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Remembering Iain Jackson

Yesterday I received the news that Iain Jackson has passed away. Iain had been in a friendly competition with Atila Ege for the top spot of who visited the most WHS over the past years. He ended up with an amazing number of 915 visited WHS, which is even more remarkable given the strict rules he applied for himself. Iain died suddenly in his home in Edinburgh, leaving behind his wife Freda and son Euan.

Iain (left) in front of Gorham's Cave Complex in Gibraltar

Iain had been 'bagging' World Heritage Sites since late 1987, so actually well before this website started. He did so for years in isolation, until he found out that there were people like him focusing on the World Heritage List. In the mean time, Iain had made his own set of ‘rules’ about what is needed to ‘tick off’ a WHS.

That meant for example that a visit was only valid when it was done AFTER a site had been admitted to the List. While 99% of us are looking forward to each year’s WHC meeting to see which bonus WHS they will get this year from trips done in the past, Iain must have dreaded that session. It meant more revisits to regions where he had been in the past, just to pick up the new WHS. Rigid as this approach may seem, when I talked with him about it he convinced me that in a way it was more efficient as well. He travelled from WHS to WHS, not wasting time on TWHS or other sights which may or may not become a full WHS in the future.

Another one of his rules was that for a serial WHS, he needed to have visited 50% of the locations plus 1. You will not encounter the Rock Art of the Mediterranean basin on his visited list. He also refused to cross out Edinburgh and nearby Forth Bridge, although he lived there.

Iain (left) with fellow WH traveller Thomas Buechler, at one of the Struve sites in Lithuania

My personal interaction with him was infrequent. We did exchange some e-mails now and then, but Iain was not the kind of person that spends his time behind a keyboard. He would write a review of a seldom visited WHS only after nudging from me or other community members. He did so in a wonderfully understated way – about Colombia’s San Agustín in 1996 for example when a large stash of drugs was discovered in a bus where he was travelling on. 

At his profile intro on this website he wrote “After every visit I have written by hand a 2 page report of that visit noting the date, weather conditions, names of any companions, together with a description of the site and my impressions of it.” I was always intrigued by those reports and during a visit to his home in 2015 I had the privilege of browsing through these handwritten papers. This only after me asking to see them – he was too modest to force these upon a visitor. His personality was the most opposite to an alpha male-type competitive traveller that you could think of.

Iain surrounded by WH travellers in Edinburgh last year

Since we first started doing our yearly WH meet-ups in 2015, Iain has always been present. He was there visiting the sites (although he had been to several of them before), at the drinks and the dinners, chatting to everyone. This way he also touched the hearts of many of the younger WH travellers.

We will pay tribute to Iain on this website this week.

Els - 18 April 2020

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Craig Harder 28 April 2020

Iain’s passing is a poignant reminder of how fast our 300,000 days on earth go by. He really made the most of them with his huge number of visited sites. C and I met him for the first time in Algeciras Spain. It was the first meetup for Craig and I. We were in search of the whs group as we strolled through the rustic town. I spotted a number of international révélers and had a hunch this was the crew. The beer was flowing copiously and much socializing was happening. Iain immediately approached us and was kind, welcoming, and interesting. What a travel itinerary he reeled off! I was astounded to be sitting next to his young son,
Uan, who appeared to be accompanying his dad on his lengthy trek. What a tribute that Iain was such good company that the younger generation was willing to come along and that the torch had been passed. Rest In Peace, Iain, you will be missed.

Els Slots 23 April 2020

Iain's funeral details.

Esteban Cervantes Jiménez 23 April 2020

My deep condolences to his family and the WH community.

Joel Baldwin 23 April 2020

Very sad to hear this news. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Iain and sharing a long car ride with him across Bulgaria in 2018. My condolences to his family, who can be justifiably proud of his accomplishments. Cheers Iain, I'll raise a pint for you tonight. RIP.

Shandos 23 April 2020

It's so terrible to hear the news. I had the pleasure of meeting Iain at the Bulgaria Meet-up and he was such a warm-hearted traveller, a true gentleman, who I wish I could have gotten to know better. Instead, I'll follow in his WHS footsteps, although my requirements aren't as stringent as his!

khuft 21 April 2020

My condolences to his family! Very sad to see Iain go...

Luis Filipe Gaspar 21 April 2020

I'm very sorry to read this news. I never met Iain Jackson, but really I enjoyed his trip reports. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Stanislaw Warwas 20 April 2020

Deepest sympathies... But He will always inspire new generations of travellers...

Zos 19 April 2020

My deepest sympathies to the family of Ian. I might not be fortunate to have met him, but as a fellow WHS traveller, we are connected in one way or another.

