About Ian Smith



Ian Smith was born in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, but at the age of 11 he moved with his family to the town of Peebles in the Borders region of Scotland.  His father, brother and sisters still live there now.  Since then, he has lived in England, Switzerland, Japan, Ethiopia, North Korea, Libya and Tunisia, as well as spending shorter stints working in India, the Republic of Ireland, Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Myanmar and Mauritius.  He currently lives in Sri Lanka.


In his time he has worked as a bookshop assistant, a cleaner in a skin clinic, a farmhand, a general dogsbody for a consultancy firm (while it was researching the fish-processing area of Aberdeen Harbour), a grape-picker, a hop-picker, a kitchen porter, a member of a nightclub’s floor-staff (his least favourite job ever), a night porter, a project manager, a proof-reader, a supermarket shelf-stacker and truck loader / unloader, a teacher, a teacher-trainer, a trainee journalist, a travel-book researcher and writer, a university lecturer, a volunteer at a school for boys with behavioural issues (or ‘maladjusted boys’ as they were called back in those un-PC days), a warehouseman and a youth hostel warden.


He also writes short stories — horror, science fiction and fantasy ones as well as mainstream ‘literary’ ones, as snobby critics like to call them.  These have been published in magazines, webzines and newspapers such as Aphelion, the Belfast Telegraph, Blood Moon Rising, Death’s Head Grin, the Dream Zone, the Eildon Tree, Flashes in the Dark, Groundswell, Gutter, Hellfire Crossroads, the Honest Ulsterman, the Horror Zine, Hungur, Legend, the Peeblesshire News, Roadworks, Scratchings, Sorcerous Signals and Write.


He won the Peebles Art Festival short fiction competition in 1998 and Northern Ireland’s Brian Moore short story of the year competition in 1999 and is the author of two non-fiction books about his local football teams in Scotland, Peebles Rovers and Tweeddale Rovers.  His writing has appeared under the pseudonyms Jim Mountfield, Eoin Henderson, Steve Cashell, Rab Foster and Paul MacAlister and, occasionally, under his own boring name.


36 thoughts on “About Ian Smith

  1. Hi Ian. Really good to hear from you, thanks for getting in touch. I am still in Caracas and life is pretty much the same as it was before, I have to say. I’m thinking about leaving in September when by extension is up, but don’t know where I’ll be heading yet. I would like it to be Burma, Vietnam or India but haven’t seen any jobs in those places on the Intranet recently. How is Tunisia then? You’ve been there quite a while now, haven’t you? What’s the country like to travel round? I’m assuming there must be one or two Roman ruins to see there. I saw that Andy is in Ethiopia too, I get e-mails from him from time to time. Unfortunately I’m lousy at keeping in touch so haven’t exchanged any news with him for ages. Anyway, hope to hear from you again soon and now I’ll have a look through your blog more! Take care, Nic.

    • Hi, Nic. Thank you for your message and it’s very good to hear from you again. All the places you mention — Burma, Vietnam and India — sound fascinating. (I’ve worked in India, visited Vietnam and heard nothing but good reports about the people, though obviously not about the government, in Burma.) So good luck with finding a position in one of them!

      • Hi Ian. Yes, I’ve heard good things about the people in Burma too. I know two people who worked there and one in particular was very positive about them. Maybe I’ve got a chance of getting a job in India as they opened a few new centres there a few years ago, but then again someone told me the other day they aren’t doing so well. You didn’t tell me anything about Tunisia! Nic.

          • I know now, I read a few pieces and they were very evocative (is that a word?). Having been in a few countries in those parts, I can easily relate to the images you conjure up. But what about mountains, rivers, distance castles and so forth…

          • I have just posted an entry in response to your query, Nic – check out the Wikipedia links. Hope this gives you a better idea of what Tunisia is like and what’s worth seeing here!

  2. Thanks for the explanation of the recent events in la Marsa. It’s very hard to get an understanding of what’s going on and your blog did it. I live in Carthage.

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  4. Just come across your article on Riccarton Junction. Very much enjoyed reading your account of your visit in 2010 and looking at the pictures. Glad to see you have had a look at my website on abandoned communities.
    Riccarton Junction is very near the top of the list of places I want to get to, but having had two excellent trips to Scotland already in the course of doing research for my website it may be some time before I get a chance to return to that country. In the meantime I’ve added a link to your blog in the Links section of my website.
    Very best wishes,

    • Not at all, Stephen — my pleasure. And thank you for all the work you’ve put into creating your fascinating and informative website.

