Obituary, John Crane


by Dr Jean Barclay

When John Crane passed away in June after a three year battle with cancer the people of Saline recognised that they had lost a wonderful supporter of the local community but how many knew what a first-rate local historian he was.

John Robert Crane was born in Sheerness, Kent in 1942.  As a MOD (naval) civil servant, John`s work took him all over the country, including to Greenock, Barrow-in Furness, Bath and London.  Even when he was finally based in Rosyth from 1977, John did a great deal of travelling, much of it abroad including to the Falkland Islands.

At home in Saline, with his wife, Marie, and his daughters, Fiona and Morag, John worked endlessly on behalf of the local community, starting with the PTA in the late-70s, then the Horticultural Society, the Saline Environmental Group and the Community Council, of which he became chairman.  In 2005 he was influential in setting up the West Fife Exhibition of Art and Photography, which he managed for eight years.  In 2014, John was awarded a British Empire Medal for his `services to Saline Parish`.

All this time John followed his interest in history and joined organisations for like-minded people in Dunfermline and Saline.  A pleasant easy-going man, John was always generous in sharing his knowledge, sometimes obtained through hours of work, with fellow researchers.  People and places in the Saline District interested him most and from this came two books, `The Saline Parish Historical Trail`, in 2004 and an extended edition `Saline Parish: of Cabbages and Kings` of 2011.  The latter book includes biographies of several Saline notables, Annie S. Swan, a famous authoress, Sir Kennedy Dalziel, a famous surgeon, William Erskine (Lord Kinnedar) and others.  But perhaps he wrote most sympathetically on the `Steelend heroes`, the ten men who had behaved with exceptional courage in a mine accident at Lethans Colliery in May 1909, rescuing a comrade who would have died without their intervention.

Many local people knew of John`s writing about Saline, but not everyone knew that he had become something of an authority on Scotland`s early royals, particularly Malcolm III (Canmore), his wife Margaret and their successors.  In an article entitled  `Saline man becomes King of Scots`, John described the rise and fall of Donald, 8th  Earl of Mar (c.1300-1332) who was for a short time, if not king, the regent and ruler of Scotland.

John`s funeral at Dunfermline Crematorium was well attended not only by his family, but by friends and colleagues from his various walks of life and the choice of music `There`ll always be an England` and `Loch Lomond` were fitting for a man who never forgot where he was born but took Scotland and its history to his heart.