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John Greig: Doric promoter who designed Pittodrie floodlights died aged 90

John Greig and the poem published in The Press and  Journal in his father's memory.
John Greig and the poem published in The Press and Journal in his father's memory.

John Greig, a champion of Doric, a passionate advocate of the work of Burns, an avid bowler and a lifelong fly-fisherman, has died aged 90.

He was also the man who designed and won the contract to update the floodlighting system at Pittodrie in the 1970s, which were much needed with the coming of colour television.

John died on July 30, remarkably only 30 mins short of exactly 16 years after the death of his wife, Dorothy.

Such was his love of Doric that when his own father died, John penned a poetic tribute, Faithfu’ Chiel, which was published in The Press and Journal in March 1980.

Mr and Mrs Greig on the night they met at a fancy dress party at Kingseat.

Unbeknown to his sons, Keith and Neil, John had also built up a body of his own poetry over the years, many of which recorded his love for his wife.

He was born John Wilson Greig to Ellon tenant farmer Alexander Greig and his wife Bella Wilson.

His father later bought Blackbraes farm, Newmachar. John completed his primary and secondary education at Ellon before serving his time as an electrician with Aberdeen Electrical Company.

His son, Neil, said much of that time was spent working in large estate houses on Deeside and in the Highlands.

John Greig in his National Service years.

Like most men of his generation, John undertook National Service, serving with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers attached to a tank regiment in Germany.

John met his future wife, Dorothy, in unusual circumstances. The family farm, at Newmachar, backed on to the grounds of Kingseat psychiatric hospital. Dorothy’s aunt was on the senior nursing staff at the hospital and invited John to a summer fancy dress party.

He turned up dressed as a clown and met, and hit it off with Dorothy, who was also dressed as a clown. The couple married at Dyce Parish Church on February 26, 1955.

Mr and Mrs Greig on their wedding day.

Their first son, Keith, was born in 1957, just months before John and Dorothy emigrated to Windsor, Ontario. John got a job as the maintenance electrician at the Statler Hotel in Detroit, across the river in the United States.

The family returned to Aberdeen in spring 1960 and later that year took the unusual step, for the time, of buying a house off plan at Airyhall. This remained the family home for the rest of their lives.

Lighting

John then moved into the sales and contract side of the electrical business as regional sales manager for the Mazda lighting company.

Later he became North of Scotland area manager for Philips, during which time he designed lighting systems for hotels, distillery warehouses, Pittodrie and many other venues. There would be few from the Aberdeen building trade, up to the late 1990s, that would not know John.

Mr Greig, right, and a friend, before departing for Canada.

John was a season ticket holder at Pittodrie and passionate Dons supporter, regularly travelling with his son Neil to away games at Inverness, Dingwall, Dundee and Perth.

From 1970 until the early 1980s John was a member of the Bon Accord Swimming Club which met at the long lost beach baths. During this time he qualified as a time keeper and attended meets across Scotland.

During the 1980s, through his sons, Scouting became a large part of his life, as a leader at the 53rd Troop.

Doric speaker

Being born into a farming family between the wars, John grew up speaking Doric and remained an advocate for the language throughout his life.

He became a member of the Aberdeen Buchan Association in the 1970s. John was president for many years, helping to promote not just the spoken word but the culture of the North-east of Scotland.

The work of Robert Burns was another of his passions. John was a past president of Aberdeen Burns Society and was known to speak at up to 10 Burns Suppers every year. Even until lockdown, he was speaking and attending around three every Burns season.

Mr and Mrs Greig with Keith and Neil in the early 1960s.

During the summer, John played at Seafield Bowling Club, Aberdeen, where he served as president for a considerable period. In the winter he played indoor at Summerhill.

John took up fly-fishing in his early childhood and continued until shortly before his death.

He was a member of Aberdeen and District Angling Society for over 50 years and until recently fished their beats.

Angling

His brother in-law, Gerald Paul, was a ghillie on the Thurso River, Caithness, and through Gerard, John made many fishing friends. Up until last year John made an annual pilgrimage to fish the lochs and rivers of Caithness.

With such a love for the people and culture of the North-east and his deep involvement in so many organisations, for his generation, John was so much more than a ‘kint face’.

John was a member of Mannofield Parish Church for more than 60 years. On Friday August 6, Rev Keith Blackwood led John’s funeral service to a full congregation.

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