Dr John Strawhorn, born May 1922, died August 7, 1997
FOR almost half a century, John Strawhorn researched and wrote about his native Ayrshire's history. This, combined with his love and knowledge of Robert Burns, ensured the county's place in the social history of Scotland.
Since the late 1940s, at Glasgow University as a research officer preparing the Third Statistical Account of Scotland's Ayrshire volume, John immersed himself in the life and people of Ayrshire over the last two centuries. For his work on the Statistical Account he was awarded doctorate. This highlighting of everyday life of the past was quite innovative at a time when history still concentrated largely on kings and politics. The publication of Ayrshire at the Time of Burns in 1959 accorded to its writer a highly respected reputation for the rest of his life, welcomed and admired by the departments of Scottish History and Literature in our universities.
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Burns wrote in relation to the eighteenth-century cottar's life, ''from scenes like these old Scotia's grandeur springs'', and this view John promoted in his work right up till his death.
It was a natural step for John to become President of Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society for which he edited various works including Mauchline in Times Past. This was a subject close to his heart as it dealt with both Burns and Mauchline, the village in which John lived from 1961 and where he brought up his two sons John and David.
On his earlier retirement as Assistant Head in Ayr Academy in 1982, John's writing became even more prolific. Invitations came from Irvine, Ayr, and Prestwick for him to write their histories. His international reputation was proved when he became a member of the Advisory Committee of Yale University's Boswell Publications which involved two residential visits to that campus.
Within Mauchline itself, John's expertise was well used. As member, president and Honorary President of Mauchline Burns Club his presence brought status shown by the willingness of prominent speakers to address the Club and meet their hero. Equally in symposia and seminars in Glasgow and Edinburgh, he was eagerly sought after as a lecturer. It was also fitting that as an ex-pupil of Marr College and Dux in 1940, he was involved in its recently-published history.
But to concentrate on John the historian, would give a false and narrow impression of the man's interests. Life in the village saw John involved in the Wine Circle (his brews being highly explosive); the Art Club where his love of Switzerland and France inspired his landscapes; and in the Flower Show where he revealed his gardening expertise and patience.
Amid all this, John fitted in a career teaching his beloved history. Pupils in various Ayrshire schools - Girvan, Newmilns, and Kilmarnock, Cumnock and Ayr Academies sat in his, on the surface, tyrannically ruled classes. His board illustrations also made him a popular and congenial cartoonist. In 1960 his fellow professionals awarded him the degree of FEIS. Himself n Irvine Valley man, born in Darvel in 1922 he married in 1953 to Nan, a Newmilns lass, also in the teaching profession.
John will be remembered nationally and internationally, as an eminent and meticulous recorder of Ayrshire's history and Burns's life. Locally and privately, he will be remembered as a sociable man - his rendering of Willie Brewed a Peck o' Maut was often a memorable item at our Burns's supper and as a warm-hearted and generous friend. We offer our condolences to Nan, John and Jackie, David, and his two grandsons.
But tho' he was o' high
The fient o' pride, nae pride
In the history of Ayrshire, Dr John Strawhorn has earned his own place.