16th May 2008 at 01:00
John Moore, teacher, theatre historian, writer and lover of Ayrshire and the Gaiety Theatre at Ayr, has died, aged 70
John Moore, teacher, theatre historian, writer and lover of Ayrshire and the Gaiety Theatre at Ayr, has died, aged 70.

Born in the village of Patna, in Ayrshire, he was what Scots used to call the traditional "lad o' pairts", moving from school to college on the back of his talents. These were particularly evident in mathematics and science, so it was no surprise when, after attending Ayr Academy and graduating with a BSc from Glasgow University, he should join the teaching profession in the 1960s.

This brought him back to his homeground in the Doon Valley, where he progressed to be head of mathematics at Dalmellington High, known today as Doon Academy. He was also elected a Fellow of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Taking early retirement from the daily stress of teaching gave Moore an opportunity to pursue his interest in his native Doon Valley and, more generally, Ayrshire, and to write about the people and places of that romantic part of Scotland.

Surprisingly, for one so mathematically-minded, it was to the less precise and more haphazard world of show business that Moore turned.

He fell in love with the beautiful little Gaiety Theatre in Ayr, which he had known as a boy, delving deeply into its history and the stories of the many notable actors and performers who had graced its stage for a century and more.

The result was two books about the Gaiety, the second a massive tome which was published in 2003 to mark the theatre's centenary. It ran to a mammoth 275,000 words and contained photographs of stars from Harry Lauder and Will Fyffe to Ken Dodd, and more recent bill-toppers like Johnny Beattie and the Alexander Brothers.

Moore was rarely away from the Gaiety - "part of the furniture", said one friend - and over the years he established a fine rapport with Eric and Leslie Popplewell, the Yorkshire brothers who ran the theatre on the death of their father, Ben Popplewell.

Moore was a well-kent face at first nights, having reviewed every show at the Gaiety for the past 30 years, sending his informed critiques to the London theatrical weekly newspaper The Stage.

A bachelor, whose home was in Alloway, Moore also became a devotee of the show business atmosphere of Blackpool.

Just a week before his unexpected death on March 17, from a cardiac arrest during surgery in Gartnavel General Hospital, in Glasgow, he told a friend: "Just give me a seat in the stalls at the Gaiety, with a Popplewell directing a Gaiety Whirl, and I'll be happy."

The teacher lad from Ayrshire's Doon Valley will, let's hope, have achieved that wish.

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