socialism. I suspect that never changed.

  • Gordon Fulton

    Talked with Ian recently at the launch of Damian Smyth’s new anthology. Very shocked and saddened to hear of his sudden death. He was so much part of the arts scene in Ulster and his reviews and commentaries were unfailingly generous, constructive and encouraging. There are dark clouds gathering around funding and support for the arts and with Ian’s death we have lost one of our most effective champions. May he rest in peace.

  • The Oul’ Wolf

    He was a visiter to the old Blackthorn Bar when it was the haunt of journalists from every paper in the UK. He was never out of place. His education was of that generation , still Victorian in many ways, who valued the written word, and appreciated that travel broadened the mind.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Hard to imagine a dental student at Queen’s nowadays with such artistic interests – perhaps it was highly unusual even then. Even harder to imagine a dental student ever doing anything other than fixing teeth

  • michael drake

    Through his travel and his writing Ian was an unsung ambassador for Northern Ireland. It was a joy a thousand or so miles from home to pick up an in-flight magazine and find him with you. He will be missed but hopefully well remembered.

    Michael Drake.

  • Very sorry to hear of Ians sudden passing. Ian had been a good and loyal customer of ours for many years. Only last week did we sit and chat in the gallery about framing and art. Pleasure to deal with and our thoughts are with his family

    Paul Evans
    Canvas Galleries

  • Diane Henshaw

    Sorry to hear about Ian passing – he was one of N Irelands few honest voices and will be a great loss to the arts community as nobody else seems to know how to really critic Visual Art in the North!

    Regards to his family from Fermanagh Arts Office and from myself – one of the reviewed.


  • Brian McCalden

    Sad Day for NI.
    Ian was a wonderful character. Our paths crossed most frequently when I edited the hospitality magazine, Catering & Licensing Review and Ian’s efforts as NITB PR Director to put a positive face on the daily deaths and destruction across the (then) embattled Province were a wonder to behold.
    As Michael Drake says he was always a powerful ambassador for wee NI and is a major loss to the community.