  5. hi Ian,
    I was looking for people who see Richard Hannay as a predecessor for Jame Bond, and Google pointed to you. Have you read Island of Sheep? If so, did you note that it is probably the origin of the Skyfall name? In Island of Sheep former secret-agent Richard Hannay (like Bond, a senior military officer with Scottish roots and sophisticated tastes) has the task of protecting “Haraldsen” who, like M, is being pursued with deadly intent by a ruthless villain because of a perceived injustice in the deep past. Hannay takes Haraldsen to a secluded mansion named Sea Fell in the Faroe Islands, with a treeless landscape very similar to Scotland. In the final battle, the villain approaches the mansion across open downs, and Hannay sends Haraldsen down an escape tunnel to safety.

    • Many thanks for that information, Michael. Among John Buchan’s works, I’m afraid I’ve only read The 39 Steps and a collection of his short stories, so I had no idea that Island of Sheep bore such similarities to Skyfall. Actually, I’m a little ashamed of my ignorance regarding Buchan, as I come from the Scottish Borders town of Peebles, which has strong links with the author. I understand his parents and siblings lived in Bank House at the bottom of Peebles High Street, and there’s now a scenic hiking route called the John Buchan Way that you can follow from Bank House, up into and across the Peeblesshire hills, to the John Buchan Centre in the village of Broughton 13 miles to the south-west. I’ve walked the John Buchan Way… But I need to read more John Buchan the author!

  6. Thanks Ian for your thoughtful and well researched account of my late uncle, Ian Hendry. We’ve now added a link to your article under the biographical section of the Official Website.


    As you mentioned, Gabriel has produced a great biographical account of his life, ‘Send In The Clowns – The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry’. The website, the Youtube Channel and the Facebook Page have all been created to help support the interest of fans, old and new. Anyone interested in finding out more on these resources can do so by going to the homepage link included at the closing of your article.

    Thanks again for taking the time to research and write such a good piece on Ian.

    Best regards,

    Neil Hendry
    Editor, Official Website of Ian Hendry

  7. Hi Ian,

    I was wondering what your thoughts were on local (Scottish Borders) art and artists? I’m currently trying my hardest to get my own art “out” there, and I really wanted to do this initially on a local scale. Although, I’m not sure if there’s much ‘room’ for it?
    I’d love to hear your opinions on this subject. And please do check out my art, and let me know what you think 🙂

    Many thanks
    Dawn <3

    • Hi, Dawn,

      I’m afraid I’m not an artist, so it’s difficult to give you any suggestions. However, based on my own experiences as an attempted, and very occasionally successful, writer, I would certainly venture these three pieces of advice to anyone wanting to establish themselves:

      1. If you’re involved in any sort of artistic endeavour, the more you can familiarise yourself with what other people (artists, writers) are doing, the better. For that reason, I think writers who claim they don’t read anything by other writers because they don’t want to be ‘influenced’ and they want to be ‘unique’ are mad. You need to (a) know what the ‘opposition’ are doing, (b) know what sort of thing is selling, (c) and then try to walk a narrow line where you’re doing something that is uniquely ‘yours’ but you aren’t alienating the market, i.e. you’re not being so weirdly unique that nobody wants to buy your stuff.

      2. Use the Internet and modern communications technology as much as you can. This isn’t just about showcasing your work, although that’s important. It also allows you to get ideas and advice — usually for free. (Compare that with the pre-Internet days when, if you wanted to find out how to, say, submit a manuscript to a publisher, you’d have to buy The Writer’s And Artist’s Yearbook or some other ‘How to…’ manual.)

      3. Network. I don’t like doing it, and I’m not much good at it, but like everything else these days (and probably in the old days too) who you know is incredibly important.

      By the way, an artist friend of mine mentioned the Kelso Art Fair the other day: http://www.kelso.bordernet.co.uk/calendar/2329.html. Are you attending?

      Good luck!

  8. Hi Ian,
    I found your blog after I saw news of Jim Sillars’s piece to be printed in Monday’s Daily Record entitled ‘Scotland’d Oil, Secrects and Lies’ which prompted my thinking about the 80’s poster of Vampire Thatcher under the slogan ‘No wonder She’s Laughing’…you know the rest. Anyhoo, this rather fortuitously and somewhat serendipitously led me to your blog dated Feb25 2014 entitled ‘North Sea Oiliness’.
    I wanted to say thanks and to ask (albeit belatedly) your permission to post this on my Facebook page with a message to everyone I know to share your wisdom and insights. I have subsequently bookmarked your site and will no doubt become an avid follower…nice piece on Ian Paisley too.
    All the best in an independent Scotland,

  9. Hello Iain
    I’m off to Malta on Sunday and would like to use your article about Oliver Reed’ chair in the Crown hotel.
    I was going to do a poster and leave it in the the “Pub” in Valetta since the connection.
    Happy to send you a copy for your approval

    Gordon McCreath

    • Thank you for that – please go ahead and use the article as you see fit. I’ve been in Valetta and know the bar you mention very well!

