Tram author and historian;
Tram author and historian;
Born: October 7, 1922; Died: September 17, 2013.
Ian Cormack, who has died aged 90, was the Glasgow tram scholar whose lifelong enthusiasm for the tramways of his native city helped keep photographs, records, transport lore and trams preserved for later generations to enjoy.
A founding member and stalwart of the Scottish Tramway Museum Society (now the Scottish Tramway and Transport Society), Mr Cormack's commitment and leadership kept the group alive when in the dark days of the late 1960s tram buffs were regarded as oddities. The society came about originally with the aim of preserving Glasgow But-And-Ben single-deck tramcar No 672 - now preserved in Glasgow Museum of Transport.
Ever one for direct action, Mr Cormack's love for a little single-decker ex-Paisley tram that became Glasgow's driver-school car was such that when the Glasgow tram system was finally closed in September 1962, he and his wife Margaret bought the tram body for £50 and sited it in their back garden in Cambuslang. It became a meeting room for the nascent STMS, and on busy evenings, the cry of "Move up ra caur!" would ring out.
A generation later when the Cormacks moved house, tram no 1017 appeared inextricable, but tram engineer Bob Docherty devised a lifting system, with the result that 1017 was moved to Summerlee tram museum at Coatbridge, rebuilt, and now runs there fully restored.
There was never a time when Mr Cormack wasn't interested in what he called transports of delight. He was interested in trams from the time he first saw them run past his boyhood home in Giffnock. He photographed them, noted their numbers, and filled notebooks with jottings of their idiosyncrasies.
While most Glaswegians treated their caurs as useful but unremarkable items of cityscape, Mr Cormack saw them as individuals, with characteristics worth recording. When in 1953, Glasgow bought 46 trams second-hand from Liverpool, he and a friend went to the summit of Shap, cameras at the ready for what they regarded as scoop shots of the handsome ex-Merseyside Green Goddesses trundling across isolated moorland on lowloaders.
When Glasgow Corporation Transport Department began nocturnal testing of the first Goddess along a deserted Argyle Street, Mr Cormack and his ubiquitous folding camera were already on site. When he published his successful Green Goddesses Go East, illustrations of Goddesses at work in Glasgow colours between Broomhouse and Maryhill were complemented by pictures of Goddesses under trial conditions in the city sporting Liverpool livery and a Mersey destination screen that read "Pier Head".
By the time the last Glasgow Goddess was scrapped in 1960, Mr Cormack had helped secure No 1055 for restoration into original condition as Liverpool 869 - in which form it now runs at the National Tramway Museum, at Crich, in Derbyshire.
His other seven books dealt with tramways in places as far apart as Rothesay and Barrow-in-Furness, and all developed anecdote and human interest rather than mere nuts-and-bolts accounts of trams.
Ian Lorimer Cormack was born in Giffnock and saw army service in Java in the Second World War. He went into education, becoming headmaster of Spittal Primary School in Rutherglen. Tall, bespectacled and always approachable, he walked in slightly magisterial fashion with hands clasped behind his back.
When the Scottish Tramway Museum Society was founded in 1951, Mr Cormack was the 15th member, and really swung the society into action when in 1954 he took over as secretary, with Margaret as treasurer. This was a decade before Glasgow had any transport museum, and a period when the city tramway system still reached out into Renfrewshire, Dunbartonshire and Lanarkshire - yet Mr Cormack had the vision that a series of trams representing city transport history ought to be preserved. Along with STMS member Graham Ewing, he tried to buy one from Glasgow Corporation Transport Department, but the £35 price was beyond their means.
The fact that the issue of tram purchase arose at all gave rise to a public realisation that attention ought to be paid to saving something of the city's transport heritage. It spurred Mr Cormack and fellow enthusiasts further: they aimed to preserve a selection of trams to be used in a future working museum. They were inspired by the fact that Glasgow tramways had been the largest single system in the UK. Mr Cormack's vision played its part, and a dozen trams from Scotland are now based at the National Tramway Museum.
In later years, Mr Cormack was honoured with presidency of the Scottish Tramway and Transport Society, taking over from Dr Tony Browning when the latter retired as keeper of Glasgow Museum of Transport. He robustly stepped forward when in the 1980s, the society started campaigning for the introduction of modern tram systems in Scotland. The new system in Edinburgh marks the achievement of one of the society's major ambitions.
Mr Cormack and his wife Margaret, née Roberts, celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in 2009. He is survived by her, and son Duncan. Their elder son Hamish predeceased him, killed at age 14 in a fall on The Cobbler in 1970. A memorial window to him was put in by the couple in Giffnock South Church.
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