Born: December 14, 1933.
Died: April 11, 2020
HISTORIANS are not always kind to ordinary people. Many chroniclers of past times focus, perhaps too often, on those noble figures who ruled nations and made nations’ rules. Alternatively, there are those scholars, influenced by Marx and his disciples, who are more interested in the grand and sweeping economic narratives underpinning society.
Dr Ian MacDougall, who has died at the age of 86, was, however, a historian with a deep affection for, curiosity in and understanding of the working men and women who are frequently overlooked when a country’s story is narrated. In nearly 30 published works he documented the beliefs, struggles and wisdom of everyday people.
Born in 1933 to a marine engineer, George, and Mary, who worked in laundries before raising her family, MacDougall was brought up in the Stenhouse district of Edinburgh. The family later moved across the city to Chesser.
A formative experience of his young life came during the Second World War, when he was evacuated to the village of Lilliesleaf in Melrose, to be looked after by a farm labourer and his wife. It was an idyllic existence involving chasing rabbits, gathering firewood and regularly hopping on a tractor to join the ploughmen in the field.