      However, you might want to amend the article slightly, to reflect the fact that the owner of the Crown Hotel in Peebles, Peter Cassidy, sadly passed away in the early summer of 2014.

  10. Hi Iain,
    reading you piece on student politics in Aberdeen brought up one or two memories for sure 🙂 I’m just glad the UMC wasn’t mentioned…but we were just there for the sex, drugs and rock n roll anyway!
    By the way you mentioned Finlay Mclean as the late Finlay Mclean, is this true? I really liked Finlay and visited him at his home in South Uist as well as had an interesting midnight meeting by weird coincidence on the Platform of Oxford Circus tube. This was long ago and I lost touch with him. What happened to Finlay? He would have to have been only in his early fifties.

    • Hi, Jevan —

      Great to hear from you again. Regarding Finlay, I’m afraid he succumbed to throat cancer a couple of years ago. He was still living in Aberdeen when he passed away. He was younger than fifty — I think he would only have been in his early-to-mid forties. He was a one-of-a-kind — very funny, very wise and a brilliantly entertaining raconteur. I spent many happy evenings in his company and I regret that I’d drifted out of contact with him during the last years of his life. (I was living in Tunisia when I heard of his passing.)

      As for the Union Management Committee — don’t worry, I thought all you guys were pretty cool! Certainly a lot cooler than most of your counterparts down at the SRC building…

  11. I read some of your articles and they are very informative! If you are the Ian Smith who I worked with while you were in Ethiopia, I very much want to keep in touch to share those memoris of awesome years! If not please ignore this!
    Thank you!

    • Hello, Mr Nesredin, how are you? Yes, I am the Ian Smith who worked with you in Debre Birhan from 1999 to 2001 and your email brought back some fond memories. Please drop me another line and fill me in on what you’ve been doing for the last fourteen years!

      • Dear Ian,
        What a surprise! I am glad that you replied! I hope you will accept my apology for my late,late reply, although I thought you would use my email address that I provided to get back to me if your were the Ian that I was talking about.However, there have been times when I got back to your blog and enjoyed reading your fantastic articles.
        There is something which is going at the back of my mind when I am writing this which is as to what your reaction would be if I happen to tell you that I am currently residing in Scotland. My main raison deter for my being in Scotland at the moment is that I brought a wee Scottish girl to this world who is in fact turning 13 soon!
        What is more, I am very eager to meet you again in person and introduce you to my family members and perhaps enjoy together the foods that you liked whilst you were in Ethiopia. Please let me know when you are back in Scotland to visit your family.
        will write soon,
        Bye now

        • Hi, Nesredin —

          Great to hear from you again. The reply system with this blog hasn’t been working properly and messages I thought I’d sent back to people haven’t been sent at all. However, I will drop you a line from my personal email account sometime and let you know when I will be back in Scotland next. It would be good to meet up!

      • Hi Ian
        I was a VSO in Assella Ethiopia 1999-2001. I am organising a reunion in September would be great to see you! But are you still in Sri Lanka?

        • Hi, Minty —

          Thank you for your invitation. Yes, I’m still in Sri Lanka and I’ll probably still be here in September, so it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to attend any reunion then. However, please keep me informed of the arrangements. You never know…

  12. Hello, Ian. I am writing to enquire if you would be willing to give permission for a small voluntary club that explores old railways to reproduce in its quarterly magazine your excellent photograph of Riccarton Junction, the last one on this page: http://bloodandporridge.co.uk/wp/?tag=riccarton-junction. Some of our members have been out exploring the old Borders Railway but I guess that no one took a camera! Being a voluntary group, we do not pay contributors, but will gladly send you a copy of the magazine when published.

  13. Hi Ian,
    thank you for your interesting blog,
    I’m reading “who goes there” and your topic about this was interesting for me.
    since I’m non-native speaker I have problems in some lines, for example; “there is an ice-drowned mountain ridge, a granite wall of unshakable strength that has damned back the ice creeping from the south.”
    can you or anyone else paraphrase this for me?
    thank you again

  14. Also I don’t know the writer’s meaning by ” that formed the surface, and escaped most of it.” in this sentence: “We camped there on the lip of that ice-drowned mountain range for twelve days. We dug out camp into the blue ice that formed the surface, and escaped most of it.

    • I think the compound adjective ‘ice-drowned’ simply means ‘covered in ice and snow’. The ‘granite wall of unshakable strength that has dammed back the ice creeping from the south’ is an immense mountain ridge blocking some glaciers moving from south to north. ‘Dug out camp’ refers to them setting up camp in the midst of all that ice and snow, and ‘escaped most of it’, if I remember the story correctly, refers to them being able to shelter from the terrible weather that was raging over Antarctica at the time.

      Good luck with reading ‘Who Goes There’, by the way. It contains some very complicated prose, and it’s certainly not something I would choose to read in English if I was a non-native speaker!

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