Obituary: Dr John Brown, former university lecturer, 74

As well as his academic studies, Dr Brown was an aficionado of the arts
As well as his academic studies, Dr Brown was an aficionado of the arts
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Dr John Brown, a former senior lecturer in history at Edinburgh University, has died, aged 74.

Born in Castle Douglas, on December 17, 1937, his father Walter was a machinist in local workshops.

He was raised by his mother Margaret, who saw early on his academic potential. He excelled at Kirkcudbright Academy where in 1956 he was joint dux.

He was also good at sport, playing rugby and cricket, and also becoming skilled at squash.

He gained a first at Edinburgh University and returned to teach there in 1962 after doing the groundwork in London for his PhD on the evolution of social welfare policy before 1914.

At Edinburgh University one of his many students was the former prime minister Gordon Brown, who visited Dr Brown in the final weeks of his life and wrote a dedication to him in his 1986 biography of “Red Clydesider” James Maxton, saying in his introduction that neither the book nor his PhD thesis on which it was based could ever have been completed without the constant advice and encouragement of Dr Brown at Edinburgh University.

The care he gave to his students, as well as the work he put into his teaching and his role in the history department’s administration may have limited his own output of published work.

He was, however, the author of some seminal articles and in 1995 his book The British Welfare State was published.

Dr Brown was also a prolific reviewer of new books in history journals and in 1982 he was the driving force in creating what became the Newsletter of the Edinburgh University History Graduates’ Association.

His teaching brought him the good fortune of meeting Geraldine, whom he married in 1969. They had two sons, Daniel and Matthew, and later a grandson Euan.

He was hugely proud of his wife’s career in social work and of their sons and of Euan. Time spent with them, a walk in the Meadows with Geraldine or a meal out with her mattered much more to him than what he called “strutting his stuff” on the academic conference circuit.

He always swore allegiance to Queen of the South, and when they made it to their first ever Scottish Cup final in 2008 he was at Hampden, with what seemed like half of Dumfries, to cheer them on.

Dr Brown was also sustained by an abiding passion for the arts, especially opera. His first outing with Geraldine was to see The Marriage of Figaro.

He loved cinema too and was always keen to propound his opinions on films new and old over pints in the Bow Bar and in Sandy Bell’s.

He also loved poetry, and while in hospital in 2009 awaiting chemotherapy he found solace and pleasure from the collected verse and letters of Louis MacNeice.

He died at home on January 6.