Aitchison Irvine George

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Irvine George Aitchison (1889 – 1965)
The sudden death, in June at his cottage in Perthshire, of Irvine Aitchison will be felt as deeply in the world of ski-ing and mountaineering as in the optical profession to which he devoted his life's work. The son of James Aitchison, one of the pioneers of modern methods of sight-testing,
from Dulwich he went, as a scholar, to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he took honours in the Natural Science Tripos, and also read Law. He was called to the Bar in the Middle Temple, but practiced for a short time only as, at the age of twenty-two, he succeeded his father as Chairman and Managing Director of Dollond and Aitchison Ltd., posts which he held continuously for over fifty years, resigning to become President of the Company in 1964.
This early assumption of responsibility probably accounted for his relatively late introduction to the mountains, for he was over thirty before he started to ski. A few years later he started climbing, and during the late 1920' s did several seasons with J. T. Lattey and Brian Harwood. It is evident that his ski-ing led him to a love of the mountains, for his first recorded summit was the Wildhorn in January, 1924, and for many years he climbed in winter and spring with Dr. Henry Hoek.
During the 1930's he climbed every year in the Alps with his son Peter, whose election to the Club at the age of twenty-one gave him immense pleasure, and Hermann Steuri, and also often with Kenneth Smith, in Wales and the Lakes. A minor fall in Wales ultimately led to the arthritis which so crippled him in his latter years.
He was a great believer in technical competence, to the achievement of which he devoted great effort. As a result, although never an outstanding performer, he was a very safe climber on rock and ice, and a strong and steady skier, with a wide practical knowledge of snow-craft. His climbing record, both in summer and winter is comprehensive, but it is as a skimountaineer that he will be remembered, and then as much for his work and inspiration as for his actual achievements. Irvine had no use for half measures. If he was interested in a subject or a sport he gave to it all that he had. The acceptance of the responsibility of office was an integral part of his character and stemmed, in large measure, from a very genuine wish to help his fellows. In his profession his blend of scientific and legal training fitted him to take a leading part in the establishment of the National Health Optical Services. He was a founder, and on two occasions, Chairman of the Society of Opticians, an original member of the General Optical Council and, to the time of his death, a member of the Joint Council of Opthalmic Opticians. He was Senior Liveryman of the Spectacle Makers' Company.
Irvine was elected to the Club in 1933 and remained proud of his membership. He served on the Committee from 1947-1949· When in London he rarely missed a meeting of the Club, and last spring was eagerly entering in his diary the date of the first autumn meeting. He joined the Ski Club of Great Britain in 1923 and was its President from 1944-1946, when he carried the burden of rebuilding the Club after the stagnation of the war years. He became a member of the Alpine Ski Club in 1931 and, typically, in the following year accepted the President's request to take over, in a period of crisis, the duties of Honorary Treasurer and Secretary, which he did with some skill and tact until they could be safely handed over. He became President in 1946 and, in association with his friend Kenneth Smith, the Hon. Secretary, gave the leadership which was at that time sorely needed.
After Peter's death whilst motor-cycle racing in the Isle of Man shortly after the war, Irvine did virtually no climbing. He continued to ski, occasionally going high, until he was seventy. He was then induced to take up salmon fishing on the Tay. He soon learned the new technique, and spent many happy days on the river, from which he could see his beloved mountains.
Irvine was, at all times, a delightful companion, at ease with people of all ages. He could talk well, but much preferred to listen, and was adept at stimulating good conversation. His legal training had given him a clear and analytical mind and the ability to penetrate the heart of a problem. His quiet 'Why?', when one of his younger friends had been speaking with more enthusiasm than reflection, could be a most friendly but salutary corrective. Modest and considerate, enjoying the good things of life, nothing gave him greater pleasure than to share them with his friends.
To his widow we extend our sympathy in her loss, a loss which is shared by us all.
C. B. C. Handley.
Quelle: Alpine Journal Volume 70, 1965, Seite 360-362

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