Obituary: James Seaton, 94
A former principal keeper of the National Library of Scotland has died in Edinburgh at the age of 94.
James Seaton – known as Hamish – was born in Blair Atholl in April 1918, the youngest of five children to John Seaton and Jane Stewart.
He attended primary school at the old schoolhouse at Blair Atholl and then moved on to Pitlochry High School, where he was dux in 1935. That same year, he began to read classics at Glasgow University, graduating with first class honours four years later.
Military service came calling and Hamish was deployed in Belgium and Holland with the Royal Artillery, a regiment of the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division.
He completed his army career in Germany as captain in the Control Commission, after the 52nd Division established its headquarters there in 1945.
On his arrival home, Hamish planned to study law at Edinburgh University, but ended up joining the National Library of Scotland in 1947. He began his career as assistant keeper in the Department of Printed Book, and for six years from 1960 was secretary of the library.
He became deputy keeper in 1964, before being promoted to keeper two years later, with special responsibility for the catalogue and the introduction of automation.
In 1974, he took another step up the career ladder – one which turned out to be his last – as he remained in the post of principal keeper of printed books until his retirement in 1983.
Hamish married in 1966 after he met Anne Vernon from the Isle of Man. She was a fellow classicist who also worked in the National Library. They had two sons, John and Robert, who were born in 1967 and 1969.
Hamish had a passion for the library’s collections and could often be seen on the stack floors, sometimes at unsociable hours, pursuing inquiries. He was also a strong advocate of links with research libraries across Europe.
On a personal level, he enjoyed an active interest in books relating to the Indian Mutiny of 1857, amassing a huge collection of his own. Despite being a private collection, Hamish gave generous access to it. On one occasion he even invited the entire Edinburgh Bibliographical Society to his house to view the works.
He was a member of the society from 1948, taking up the role of honorary secretary between 1953 and 1977, and then became president between 1980 and 1983. He was awarded the OBE in 1979.
After his retirement, Hamish divided his time between the Capital and Blair Atholl, combining his love of his birthplace with the enticing bookshops and related pursuits of Edinburgh.
But with increasing age taking its toll, he spent his last seven months in the care of the Erskine Edinburgh Home. He is survived by his sister, Georgie, his wife and their sons.
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