DONALD WHYTE, JP, FHG, FSG(Hon.) 1924 - 2010
It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of our Vice-President Donald Whyte, JP, FHG, FSG (Hon.), peacefully, on April 23rd, 2010. Donald was one of the founding members of the Scottish Genealogy Society and devoted much of his life to the study and development of Scottish Family History. He would readily recount, in the traditional manner, “I am Donald, son of John, son of Donald, son of John, son of...”
Donald held many posts within the Society: Librarian 1964-1966; Deputy Chairman 1960-1962; Chairman 1974-1983; Vice-President 1983-2010. In addition to these posts, he was willing to travel the country promoting the Society and lecturing on family history to many interested parties. One instance of his work for the Society was when Matthew Stirling left his substantial library of Scottish books to the Society. Donald, at a day’s notice, hired a van, drove to London, loaded up the books and brought them to our premises then in Union Street. The Stirling Collection forms an important part of the Society’s Library and we are indebted to the generosity of both Donald and Matthew.
As part of his work to promote Family History in Scotland, Donald wrote one of the first books on how to undertake family history research in Scotland: Introducing … Scottish Genealogical Research. This book was relatively inexpensive and a great success, running to 5 editions. Donald financed this book himself but generously gave the profits to the Society.
Donald also undertook a great deal of research over many years to produce other works of outstanding use to the family historian: Dictionary of Emigrants to the U.S.A. in two volumes; Dictionary of emigrants to Canada before Confederation in three volumes; Clock and Watchmakers of Scotland 1453-1900, and a subject close to his heart, Scottish gypsies and other travellers: a short history. A glance at his oeuvre in the catalogue of the National Library of Scotland shows no fewer than 71 publications listed. In addition to these works he wrote many articles for the burgeoning number of family history journals and other learned journals. A collection of his papers is also deposited at the National Library.
One of his lasting monuments was being the catalyst in the formation of another six Scottish Family History Societies: Glasgow & West of Scotland F.H.S. (1977); Aberdeen & North-East Scotland F.H.S. (1978); Tay Valley F.H.S. (1980); Highland F.H.S. (1981); Borders F.H.S. (1985) and Dumfries & Galloway F.H.S. (1987). At the time of his death he was President or Honorary Vice-President of several of these societies.
Donald was born at Newtongrange on 13th March 1924. Due to family illness, he left school early and followed his family’s footsteps into farming. He worked hard and well, winning trophies for his ploughing prowess. The family moved to Kirkliston, where he married, settled down and raised a family. (Obviously no family outing was complete without an exploration of a kirkyard!) Later he worked as a coalman and as a lorry-driver before becoming a professional family history researcher, which resulted in his helping to found A.S.G.R.A. in 1981. Latterly he worked as a security officer at Edinburgh Airport, where the shift patterns allowed him to continue his research and to communicate with thousands of correspondents world-wide. He was always willing to help and support those interested in Scottish family history and to give them the benefits of his experience.
He devoted energy into local matters also, writing Kirkliston: a parish history, published 1991. He served as an Independent local Councillor and helped to reinstate the Kirkliston Gala Day in 1950.
At the funeral service in Kirkliston Parish Church, after an affectionate address by his grandson Christopher remembering the value of times shared and favourite poems (such as the famous line from To A Louse), the Rev. Maggie Lane spoke warmly of Donald’s life, his devotion to his family which formed the heart of his life, his hard work, his passion for history, his community involvement, his sense of fairness and justice and his giving attitude, concluding that his was “a good story”. As the coffin left the kirk for committal into the neighbouring cemetery, the organist played a delicate rendition of Mull of Kintyre, to reflect Donald’s links to that area.
Ay! Lay me in Kirkliston
For it’s there I was God’s guest...
An’ I’ll rest by the folk I used to ken
In the streets o’ the Templar’s Toon.
(From Temple Liston by Dr Isobel Wylie Hutchison.)
Predeceased by his wife Mary (in 1997), Donald is survived by his 3 daughters, 8 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren, to whom the Society extends its sincere condolences.
Contributed by several members