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John Cutherbertson Esquire

John Cuthbertson, a native of Kilmarnock, spent part of his working life in Dundee. For 21 years, he was employed as a teacher at the High School there. On his retiral, he returned to the district in which he grew up.

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Personal details and history

Full name

John Cutherbertson

Date of birth


Place of birth




Marital status

Married[2] - wed on 01-06-1835 in Kilmarnock[2]

Name of spouse

Christina Muir[2]


Jane/Jean Cuthbertson (b 17 December 1835):[3] Listed in the 1841 census, aged 5[4] but not in the 1851 census.[5] No death record found.

Home address

9 South[5] Tay Street (c1849-1869)[6][7]

Age at death:

79 years[8]

Place of death:

Umberley Cottage, Barassie, Near Troon, Ayrshire[8]

Date of death:




Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers

Religious affiliation

Free Church[9] - Assumption based of the fact that the Reverend Thomas Hill, of Willison Free Church, addressed the dinner held for John Cuthbertson's retiral[9]

Political affiliation


Clubs / societies

Local Association of the Educational Institute of Scotland - a Committee Member.[10] Dundee Public Library (20 St Clement's Lane) - a Committee Member.[11][10] The Edinburgh Angus Club - a Member.[12]

Public offices


Related subscribers

  • Subscriber 63 – George Dott – a fellow teaching colleague at the High School
  • Subscriber 87 – James Glass – a fellow teaching colleague at the High School

Career and worklife


Teacher[11] / Schoolmaster[13]



Place of work

Public Seminaries[14] / High School[10] - Dundee

Work address

Euclid Cresent

Career to date:

John Cuthbertson began his working life as a carpet weaver.[13] Having sought to improve himself, he first taught at Kilmarnock.[13] He was then appointed parochial teacher at Maryhill, before going to Manchester.[13] Subsequently, John Cuthbertson was employed for 8 years at Balfour's School in Glasgow.[13] From there, he was unanimously elected to the Mastership of the English Department at the High School in Dundee in 1848.[13] His first listing in Dundee appeared in the local directory of 1850.[14] There, it confirmed his place of work to have been at the 'Public Seminaries.'[14] He was employed to teach English, Grammar, Geography etc. John Cuthbertson also undertook to give private lessons to young gentlemen from his home at 9 South Tay Street.[15] In 1859, the seminaries became the High School of Dundee.[16] John Cuthbertson continued as a staff member of the High School until his retiral in 1869.[7][17]

More information

John Cuthbertson was born at Struthers Farm[13] in Kilmarnock in 1810, to Thomas Cuthbertson, then a labourer, and Margaret Paterson.[1] He married Christina Muir in Kilmarnock in June 1835[2] and had one daughter, Jean, born in December 1835.[3]

It was reported that he started his working life as a carpet weaver, although, ‘by persevering self culture, he was shortly enabled to leave the loom for the schoolroom.’[13]

After studying at Glasgow University, John Cuthbertson taught first in Kilmarnock, before being appointed as parochial teacher at Maryhill in Glasgow.[13] From there, he undertook a spell in Manchester.[13] A return to Glasgow saw John Cuthbertson spend the following 8 years at Balfour School.[13]

In September of 1848, a special meeting of the Directors of the Dundee Seminaries was held, at which ‘John Cuthbertson, teacher of the Balfour School, Glasgow, was unanimously elected to the Mastership of the English Department here, in room of Mr Smith, who has received a similar appointment to the Academy in Perth.’[18]

John Cuthbertson remained the Master of the English Department at the Seminaries/High School for 21 years, until his retiral in July of 1869. At that point, he resigned his post, and retired to Ayrshire.

One of John Cuthbertson’s final public acts for the citizens of Dundee, before removing to Ayrshire, was to persuade the Committee members of the Public Library to hand over the books and heritable property belonging to the Public Library to the newly established Free Library, housed within the Albert Institute.

The proposal was objected to by a number in attendance. Mr T Waker said he would object in the most decided manner to the adoption of the proposed resolution. In his opinion, they would virtually be throwing their money into the sea by gifting the whole property and books to the Free Library. Mr Cuthbertson, on the other hand, said they could not give the money to a better institution than the Free Library and he did not think it would be legal for them to to sell the books and property and retain the balance after paying any debt.’[19]

His suggestion was subsequently adopted.

He was honoured for his work at the High School at a lunch in the Queen’s Hotel, on 3 July 1869, at which many Dundee dignitaries attended. William Thoms, a Director of the High School, chaired the lunch and stated ‘he had the greatest pleasure in proposing the health of the distinguished guest.[17] To mark his retirement, his pupils presented him with a purse, containing £38 10s, on 8 July 1869.[20]

Even in his retirement, John Cuthbertson remained the scholar. He had long held an interest in the works of Robert Burns and, in 1886, he published ‘The Complete Glossary of the Poetry and Prose of Robert Burns.’ In announcing the publication, the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette reported that ‘Mr Cuthbertson has performed his delightful task with a scholarly accuracy equal to his patience and industry.’[21]

John Cuthbertson was recognised as having had an extensive knowledge of Literature and as ‘a philological scholar he had few equals.’[13]

An upright man of pawkie humour, he was declared to have been a splendid type of the Scottish character.[13]


  1. Old Parish Registers. Kilmarnock. (1810). 597/ 40 176. ScotlandsPeople website.
  2. Old Parish Registers. Kilmarnock. Marriages. (1835). 597/110 156. ScotlandsPeople website.
  3. Old Parish Registers. Kilmarnock. Births. (1835). 597/70 490. ScotlandsPeople website.
  4. Census Returns. Glasgow. (1841). 644/1 18/7. ScotlandsPeople website.
  5. Census Returns. Dundee. (1851). 282/ 73 33. ScotlandsPeople website.
  6. Census Returns. Dundee. (1861). 282/2 7/ 27. ScotlandsPeople website.
  7. Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1869-70. p.118. National Library of Scotland website.
  8. Statutory Registers. Troon. Deaths. 590/ 2 58. ScotlandsPeople website.
  9. Dundee Evening Telegraph. 6 December 1869. British Newspaper Archive website.
  10. Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1867-68. pp.28 and 29. National Library of Scotland website.
  11. Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1864-65. pp.28 and 30. National Library of Scotland website.
  12. Dundee Courier. 18 October 1865. p.3. British Newspaper Archive.
  13. Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald. 13 December 1889. p.8. British Newspaper Archive.
  14. Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1850. p.93. National Library of Scotland website.
  15. Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 12 February 1850. p.4. British Newspaper Archive website.
  16. Our History. High School of Dundee.
  17. Dundee Courier. 5th July 1869. British Newspaper Archive website.
  18. Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 1 September 1848. British Newspaper Archive website.
  19. Northern Warder & General Advertiser. 29 January 1869. British newspaper Archive website.
  20. Dundee Courier. 9th July 1869. British Newspaper Archive website.
  21. Paisley and Renfrewshire Advertiser. 24th July 1886. British Newspaper Archive website.

The information above about John Cutherbertson has been collated from a range of digital and hard copy sources. To the best of our knowledge it is correct but if you are relying on any information from our website for the purpose of your own research we would advise you to follow up the sources to your own satisfaction. If you are aware of an inaccuracy in our text please do not hesitate to notify us through our Contact page.