Tribute to inspiring historian

John Rushton
John Rushton

Tributes have been paid to a leading Scarborough historian who was a founding member of the town’s Maritime Heritage Centre

John Rushton, who has been described as “one of life’s great characters”, died earlier this month at the age of 83 after losing his battle against cancer.

Known across the region for his wealth of knowledge about the county’s history and heritage, Mr Rushton was a prominent lecturer for the Workers’ Educational Association, and an author of many historical reference books.

He studied at University College and the London School of Economics before moving to Ryedale in 1959 to work for the Workers’ Educational Association, with which he developed and delivered local studies in town and villages.

Mr Rushton, who would have turned 84 later this month, was president of the Scarborough Archaeological and Historical Society for several years and a founding member and 
archivist of the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre.

He wrote six books including Yorkshire in the Reign of Elizabeth I and Early Tudor Yorkshire.

Many short articles written by Mr Rushton about Scarborough’s history can be seen on the website of the Maritime Centre.

In 2005 Mr Rushton was awarded an MBE for ‘service to the community’.

Even in the last few months of his life he was busy transcribing historical texts, sorting and sharing his lifelong collection of files and information.

One of his ambitions was to see a Museum of the Seaside created at Scarborough.

Paying tribute to Mr Rushton on behalf of the Maritime Heritage Centre, Mark Vesey said: “John was an inspiration to so many people, always friendly and willing to share his love of history with anyone.

“He came from a generation that held doors open for people and not just in the physical sense.

“He was always interested in meeting new people, finding out what made them tick and getting them involved in the community.

“His enthusiasm was infectious and he was always keen to get people celebrating the past in a fun way.”

“The Maritime Centre owes an awful lot to John and we will celebrate his work with a memorial plaque to be installed next to his collection that he donated to the centre.

“Our thoughts and sympathies go out to his family at this difficult time. John was one of life’s great characters and we will all miss him dearly.”

Mr Rushton’s annual local history exhibition at Pickering led to the formation of the Beck Isle Museum.

For many years he was well known for his appearance at Pickering Carnival in historical and outrageous costumes, and as a newspaper columnist he also penned village pantomimes as well as the Pickering pageants.

Tony Clark, chairman of Ryedale Folk Museum, in a tribute to Mr Rushton, said his enthusiasm for history and his knowledge of local history had been an inspiration to many people.

He said: “We were delighted that he should have chosen the folk museum to be the home of his vast collection of works because they will a wonderful asset to students and researchers.

“John was a wonderful man to know and will be sadly missed by very many people throughout North Yorkshire.”

Mr Rushton leaves three daughters, eight grandchildren and one great grandchild along with his partner Sheila.

His funeral is being held on Monday July 1 at 1pm at the East Riding Crematorium.