It is with great sadness that the BSA notes the passing on 6 July 2018 of Sue Bird (b. 1943). For twenty years, until her retirement in 1998, Sue was illustrator in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum, where she is remembered with great affection. She was an independent and questioning spirit, with an irrepressible sense of fun, and a loyal friend.
Her involvement with the BSA also revolved around illustration and many of her skilful drawings graced the publications of BSA projects, including – but not limited to – the Minoan Unexplored Mansion, Sellopoulo, Lefkandi (for example the splendid pyxis illustrated below) and the Sparta Theatre. One of the best tributes to her skill is recounted by Rachel and Sinclair Hood in Cretan Quests, a volume that appeared in 2000 to commemorate the centenary of the BSA’s excavations at Knossos:
[A]fter art school in Cambridge, [Sue Bird] had travelled as far as India, returning overland and catching a glimpse of Greece en route. The glimpse urged her to make enquiries of Joan Thornton, then London Secretary of the British School, about the possibility of archaeological drawing there. At her suggestion, Sue presented herself at the School in Athens where Mervyn Popham sat her in front of a Mycenaean kylix, saying 'draw that', adding darkly 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating'. He was pleasantly astonished by the speed and accuracy with which the job was done, and she was taken on the excavations directed by Popham and Hugh Sackett at Lefkandi for two weeks' trial. Her previous experience with David Stronach in Iran and with Richard Tomlinson in Elis stood her in good stead. After Lefkandi, she made frequent visits to Crete in the 1970s to take part as draughtswoman in the excavation and publication of the Unexplored Mansion at Knossos with the same excavators. Spare time was spent sketching the countryside and its inhabitants.
D. Huxley (ed.), Cretan Quests: British Explorers, Excavators and Historians, London 2000, 216.
Our sincere condolences go to all Sue’s family, friends and former colleagues.