Photographer Keith had a generous spirit

Keith Allardyce Hobbs.
Keith Allardyce Hobbs.

Keith Allardyce Hobbs, whose professional photographer’s name was Keith Allardyce, has died at the age of 70.

Born in Ashington, he studied at Harrow School of Photography and began his photographic career at London’s Royal Free Hospital, then moved on to Imperial College and Hadrian’s Wall Museum in Northumberland.

On moving to Orkney in 1974, he pursued his photographic interests as well as being an RSPB summer warden.

He later became a lightkeeper with the Northern Lighthouse Board, first as a relief keeper covering all the manned lighthouses in Orkney and then later as a Local Assistant Keeper stationed at Suleskerry.

In 1986, he was commissioned by Scotland’s Lighthouse Museum to recreate his survey of the lights and the people who operated them, culminating in his first book, At Scotland’s Edge, and later Scotland’s Edge Revisited in 1998.

At the beginning of the 1980s, Keith was also introduced to Botton Village and its community for people with special needs on the North York Moors.

Here was a new way of living and working and he took to the life there with a generous ‎and warm-hearted spirit, becoming an apprentice in the skilful work of glass engraving with Marta Frey – whose house co-ordinator he became in 1981.

The photographic opportunities at Botton in its unique dale setting gave him the possibilities of portraits of the social, cultural and working life of the village.

In this aspect, he was encouraged by colleagues and Keith’s photographs will always be remembered as leaving the subject free and independent, a soul was never ‘captured’.

His fascination with Orkney never diminished.

In 1989, he was commissioned by the Stromness Community Council to produce a body of photographic archive documenting a year in the life of Stromness in collaboration with Orkney’s Museums Officer, Bryce Wilson, Orcadian writer, George Mackay Brown, and the chairman of Stromness Community Council, Doris Stout.

This project culminated with a book Sea Haven: Stromness in the Orkney Islands in 1991.

From 2012 to 2017, he devoted his energy to producing books about the lives, culture and history of the Orkney Islands.

As a result, he published four books: Found I and Found II – portraits and stories of contemporary beachcombers with their found objects – and Silent I and Silent II – exploring and documenting the abandoned buildings with accompanying stories by Orcadian historian and storyteller, Tom Muir.

Alongside his photographic endeavours in the Orkney Islands, Keith was able to enjoy his life in Northumberland, where he had provided some holidays for residents of the Newton Dee community, near Aberdeen, and Botton Village in North Yorkshire, where he met his partner, Ikuko Tsuchiya.

Throughout his life, he lived in various places such as London, Edinburgh, the Orkney Islands, North Yorkshire and then back to Northumberland – where he is going to rest.

His memorial service will be held tomorrow (Friday) from noon at Trinity Church, Station Road, Ashington.

Call Peter Grenfell Funeral Directors at Westfield House in Ashington on 01670 812117 for inquiries about the service.