Engineer and historian;
Born: July 9, 1922; Died: June 22, 2012.
Sam Callander, who has died aged 89, was a world authority on the great Scottish mathematical physicist James Clerk Maxwell. He is now buried at Parton Kirk, in the Dumfries and Galloway village cemetery that is also the final resting place for the man regarded as one of the greatest scientists who ever lived.
Mr Callander was educated in Newton Stewart and Castle Douglas High Schools, and these establishments instilled in him a lifelong passion for local history. He moved with his parents to Parton in 1936 when his father became the local blacksmith living at the smiddy. Mr Callander continued to live there, and was employed as a skilled millwright by agricultural engineers J&R Wallace in Castle Douglas for 48 years.
Mr Callander devoted much of his life to promoting the memory and achievements of Maxwell, who lived much of his life nearby at Glenlair. Thanks to his tireless efforts over many years, a commemorative plaque to Maxwell was unveiled outside the church in 1989 recording this local connection and the great man's early death in 1879.
Mr Callander's knowledge of all things pertaining to Maxwell became encyclopedic – an interest first fostered by a previous minister in Parton. Largely self-taught, he came to comprehend the nature of Maxwell's laws of light, electricity and magnetism, which laid the foundations for radio, television and radar, and Maxwell's work on colour which became the basis for colour television.
As Mr Callander's knowledge grew, so too did his collection of books and artefacts relating to Maxwell (now owned by the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation in Edinburgh – to be known as The Sam Callander Collection).
Among the collection of papers and memorabilia gathered and periodically put on display at Parton village hall were biographies of Maxwell in foreign languages including Japanese, Chinese and Russian, presented to him by the authors. The sweep of his exhibitions was very wide – with something for everyone and much for many: from historical detail of Glenlair through incidents and people associated with Maxwell as a child, and later as a laird and a scientist.
In his retirement he ran the village store and Post Office in Parton and therefore was often the first port of call for strangers looking for the great man's grave. His welcome over the years to the visiting scientists, academics and Maxwell enthusiasts who landed on his doorstep from all over the world was legendary.
An eloquent tribute to Mr Callander was paid in the Scottish Parliament on the occasion of the commemoration in 2006 of the 175th anniversary of Maxwell's birth. Alex Fergusson, MSP for Dumfries and Galloway, said: "I cannot talk about James Clerk Maxwell without mentioning the remarkable Sam Callander of Parton village. He has become a walking encyclopaedia on James Clerk Maxwell, and provides a wealth of knowledge to Parton's visitors. He is a true and utterly devoted individual, and I am delighted that he has been able to join us this evening."
Over the years Mr Callander was contacted by many people researching Maxwell's life, including Prince Charles and Lord Reith, first director-general of the BBC, with whom he corresponded for a time. Lord Reith's father had been a student of Maxwell at Aberdeen University.
Mr Callander was invited to dine at the Royal Society and he was also invited in 2008 to the unveiling of the new statue of Maxwell with his little dog Toby – the first statue to be raised in George Street, Edinburgh, in 98 years. It was an event which brought Mr Callander huge pleasure and pride.
He presented a dapper kilted figure on many occasions at various Edinburgh venues, when concerts, plays and exhibitions were organised by the JCM Foundation to raise awareness of Maxwell and funds to buy the birthplace in India Street.
One ambition dear to him and not achieved in his lifetime was for a commemorative postage stamp featuring Maxwell. To his disappointment Royal Mail has not yet obliged. But he did have his own stamp collection – ones from other countries featuring the great man.
Maxwell was not the whole story in Mr Callander's life. His great energy and enthusiasm for the life of the community of Parton rightly earned him the local sobriquet Mr Parton. His many interests included amateur dramatics (he was one of the founder members of the Crossmichael Drama Group); gardening; stamp collecting; photography; Scottish country dancing and wine-making. His interest in local history involved him as a founder and committed member of the Galloway Preservation Society.
Throughout his life his personal religious beliefs were important to him – as was the case with Maxwell. He was a faithful servant of the kirk in Parton, being ordained an elder in 1951 and serving for more than 60 years. Other offices he held within the kirk over the decades included Sunday school superintendent; beadle; bell ringer and treasurer. He held the post of village hall keeper for more than 60 years.
In all these activities, interests and involvements in the life of Parton village and the wider setting of Dumfries and Galloway, Sam Callander will be remembered for his quiet and unassuming manner, his gentle sense of humour and the twinkle in his eye. It was standing room only for him in Parton Kirk and he will be sorely missed by many. He is survived by his younger brother, Jim, and his sister-in-law, Betty.
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