Thomas Buechler 19 April 2020

Very sad news indeed. I met Iain on several occasions during our visits to the Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam, but also in Bulgaria and Lithuania where I had the privilege to discover some great Unesco sites together with him. And have a few beers together as well. I was always surprised with his profound knowledge of history. Iain will always remain a great encouragement for me and my future journeys to World Heritage Sites. You will be dearly missed by all WHS enthusiasts. My deepest and most sincere condolences goes his wife Freda and son Euan.

Els Slots 19 April 2020

As by suggestion of Nan (and seconded by Jay T) I have added Edinburgh to Iain's total. Read here what Iain's meaning was behind leaving Edinburgh unchecked.

Jacob Choi 19 April 2020

While I have never had the joy to meet Iain in person, I have, however heard about him extensively through others. The things I heard about him were only positive attributes, on top of his travel repertoire. I can only wish to be as accomplished as he was, but also have the same level of humility, respect, and liveliness as Iain. I am still inspired by him and will definitely keep his memory alive.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family: Freda and Euan.

Michael Novins 18 April 2020

Els, I’m very sorry to read this news. I never met Iain but really enjoyed his many trip reports, always helpful when I was trying to determine if I’ve crossed from a buffer to core zone. My condolences to his family.

Watkinstravel 18 April 2020

My condolences to Iain's family. I have not been part of this community for long but I'm very sad to have missed the opportunity to meet him in person. I may never live up to his high standards for counting a site as visited but he will continue to be an inspiration for myself and many others as we follow in his footsteps.

Philipp Peterer 18 April 2020

Very sad news! My deepest condolences to Freda and Euan.
We surely lost one of the greatest travelers and a very, very kind and modest person. I will cherish the memories from our meetings in Lithuania, Gibraltar, Bulgaria and Scotland with a true travel icon.
Iain, you were always there, even if there were no new sites to tick off for you. You were a fantastic travel, restaurant and bar companion and a person I honestly looked up to. Your rules to count a site made us all bow in respect and your achievements will probably not be matched by many of us. You are dearly missed. Rest in peace my friend.

Jay T 18 April 2020

I’m so sorry to hear this. I never met Iain, although he was on the forum on occasion, and he seemed like a lovely person. His love of travel was inspiring, and I’m glad he was able to share some of it with this community. I like Nan’s suggestion that Edinburgh be added as the last site visited for him on his page (pending his family’s approval). My condolences to Iain’s family.

Hubert 18 April 2020

Sad news. I met Iain at our meetups and had some fun and inspiring talks with him. I will always remember the walk through his hometown last year. My thoughts are with Freda and Euan.

Ian Cade 18 April 2020

I was only fortunate to meet Iain on a couple of occasions, and he was friendly, warm and most memorably fun.

After sharing a few drinks he said was basing an upcoming site visit in Senegal on some advice I had published and asked for any other tips I may have, which for someone of Iain’s experience was about the biggest complement I could receive. And in return Iain offered me touching advice on life as a new father.

Beyond the love of travel Iain along with his wife Freda and son Euan were such fun and warm company and my thoughts are with them now.

Wojciech Fedoruk 18 April 2020

That's really sad, my condolences to Iain's family. I met Iain in Vilnius and we discussed a lot - he was a really nice person. Big loss to our community.

Assif 18 April 2020

How sad. I was awaiting Iain's contributions on the forum. I didn't have the privilege to know him personally, but was always impressed by his knowledge and intellect as well as his openness. I like Clyde's suggestion to assign him OUV.

Nan 18 April 2020

My condolences to his family.

I had the pleasure of hosting Iain back last fall in Schleswig Holstein and giving him a tour of the Wadden Sea. He was a great traveler and I was happy to have traveled on a brief period with him.

One comment re his final count. I vividly remember that Edinburgh was to be his last WHS. I think we should count it as visited, bringing his tally to 916/917 (forth bridge).

Jarek Pokrzywnicki 18 April 2020

Extremely sad! Deepest condolences to his family. I think we are all shocked by this news

Carlo Sarion 18 April 2020

Saddened to hear about Iain's passing. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Clyde 18 April 2020

I'm really shocked by this sad news. Last year's meetup was already a highlight but now it is even more knowing that we met at Iain's hometown and in one of his few unticked WHS. From our few chats together in Vilnius and Edinburgh, I can only wholeheartedly say that he undoubtedly possessed OUV and will sorely be missed! RIP Iain

Kyle Magnuson 18 April 2020

Sorry sorry to hear this. He seemed like a wonderful person, I have certainly been inspired reading about his adventures.