John Cairney 1930-2023

John Cairney as Robert Burns


John Cairney was a charismatic Scottish actor, forever identified with his passionate and powerful portrayal of Robert Burns in his one man show, There Was a Man. 

I met him once, back in 1997, when we were both waiting for our respective editors at Mainstream Publishing in Edinburgh. He was warm, friendly and charming. I told him our family had also loved the 1960s TV series in which he starred as a rector/heidie of a Scottish high school, This Man Craig.

He told me he’d recently flown back to Scotland from New Zealand, where he lived for a number of years. When he stepped into a taxi at Glasgow Airport, the driver recognized him. The conversation went like this:

“John Cairney? I thought you were deid!’

“No, I’ve been living in New Zealand.”

“Same thing!”

Apologies to New Zealand but he thought it was hilarious! In my mind’s eye, I can still see him laughing at this typical Glasgow exchange.



1 Comment

  1. Karen Macdonald
    9th September 2023

    He was truly amazing as Rabbie Burns and brought him to life for me. Wish they’d show it again.


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