Giles was born in Scotland in 1954. He showed a passion for languages at Merchants, where he slipped in extra O-levels in Spanish, Russian and Modern Greek, learning the latter from the ‘Teach Yourself.’ book! In 1976,Giles gained a First from Peterhouse, Cambridge, in Modern and Medieval Languages, and then spent some years working in South America. In the early 80s he moved to Italy where he initially taught English to the Roman Police, then moved to Udine, teaching at the Oxford Schools of English, based in Venice. His love of language, though, led Giles to translation, working for the University of Udine before going freelance.
In 1985, Giles married Grazia, an English teacher, and with her travelled widely, from the Americas to the Far East, but his home from now on would be Italy. As a translator, Giles specialised in wine and the arts, creating his own website, ‘Watson’s Wine Glossary’, as a resource for translators. He translated, co-ordinated the team of translators, and edited the yearly guide ‘Italian Wines’ from 2001 onward. Giles translated over fifty books, most notably those by Beppe Severgnini, foreign correspondent for the Italian newspaper ‘Corriere Della Sera’, many of which were best sellers. He also contributed a column to the newspaper, and when they started to publish a daily online edition, Giles was the obvious choice.
Giles fully immersed himself in Italian life, and was an enthusiastic member of the ‘Slow Food’ movement, reviewing restaurants and food producers for the group. He was a keen mushroomer, and enjoyed getting up early when at their chalet in the mountains to hunt for the best. Meals with Giles and Grazia would always include hand-picked mushrooms. He was also very active with the local Multiple Sclerosis Group, working tirelessly as secretary and fundraiser.
As the tribute in the Corriere, by Beppe, and the many messages of sympathy on the Pro-Z.com translators’ forum attest, Giles was a much loved and respected man.
‘His contributions were unmissable, not only on wine, but particularly on linguistics and etymology, of which he had an encyclopedic knowledge. A man of great intellect but always of great humanity, a real gentleman’;
‘a man of culture, intelligent, extremely prepared, witty, with a nice sense of humour’;
‘I will miss his professionalism, his witty speeches, and his gentle irony’;
‘we all learned something from Giles, all of us will remember him with admiration and regret, but also with gratitude.’
Giles died suddenly and unexpectedly on July 26th 2015, soon after his 61st birthday, and just a few weeks before his 30th wedding anniversary. He is very sadly missed by everyone who knew him.
Maurice Watson MTBS 1966-1973.