An appreciation of former Graeme High art teacher John Reid
The recent sad death on September 24 of John Reid, aged 81, has robbed Falkirk district of one of its most gifted sons.
An artist of immense ability, a popular and influential teacher and an outstanding historian , his loss has shocked his friends and admirers both at home and well beyond our area.
John was brought up and educated in Bainsford before attending Graeme High School , then called Falkirk Technical. Home circumstances prevented an immediate move into higher education despite the talent for art which his teachers recognised and encouraged.
But after a few years working, including a memorable spell as a railway signalman, that talent finally brought him to the famous Glasgow School of Art where he specialised in pottery and ceramics.
In his graduation year he won the prestigious prize in ceramic sculpture. After teacher training John joined the staff of his old school and remained there for all of his entire teaching career.
Among John’s greatest skills was his ability to marry his creative imagination with practical know how and this was put to good use as set designer and builder with Falkirk Childrens’ Theatre and Tryst Theatre where he worked with his teaching colleague and friend Mike Benzie.
They carried off many a prize for their brilliant stage settings in Scotland and beyond.
For me, of course, it was John Reid the local historian that I admired most and will miss so badly.
Forty years ago this week John and I along with a few other enthusiasts established Falkirk Local History Society and from that day until his last days he worked non-stop in scholarly research aimed at enhancing our understanding of our past. He contributed dozens of articles on any number of subjects to our Journal Calatria over 30 years and gave talks and presentations to clubs and societies across Scotland.
His greatest interest was in the derivation of local place names, a vital aid to our knowledge of the past. It was a near 50 year passion which culminated in 2009 with the publication of The Place Names of Falkirk and East Stirlingshire, a masterpiece of detailed analysis which will continue to serve our community for generations.
In the foreword Professor Donald Meek said that “the book represents not only the mind of the painstaking scholar but also the eye of the careful observer of the world about him. It is difficult to read this book without hearing the squelch of a boot in a bog, or the gentle panting of an explorer who has climbed a hill and surveyed the physical features around him”.
As well as a keen ‘Braveheart’ walker and knowledgeable companion, John was a family man and our heart goes out to his wife Ann, his children and the wider family. While they have suffered the greatest loss we are bereft of his friendship, wisdom and vast knowledge. He has however left much to remember him by and that is a legacy that we will cherish in the future.