Reall lives: Deep-seated respect for acclaimed archaeologist

David Ridgway
David Ridgway
Have your say

Tributes have been paid to a world-leading archaeologist who taught at Edinburgh University for more than 30 years, after he died at the age of 74.

David Ridgway was born in Walsall in 1938 and became a well-known and highly respected character. After graduating from University College London in 1960, he went on to earn a postgraduate degree at Oxford, which set him up as an expert in his field.

With his Sardinian-born wife Francesca, he compiled a book titled Before the Romans, which was published in 1979. Focusing on the history of the Etruscan colonisation of Corsica, it became such a crucial text that it became known simply as Ridgway and Ridgway in academic circles.

David joined Edinburgh University as a lecturer in 1968 before becoming a reader in archaeology. Following the merging of archaeology with the social sciences department he opted to switch to classics.

Colleague Glenys Davies, a classics lecturer at Edinburgh University, remembers David fondly.

She said: “David was a bit of a character who liked to pretend he was more gruff than he actually was.

“He liked to teach at 9am on a Monday morning to find out who was keen.”

A life-long smoker, not even a ban put in place within the university campus could force David to stub out his habit.

Glenys remembers him as “one of those people who academic controversy followed around, due to his many different theories he didn’t always see eye to eye with many of his colleagues”.

Despite spending the majority of his career in Edinburgh, David’s work was best known in Greece and Italy, where he was considered the leading English-language expert on the ancient Greeks’ colonisation of the Mediterranean almost 3000 years ago.

David’s other passion, both within and outside of archaeology, was wife Francesca, who he met on an archaeological dig site in 1964. A fellow archaeologist, she was the honorary fellow of the topic at Edinburgh University, where they worked together until 2003.

The two spent a great deal of time together at sites in Italy and Greece. They had no children.

Glenys said: “David and his wife were inseparable, working together a lot. They really were soul mates.”

Following his retirement in 2003 they moved south to Colchester and were both made Research Fellows of the Institute of London.

A book of archaeological essays, Across Frontiers, was dedicated to the couple in 2006. The tribute focused on their fields of study, covering the Etruscans, Greeks, Cypriots and the Phoenicians.

David died last month during a trip to Greece, visiting an excavation site on the island of Euboea.