Jack Wishart


Jack Gillespie Wishart

1939 - 2015

It is with great regret that we tell you of the sudden death of Lt Col Jack Gillespie Wishart on 14 September 2015 in Edinburgh. We are sure that you will receive this news with sadness and surprise, as Jack was a larger than life person, and will join with us in conveying the sympathy of the extended Wishart Family to Jack's wife Skip and their children, Niall and Morag.

Jack had set off for a regular dinner with friends at the Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh. He didn't make it to the bus stop, collapsing and dying of a sudden heart attack near his home in Colinton. Over 150 friends and family attended his funeral service on 23 September at St Margaret's Roman Catholic Memorial Church in Dunfermline, after which he was interred at Dunfermline Cemetery. Donations can be made to RAEC Association Benevolent Fund or Help for Heroes.

Jack was well known to many Wisharts around the world for his tireless work researching and recording Wishart genealogies. He began in 1974 following a chance meeting in London with Scott Wishart (b.1897), who gave Jack a copy of his family tree which had been prepared by Scott's brother David. Enthused by this work, Jack quizzed his father about his own forebears and began visiting New Register House, Edinburgh to search the statutory records for Scotland. Gradually he sketched out the details of his ancestors and as he trawled wider and wider, began noting down details for all the Wisharts he could find, and so the family database was started.

Initially he collated his data by drawing little trees and hanging names from branches, but this method quickly became impractical. As he was working in Army Intelligence at that time, he decided to employ hush-hush Intelligence procedures - he transcribed his data to record cards, one card for every Wishart! As we moved into the age of the computer, these were transferred into a family tree package, and at the time of his death Jack had assembled over 155 family trees containing information on over 22,000 Wisharts. His searches were tireless. During his many postings and trips abroad in the line of work, he scoured all the local directories he could find for Wisharts - even setting a similar task for friends and colleagues who found themselves travelling overseas. Painstakingly he contacted the new names and exchanged information with many. Those of you who have corresponded with Jack will doubtless recall his thorough, questioning approach and his insistence that all of his research was as accurate as possible.

However, Jack was much more than the 'Wishart Genealogist'. He was born in Dunfermline, Fife on 15 April 1939, and after schooling there, and in nearby Cowdenbeath, he went to the University in Edinburgh to study science. For three years after graduating, he taught Physics and Chemistry at Kirkcaldy High School where he met and fell in love with a fellow teacher, Skip Moffat. They married and Jack decided he wanted "a more peaceful life" than teaching, so he joined the Army and was assigned to the Education Corps. He often boasted that he served for twenty-five years and never fired a gun in anger. Listening to Skip's stories of life as an army wife in postings to England, Scotland, Germany, Cyprus and the USA (Maryland and Alabama) things may have not been that peaceful for her, especially with two children to look after. When Jack retired from the Army he worked as a civil servant in the Army Headquarters near Edinburgh for ten years before leaving in 2000 to become a consultant in surveillance and border security, a position giving him ample opportunity to travel the world in search of more Wisharts.

Until his death, Jack retained contacts with the Army, being involved in Army Welfare Charities, and was a keen golfer, often having his fellow Wishart, David as his partner. Jack also had a vast circle of friends and acquaintances from all walks of life and still found time before he and Skip left their beloved Milton House in Fife for Edinburgh to be a keen gardener and bee-keeper.

But what defined Jack most was his faith, so deep that it transcended religious boundaries. He had friends of all faiths and none. One of his proudest achievements in later life was to lead a small group of Wisharts to stage a highly memorable Conference to celebrate the Quincentennial of the birth of one of the earliest Scottish Protestant martyrs, George Wishart, whose execution by Cardinal Beaton in St Andrews was seen by many as a major driver of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland leading to the virtual demise of Catholicism in the country for about two centuries. Some people found it incongruous that Jack, a devout Catholic, should arrange a Conference to celebrate the life of such a man - regardless of his surname. Jack's point of view that George was a person prepared to give his life for what he believed to be true. Any of you who were fortunate enough to hear Jack's reading from the Gospel at the Church service following the Conference in St Andrews witnessed Jack's deep felt belief and sincerity. He had the ability to fire belief in the hearts of his audience.

The Wishart Family plans to hold the annual
Wishart Lunch , which Jack arranged each year since 2002. This year it will be in memory of Jack Wishart and will be held 12:30pm at the Royal Scots Club, Edinburgh on Wednesday 18 November 2015. All are welcome, with registrations beforehand to Dr. David Wishart at davidwishart@talktalk.net

And, typical of Jack, he had made sure that his efforts on behalf of the Wishart community would continue. He had long discussions with his friend and colleague Scott Wishart about Scott taking over when Jack was no longer able. Jack's legacy will be in good hands.

The world will be a poorer place without him and on behalf of the global family of Wisharts we'd like to thank you, Colonel Jack, for your dedicated work, and for bringing us all that little bit closer together.

Contributed by friends


Personal Note

Jack came into my life fourteen years ago, just as the oldest Wishart in my family, my grandfather, was about to leave it, and we have been regularly corresponding about Wisharts ever since. For example, from the start of 2012 until just two days before Jack died, we had exchanged over 3500 emails!

Despite being born 32 years apart, we had become firm friends, and I fear I shall miss him dearly. Jack was a genuinely lovely man and one of life's good guys. His lasting legacy will be the many hundreds of family trees he has sent to Wisharts around the world giving them the gift of knowledge about their ancestral pasts and enriching many lives in the process. He has connected countless cousins, who without his assistance would have remained strangers - and all without request for remuneration or wanting praise.

One night in St. Andrews, at the time of the Quincentennial Conference, as we both walked alongside the links back to our digs, Jack stopped and looked up at the night sky, which was peppered with a million different stars, and quietly commented 'how can this be an accident?' I did not reply, but now wonder how it could possibly be an accident that this incredible man touched so many lives in such an overwhelmingly positive way?

Gus am bris an latha.

Scott Wishart