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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Umberley Cottage, Barassie, Near Troon, Ayrshire
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John Cuthbertson began his working life as a carpet weaver. Having sought to improve himself, he first taught at Kilmarnock. He was then appointed parochial teacher at Maryhill, before going to Manchester. Subsequently, John Cuthbertson was employed for 8 years at Balfour's School in Glasgow. From there, he was unanimously elected to the Mastership of the English Department at the High School in Dundee in 1848. His first listing in Dundee appeared in the local directory of 1850. There, it confirmed his place of work to have been at the 'Public Seminaries.' 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. In 1859, the seminaries became the High School of Dundee. John Cuthbertson continued as a staff member of the High School until his retiral in 1869.
John Cuthbertson was born at Struthers Farm in Kilmarnock in 1810, to Thomas Cuthbertson, then a labourer, and Margaret Paterson. He married Christina Muir in Kilmarnock in June 1835 and had one daughter, Jean, born in December 1835.
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.’
After studying at Glasgow University, John Cuthbertson taught first in Kilmarnock, before being appointed as parochial teacher at Maryhill in Glasgow. From there, he undertook a spell in Manchester. A return to Glasgow saw John Cuthbertson spend the following 8 years at Balfour School.
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.’
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.’
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.‘ To mark his retirement, his pupils presented him with a purse, containing £38 10s, on 8 July 1869.
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.’
John Cuthbertson was recognised as having had an extensive knowledge of Literature and as ‘a philological scholar he had few equals.’
An upright man of pawkie humour, he was declared to have been a splendid type of the Scottish character.
- Old Parish Registers. Kilmarnock. (1810). 597/ 40 176. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Registers. Kilmarnock. Marriages. (1835). 597/110 156. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Registers. Kilmarnock. Births. (1835). 597/70 490. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Census Returns. Glasgow. (1841). 644/1 18/7. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Census Returns. Dundee. (1851). 282/ 73 33. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Census Returns. Dundee. (1861). 282/2 7/ 27. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1869-70. p.118. National Library of Scotland website.
- Statutory Registers. Troon. Deaths. 590/ 2 58. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Dundee Evening Telegraph. 6 December 1869. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1867-68. pp.28 and 29. National Library of Scotland website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1864-65. pp.28 and 30. National Library of Scotland website.
- Dundee Courier. 18 October 1865. p.3. British Newspaper Archive.
- Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald. 13 December 1889. p.8. British Newspaper Archive.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1850. p.93. National Library of Scotland website.
- Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 12 February 1850. p.4. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Our History. High School of Dundee. http://www.highschoolofdundee.org.uk
- Dundee Courier. 5th July 1869. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 1 September 1848. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Northern Warder & General Advertiser. 29 January 1869. British newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Courier. 9th July 1869. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Paisley and Renfrewshire Advertiser. 24th July 1886. British Newspaper Archive website.
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