I've just learned that Ian Scoones has died.
Ian was a visual effects designer who worked on many episodes of Doctor Who and the first series of Blake's 7 in the 1970s. He also worked on Thunderbirds, Hammer Horror movies and the Hammer House of Horror television series.
I found out about his death on Total Sci-Fi Online, and have since learned that he passed away from liver cancer on 20 January this year.
I first become aware of Ian when his name appeared on the end credits of Doctor Who. To see that someone who had the same surname as myself was working on my favourite television programme made a big impression on me in my pre-teen years. At the time I didn't know of anyone with the surname Scoones who wasn't part of my extended family.
Over the years I've sometimes been asked by Doctor Who fans if I'm somehow related to Ian. Now I do have an uncle who frequently crops up in BBC television credits, but that's underwater cameraman Peter Scoones, best known for his work on David Attenborough's nature documentaries. As far as I know Ian is not a relative - or is he...?
In the mid-1990s, I tried to find out if there was in fact a family connection. Ian Scoones offered for sale via mail order a series of art prints of his production paintings from Doctor Who. A representative of his wrote to TSV, the Doctor Who fanzine I edited, to see if we would advertise these for sale. I took the opportunity to write back, confessing that I was curious to find out if there might be a family connection.
Ian didn't reply directly, but his representative wrote on his behalf, saying that Ian had read my letter. The letter said that Ian didn't know the Scoones side of his family at all as his father had left his mother when he was very young. He did however very kindly send me a complimentary set of his art prints, which I've kept to this day.
In later years myself and my father both conducted a fair amount of research into the Scoones name and put together a fairly comprehensive family tree. Two people called Ian Scoones crop up in my research; one's my father's cousin, and the other's a professor at Sussex University with a prodigous collection of books and papers to his name. But I'm still none the wiser as to how and where the visual effects designer Ian Scoones fits into scheme of things.
Here's the interesting thing though. Judging by the various photos I've seen of Ian Scoones over the years, there was definitely a resemblance to members of my branch of the Scoones family. Could it be that we are in fact related? Was his absent father one of the Scooneses who appears in my family tree? It's a mystery that will probably never be solved.