Alexander Vesey Bethune (Nick) Norman arms and armour historian; born February 10, 1930, died July 20, 1998

Alexander Vesey Bethune Norman, known to most of his friends as Nick, was born at

Lady Hardinge Home, Delhi, the son of Lieutenant Colonel Alex-ander Norman, Gordon Highlanders, who was Commandant of the Scottish Infantry Divi-

sion at Bridge of Don during the last war.

At the age of 10 months, Nick came back from India to London, and at the age of six went to live on the estate of his Ogston cousins at Kildrummy Castle, Aberdeenshire, where the Normans remained until 1944. He went to Glenalmond, and then on to Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he started to read agriculture,

and completed part of his

Tripos. However, Cambridge, and indeed his proposed career, was cut short when Nick seriously damaged his back when on manoeuvres for a commission with the Scottish Horse.

The back mended, Nick decided to indulge his great passion for arms and armour, first reading in preparation for a general degree, including history and art, at London University, before pursuing a career in museums. He worked as a volunteer at the Wallace Collection, London, as an assistant to Sir James Mann, helping to prepare the Catalogue of European Arms and Armour.

In 1957 he moved back to Scotland to be appointed assistant curator of the Scottish United Services Museum at Edinburgh, where he remained for six years and, during this time, also served as honorary curator of the arms and armour collection formed by Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford. He left to return to London as assistant to the director of the Wallace Collection.

At the Wallace, where I first met him, Nick was working, not on armour, but on what proved to be a very scholarly and seminal catalogue of the collection's Italian Maiolica, Hispano-Moresque and Palissy Ware. In those days he used to stride into the department of ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where I

then worked, shedding his long brown mackintosh, while talking enthusiastically and avidly to me and JVG Mallet (the doyen of Italian maiolica) about arcane aspects of the Scuola Metaurensis (vulgarly ''Urbino ware'') or

the origins of the mark of the Casa Pirota.

Nick had a broad interest in the arts, and even published an excellent catalogue of the Wallace Collection's eighteenth-century gold boxes while engaged on his major monograph, The Rapier and the Small Sword 1460-1820 with illustrations and advice by C M Barne, London 1980.

In 1977, Norman had left the Wallace Collection to reach the summit of his profession, Master of the Armouries at the Tower of London, where he remained until retiring in 1988. At the Tower he continued to publish articles on arms and armour, prolifically cataloguing also the Gun Room of the Duke of Buccleuch at Boughton, and the arms and armour at Drummond Castle for Lady Willoughby d'Eresby. At the time of his death, he had just completed two major works, one a complete catalogue of Scottish medieval military effigies, and the other a Catalogue Raisonne of Swords and Edged Weapons in the Royal Collection.

Nick married Catherine Barne, of Cultoquhey, Crieff, in 1954. They had a son, Andrew. The marriage was dissolved, and

he married Anne Buddle in

1988, now Registrar of the National Galleries of Scotland. She shared many interests with Nick and nursed him with compassion and humour during his final illness.