John T. K. (Ian) Barr

"Remember that the moment we step outside our own rather secluded island, WE become the foreigners. Consider this when no-one in a Bulgarian village or Syrian market can understand your language. Don't make illogical comparisons between our country and others you will be in, and certainly don't criticise or sneer. Observe, but don't Comment! Don't be like the tourist who went abroad to find things which were very different, and then complained because they were.

This is not a holiday in the the accepted sense of the word.

During the expedition, we shall be representing not only ourselves, but our school and our country. Since this trip is in the nature of a pioneering venture so far as Scottish state schools are concerned, it will inevitably gain some publicity. Remember the only publicity worth having is good publicity."

[From Information Sheet No. 2, Jordan Expedition, March 1967]

John T.K. Barr, better known as Ian, was a life-long educator and traveller, and a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. For him, teaching was not confined to the classroom, in the same way that Scouting was not restricted to a Friday night.

Learning and teaching about the world were outdoor activities, and this he did by leading over forty expeditions abroad over a forty year period, for both Port Glasgow High School and the 7th Paisley (JNI) Scout Group.

A host of adventures and experiences include: 

  • a major earthquake in Turkey
  • the eruption of Mount Etna
  • riots, bombing and explosions
  • manning border posts during the 1960s Foot & Mouth outbreak
  • the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968
  • being 'arrested' in Algeria
  • shot at in Yugoslavia
  • and being held at gunpoint on Mount Ararat

In his spare time, he dog-sledged across Greenland, explored the Sahara Desert, trekked in the foothills of Everest, climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, visited a host of other countries and cultures, and chaired the Ibex Mountain Group.

Ian's contribution to Scottish life and culture is three-fold - as a geography teacher and Scout leader he taught, encouraged, and developed in his pupils knowledge about Scotland and the wider world.
By taking them out into the world - at home and abroad - he was able to underline the classroom learning with real life experiences. 
For those unable to go to those far-flung places themselves, his stunning photographs, films, and hundreds of talks on these expeditions then brought his unique experiences of that world back to a wide audience of guilds, groups and clubs all across Scotland, and beyond. As a result, there is now an annual Ian Barr Memorial Lecture in his honour at the Greenock Philosphocal Society.

This website is intended to publicise the important archive of material he has left, and gradually build up coverage over time of the many expeditions of Ian Barr.

We would be delighted to receive your own memories of the man, his expeditions, and his impact on the lives of so many people. Also, please help us to fill in names, label photographs, and correct any mistakes!

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Martin Pollock - Brian Renfrew - Gordon McGinn - Ian Barr