Unique memoir of Lakeland Bluebird coroner published

A CORONER has taken the unprecedented step of publishing a memoir of his fascinating career.

Ian Smith, HM Senior Coroner for South and East Cumbria (retired), was thrust into the limelight of the national, and often international media, through his involvement in many major events, and details these in his book, “More Deaths than One”.

Perhaps the most notable of these events was determining the cause of death of Donald Campbell, the man who famously and tragically died while attempting to break the world water speed record on Coniston Water in his legendary “Bluebird” boat, whose body was only recovered as recently as 2001.

Mr Campbell’s daughter, Gina Campbell, wrote the foreword for the book, and told of her bemusement at hearing from Mr. Smith in 2001.

“I was surprised because I thought the cause of death was blatantly obvious,” she wrote. “But Ian being the man he is explained in detail his duty in law.”

Mr Smith explains only a doctor or coroner can legally certify the cause of a death, and a death that a doctor could not certify was always referred to a coroner, which meant: “sudden unexpected deaths, deaths resulting from violence, deaths in police custody or prisons.”

Mr Smith’s book is the first book in eighty years to tell a coroner’s own story.

Referring to the Lakeland location in which Mr. Smith’s experiences took place, he said: “You might imagine that nothing sinister or distressing would happen in this lovely rural idyll set with lakes and protected by mountains.”

As well as his involvement with “Bluebird”, just a few of the famed topics of which the author speaks of are the influence of the notorious Harold Shipman on how deaths are registered, Carol Ann Park aka “The Lady in the Lake” and the Grayrigg Train Crash.

Mr Smith gives the reader a glimpse into his mindset very early in the book: “You might expect a coroner to be morose and introverted but the truth is different.”

“A group of coroners is therefore a happy band of people giving constant subconscious thanks for the fact that they were not killed in a car crash on the way to the meeting nor died of an unanticipated heart attack on the way up the stairs.”

Mr Smith will be talking about his book on Friday December 10 at Kendal Library, Stricklandgate.

The Westmorland Gazette | News