Obituary: Michael Andrew Richard (Andy) Hunter, campaigner and storyteller

Andy Hunter: Campaigner and storyteller who combined his love of words with a passion for helping people
Andy Hunter: Campaigner and storyteller who combined his love of words with a passion for helping people
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Born: 1 November, 1954, in Hereford. Died: 5 January, 2015, in Michaelchurch Escley, Herefordshire, aged 60

Michael Andrew Richard Hunter (Andy) was a teller of tales, a campaigner for sustainable transport, cyclist, cycle tour leader and makar. He was treasurer of the Scottish Storytelling Forum and organiser of the Guid Crack Club in Edinburgh. Andy was also the founder, and benefactor, in 1981 of Edinburgh Community Trust. The trust later became Forth Sector, a charity that provides training, employability services and work experience for people disadvantaged from mainstream employment.

Last year Andy was involved in the Seeing Stories project, a European-funded collaboration between Scotland, Portugal Germany and Italy.

In June 2014 he contributed to a bi-lingual rendering of La Terra, Il Colore, The Earth, The Colour, in the Roman amphitheatre in Fiesole. Performing in a space built in the 1st century BC was an experience that spoke deeply to Andy’s connection with past and place and moved him profoundly, as too did the warmth and openness of the people he met there.

In a lecture given in Florence, “Reconnecting People and Places in Contemporary Society,” he quoted from Matthew Arnold’s poem, A Southern Night, where people “see all sights from pole to pole/ And glance and nod, and bustle by/ And never once possess our soul/ Before we die.”

By contrast, his own philosophy was to take time for people, for places and the many causes in which he believed.

Andy’s sudden death while cycling towards Michaelchurch Escley on 5 January brought him full circle back to his place of origin. He was born in Hereford on All Saints Day 1954, the eighth and last surviving Michael Hunter in an unbroken line since 1724. He was the second child of Michael and Claire (née Bull) Hunter with an elder sister, Rosemary.

Andy’s childhood was a happy one, filled with the freedom of the countryside and a close connection to the land. He was less at ease during his school years at Hawtreys Preparatory School and later at Eton College. He described a sense of being neither insider not outsider though looking back he also recognised this as a time of learning about self as well as relating with people and authority.

As son and heir Andy carried the weight of parental expectations and a large family estate but by the end of his school days it was clear he did not want to follow the path expected of him. Throughout his life he strove to balance his love and loyalty to his family with the need to be true to his own individuality.

After leaving school Andy travelled for a year before completing an HND in agriculture then working for the West of Scotland Agricultural College in Dumfries. In 1980 he moved to Edinburgh to work with the Edinburgh Cyrenians. This marked a time of awakening, of community and renewed connection with the peace movement.

The commitment to working with people and the land continued when Andy joined the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), becoming involved in a horticultural project offering work experience to people with mental health problems.

He later trained and worked as a social worker and in 1989 married his first wife, Lucy Bate. His interest in storytelling began to be rekindled at this time through his stepson Joel and the birth of his daughter Jacinta in 1992.

By then Andy had returned to the third sector to work at Garvald Edinburgh, an organisation providing day and accommodation services for adults with learning disabilities. His contribution as a manager there over the next 18 years was rich, diverse and deeply valued.

Andy’s first marriage ended and in 1997 he married Anne Clark, art therapist and colleague at Garvald, with whom he shared the rest of his life along with all his interests and enthusiasms. They shared too the sorrow of the death of their baby son, Michael Benedict.

Andy set up his own company, Storybikes, in 2008. This brought together his love of storytelling, cycling and connection with both people and place. His tours included routes along Hadrian’s Wall, through Dumfries and Galloway, Perthshire and Fife as well as Edinburgh; each tour carefully researched with stories woven through the itinerary.

Andy celebrated his 60th birthday in November with a ceilidh at Polwarth Parish Church, where he was a committed member.

Andy’s life was full and rich and he gave his time willingly to many causes that he cared deeply about. He marked each passing place and time, and shared his light and love through story and deed. His legacy is a hope for the future, a commitment to the earth and the people on it. He is survived by his wife Anne, his daughter Jacinta and his sister Rosemary.

A memorial and thanksgiving service for Andy will be held in Michaelchurch Escley on Friday, 24 April at 12.30pm.