John Corcoran MBE

Language School Director

Born on April 11, 1938, in Middlesex, England

Died on April 23, 2018, Paisley, Scotland

Corcoran John 2John Corcoran, who has died aged 80, was an entrepreneur who founded and built up one of the most successful English language summer schools for foreign students in the United Kingdom.

His family arrived in London from Edgeworthstown in County Longford, Ireland, just before the Second World War broke out and John’s father, Thomas, joined the British Army.

John (pictured right) was a babe in arms when he returned to the safety of the little Irish town which has connections with Oscar Wilde and Oliver Goldsmith, out of reach of the German bombs which were falling at that time, with his mother, Julia.

In 1945, when peace was declared, Julia returned to London where the family set up home in Edgware Road, Middlesex, where John went to school with his brothers, Mick and Tim.

The Rev Ian Miller, a Church of Scotland minister who gave the eulogy at John’s well-attended funeral Mass celebrated by Canon Charles McElwee in Our Lady and St Mark’s Church, Alexandria, Dunbartonshire, described John as “a remarkable man in many ways,” which he certainly was.

Not many Catholics have a Protestant minister taking part in their funeral obsequies in a Catholic Church.

Mr Miller added: “One word seemed to characterise him and that word was commitment.  His commitment to those things that mattered to him was always total. Commitment to his family, his friends, his faith, his community and his work.”

He left school at the age of 14 and became an apprentice butcher before being called up for National Service, some of which he spent in idyllic Belize, formerly British Honduras on the border with Mexico.

After demob, he went on holiday to Jersey where he met his wife to be, Mary, with whom he had a son, John, and two daughters, Julie and Angela.

The couple first lived in Glasgow before moving to Vale of Leven where John was a familiar figure who worked hard in the community and on the campaign to save the local hospital from closure.

John worked at various jobs in industries that had been established at Strathleven Industrial Estate to take the place of Denny’s shipyard and the silk dyeing and textile factories which had closed.

When Burroughs Machines ceased to manufacture adding machines in Vale of Leven and other companies on the estate were under pressure, John moved away and joined the Refuge Assurance Company, to manage their office in Dumbarton.

The office closed eventually and John went to work in an administrative capacity at St Andrew’s teacher training college in Bearsden, run by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

The spectre of redundancy again appeared when the college closed and became part of the University of Glasgow.

Fortunately, John was not the only person affected by the closure and he got together with four members of the teaching staff to set up the St Andrew’s English Language Summer School. He was director of the school from 1988 to 2002.

Mr Miller said: “In due course the college was sold. The language school was his brainchild and his passion.”

In just the first year, John and his colleagues welcomed 150 European students to Bell College in Hamilton, Lanarkshire.

The minister added: “He would ensure he was on campus every day, talking to leaders and students with that boundless enthusiasm that characterised him.”

In 2009, the school was accredited by the British Council as a high provider of English Language tuition. John travelled widely, selling the product to new markets in Russia, Israel, Portugal, Germany France, Italy

The company grew. New centres were added in Edinburgh, Ayr and Glasgow, making it the largest independent provider of language courses in Scotland. More centres were opened in England and Ireland.

By 2017, St Andrews College Language Schools welcomed 5,000 students, employed five full-time staff and 280 part-time staff.

John Corcoran was a past member of Dumbarton Lions Club. He became chief executive of the Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and was later appointed its honorary president.

Mr Miller said: “John was a great champion of the Vale hospital where he fearlessly faced up to the chief executives of the health board, the bureaucrats and clinicians, always demanding the retention of our hospital and the protection of its services.”

He was a life-long supporter of Dumbarton Football Club and once became so animated and loud in his condemnation of a refereeing decision at Boghead Park that the police removed him from the ground. His other loves were Tottenham Hotspur and Celtic; playing golf at Vale of Leven GC, Ross Priory on Loch Lomondside and Buchanan Castle, Drymen, Stirlingshire.

John Corcoran, who was once voted Citizen of the Year, was awarded the MBE for his charity and community work. He had been presented to the Queen on a number occasions beforehand at civic events in West Dunbartonshire.

He has left his children and many grandchildren happy memories of summer caravan holidays together in towns from Nairn to Scarborough and Rhyl and the occasional trip back “home” to Ireland.

Mr Miller said John Corcoran was an ecumenist who with his friend, Ken McLeod, had made a significant input into ecumenical relationships in the Vale of Leven.

He added: “They brought all the churches together right here in this church. I have so many memories of that.

“The fellowship and the warmth was special and made me look with such fondness on John and my Christian brothers and sisters of our nearest neighbours here at Our Lady and St Mark’s.”


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