University stalwart dies aged 64

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DR David Riches, one of the founders of - and an honorary senior lecturer in - the Department of Social Anthropology at St Andrews University has died at the age of 64.

Dr Riches trained in social anthropology at the Universities of Cambridge and then London, from where he took a doctorate in 1975.

He moved to a lectureship at St Andrews University in 1979, having previously taught at Queen’s University, Belfast, for six years.

He was one of the founding fathers of social anthropology at Scotland’s oldest university, which he helped to build with Ladislav Holy in size, reputation and international standing over the following years.

He was promoted to senior lecturer in 1992 and took early retirement in 2005 on the grounds of ill health, which brought to an end a distinguished career of over 25 years’ service at St Andrews.

His research interests included the study of peace and violence, complementary medicine, human social evolution, and hunting and gathering societies. He also worked actively to promote medical anthropology in the department, and was instrumental in obtaining external funding for numerous research projects.


During his career, he gained a reputation as a stalwart of the department and a keen advocate of social anthropology. He was head of department from 1991-94 and acting head of the School of Anthropology in 1994.

Tributes were paid to Dr Riches by principal and vice-chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, who said: ”David was a good servant to the university.

‘‘Those who worked with David and were taught by him regarded him as an inspirational and popular teacher to scores of undergraduates and numerous postgraduate research students.

“He commanded deep respect and admiration from all those who passed through the department and was the best and most loyal of colleagues. He was an anthropologist and scholar of distinction.

“I know that he was held in huge respect by his colleagues here in St Andrews and further afield and will be very much missed.”

Dr Riches is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and son, Adrian.

Mrs Riches is a Fife councillor and represents the East Neuk and Landward ward.