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Harry McGurk

Harry McGurk, psychologist; born February 23, 1936, died April 17, 1998

Harry McGurk was born and raised in Hillington, Glasgow, where he was a keen member of Jim Currie's congregation and a prominent member of the Youth Associates of the Iona Community.

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He contributed to a number of energetic debates at the Church of Scotland's Youth Assembly where he memorably rattled the cages by accusing the Church of profiting from the ownership of slum property fit only for demolition. He worked persistently in the cause of international understanding across the Iron Curtain when to do so invited ostracism and labelling as a ''fellow traveller''. He maintained contact with many friends in the East over the years. After training at Glasgow University he became a probation officer in Edinburgh. Soon after his marriage to Betty Hannah, she was invited to go out to the Church of Scotland mission in Nigeria to use her accountancy skills and for two years Harry became involved with the management of the school and hospital. He had a great rapport with children and was a noted social catalyst. The African experience had a lasting effect on his views. On their return to Scotland he won a trade union scholarship to Newbattle College and thereafter studied psychology at Strathclyde University, gaining a BA, an MSc, and a PhD for his seminal work on infant perception. Following a period as a Research Fellow at Princeton in the US he joined Surrey University as a lecturer in child development and later was appointed to a personal chair in the same subject. From 1990-94 he was Director of the Thomas Coram Research Foundation at London University, and then became Director of the Institute of Family Studies in Australia. These positions enabled him to combine his professional skills with his abiding concern for social justice He made an immense contribution to teaching and research in his field, for which he was made a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and later a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was President of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development and chair of the developmental psychology section of the British Psychological Society. A fuller explanation of one aspect of his work is given in the current exhibition of The Science of the Face at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh (The McGurk Phenomenon). Harry was a member of the Melbourne Society of Friends and had many personal and professional friends throughout the world. He was also a bonny fighter for his principles and loved a good argument. He had hoped after retirement to keep homes in both Australia and Scotland, to which he frequently returned, and we made ambitious plans to revisit the main ridge of the Cuillins to bless the Holy Ground. At his own wish his body was returned to Scotland for burial after a Quaker service in Melbourne. Harry is survived by his former wife, Betty, and his daughter, Rhona, and by his partner in later life, Anne, and her two sons, Daniel and Eric.

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