‘Exceptional’ 85-year-old is oldest Scot to be awarded PhD

Alastair Maxwell-Irving is Glasgow Caledonian University's oldest graduate after becoming a doctor of philosophy.

‘Exceptional’ 85-year-old is oldest Scot to be awarded PhD Glasgow Caledonian University

An 85-year-old man who spent decades studying historical architecture in his spare time is thought to be the oldest person in Scotland to be awarded a PhD.

Alastair Maxwell-Irving, a retired engineer, is Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) oldest graduate after becoming a doctor of philosophy.

Dr Maxwell-Irving, who owns more than 2000 reference books, passed his PhD over Zoom – just two days after his birthday.

The award has been made in recognition of a lifetime of historical research, including two books on the history of the Tower Houses of the Scottish Borders.

The academic, who lives in Blairlogie, Stirling, graduated from the University of London in 1957 with a degree in mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering and worked for Weir Pumps before retirement in 1991.

He said: “People ask me what I’m going to do with a PhD at 85-years-old but I have plenty of other projects to keep me occupied.

“It is the culmination of many years of research on a subject that has fascinated me since childhood.

“I love the countryside and for years spent most of my weekends visiting sites, photographing them, and taking notes – through summer, winter, snow, and sunshine.

“Everyone at GCU has been so helpful, I can’t thank them enough. The award is truly an honour.”

Alistair served as an honorary assistant with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland in his spare time for more than 40 years.

Professor John Lennon, dean of GCU’s Glasgow school for business and society, said: “Achieving a PhD at any age is a triumph but this is a truly exceptional case and reaffirms our view that higher education should be accessible to all irrespective of age or any other factors.

“We are so pleased Dr Alastair Maxwell-Irving chose GCU and my thanks to the supervisory team and academics involved in this noteworthy process. Heartfelt congratulations from myself and all at GCU.”