Dr Ian Gibson
It is now a year since Dr Ian Gibson passed away.
The quote above rings true when one remembers Ian - as he, indeed, created a great deal of light for people with ME and their families.
Ian was such a great man in so many ways - an advisor, an inspiration, a champion for people with ME and their families, a great friend of Invest in ME Research.
A person who served so many communities so well
- a philanthropist for people.
A year on and the sense of loss of this amazing man is still there.
It still feels strange that he is not present - his knowledge and intellect and humour and determination created so many good memories.
Ian did so much for the charity and for ME and much of what has developed and been achieved by the charity over the last years was a testament to Ian's support and his character and his humanity.
In 2006 he led an unofficial inquiry into ME.
He brought in scientists and parliamentarians and made recommendations (difficult in the circumstances of that time) which could have achieved real progress early on, had they been listened to.
At a time where ME was given even less attention by governments than now he took on the challenge of bringing the disease to the attention of an apathetic world where media misinformation and establishment support for an old boys' network in medicine and politics was rife.
Ian spoke at our very first international conferences in London when he was a Member of Parliament -
and subsequently chaired all of the conferences when he retired.
His contributions to these events and to the international research Colloquiums were apparent to all.
His scientific credentials provided a formality to these meetings yet his intellect, humour and likeability put everyone at ease.
He accompanied us to meetings when the charity decided to focus on establishing a foundation of high-quality research into ME.
He was a voice for science, for research, for people in need and for those who would otherwise be unheard.
He championed the underdog when all others turned away.
He was part of the heart of the charity and so influential in changing things for ME.
The charity worked with Ian on a book about ME that he wrote with Elaine Sherrifs. Science, Politics,.......and ME
With few resources it was put together and still stands as a valuable analysis of the historical problems with ME where influences within the establishment have caused so much harm to people with ME.
In many of the regular chats we had with Ian about research, politics, people, life it was fascinating to listen to him.
From years of experience the anecdotes and quotes we heard were amazing. We often said that he should write a book on his experiences – though there was so much that it would have had to have been a series of books.
We remember going to London for one of the conferences and a man overheard us talking about ME.
He inquired about it and the conversation went off in another direction, into politics and philosophy.
It was amazing to hear Ian challenge assumption and use his wide experience to discuss such a range of topics.
The man was quite taken aback at Ian's knowledge and intellect.
When he left parliament he did not just retire – he was continually active in the community, supporting those in need and encouraging others. He was a champion of those who needed help, the underdog, those affected by so many government policies.
We once remember sitting in a meeting with one university –
very early on in the days when we were trying to get from interest from somewhere in creating an ME service and a research lab.
In one of a number of meetings, where doors were being closed and we were determined to prize open those doors and keep pushing, the the charity was assailed for inadvertently using a logo without permission.
As we were being chewed out by a high-ranking official and a PR guy, seemingly prepared beforehand, then Ian closed that conversation down by haranguing the PR guy and berating him for picking on a small charity that was just trying to make things happen.
Ian did not stand on ceremony – he saw people in need and helped. The PR guy remained silent for the rest of the meeting, the charity apologised for its mistake, and we started again trying to make things happen.
Ian did not need to do this, to make any effort to attend meetings or take the side of the little guy.
He did it because he disliked those who tried to come down on those trying to make things better.
Ian was always very sharp, never pretentious or posturing.
When he chaired the Invest in ME Research conferences and Colloquiums he brought a great combination of scientific knowledge, constructive argument, challenge, vision, humour and encouragement. His last appearance at an IiMER conference was in 2019 - just prior to the beginning of the pandemic. We also had the honour of asking him to make the pre-conference dinner keynote speech.
We wanted to highlight Ian’s contribution and reserved the pre-conference dinner speech for him – which he did magnificently, as always The link is here.
Ian was a warm man.
The number of times we would sit in a café discussing ME and then somebody would come up and
say “Hi, Ian” - and suddenly they would be off discussing yet another subject that was important for the community.
In the streets he would be stopped all the time from friends and acquaintances and people from different backgrounds whom he had helped, or was helping.
The community was something that Ian continued to support by his dedication to the people.
His popularity was also evident amongst the international community that gathered at our conference week evnts in London.
People like Ian do not come by that often.
All at the charity were privileged to have known him, and grateful for all of his support and help and friendship.
To say that Ian will be missed is a massive understatement. He left a void in the heart of the charity.
Yet we will always remember the contributions he made to the lives of people with ME, along with countless other organisations, patient groups, individuals.
Ian was once travelling on the train with us on the way back from one of the meetings that we had in London – perhaps the one we organised with the CMOs.
As always we were discussing things.
After a long day he was still keenly aware and energised to make a difference.
And the passion was there – working for people and for justice.
He then made the remark that we took as a slogan for the charity.