An exceptional and distinguished Barassie scholar and humanitarian has passed away.

Ian King (as he was always known, to distinguish him from his father, William John Riddell King), was brought up in Barassie on the Ayrshire coast.

Originally a village, Barassie was by then a suburb of Troon famed for its extensive sandy beach – and for the railway carriage repair works which employed Ian’s father (who had been transferred there from Glasgow at a time when it repaired Spitfire planes during the War).

Ian was an only child whose mother, a primary school teacher, died from asthma before he had even left school.

The secondary school in Troon was (and is) Marr College. It had opened in 1935 and took its name from the philanthropist C K Marr, who had left his entire fortune to establish a school open to all children of the town, whatever their backgrounds.

It is therefore seen as a precursor of the comprehensive school, and Ian thrived in it, leading the chess team, debating, performing in Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and emerging as Dux in 1967.

The next stage of Ian’s education took him to Glasgow University where he embarked on the usual Scottish four-year degree, extended, in his case, to five years by the requirement for language students to spend a year abroad.

It was also a requirement to major in two subjects, and Ian had chosen French and German.

During these five years, Ian emerged as an outstanding student.

In his academic year abroad (1969-70) he was based in Münster, Germany, and the following year spent a term in Besançon, France, before being awarded the degree of MA with First Class Honours in 1972. In those days when ‘Firsts’ were as rare as hen’s teeth, he was the only one of some 45 students of French and German to achieve that distinction.

Ian’s interest in politics and social justice then led him to undertake research into the political writings of Kurt Tucholsky, one of the most important journalists and satirists of the Weimar Republic and a tireless opponent of Nazism.

Over the next five years he moved between Glasgow University; the Goethe-Institut in Schwäbisch Hall; Tübingen University; Rottach-Egern (home of Tucholsky’s widow and literary executor); and Marbach am Neckar (home of the Kurt Tucholsky archive).

In 1977 Glasgow University awarded him a PhD for his thesis on the political development of Tucholsky.

In 1975, while still writing up his research, Ian had obtained a lecturing post at the then Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University).

Apart from the challenge of completing his thesis, he had to accustom himself to teaching a large number of hours (more than most lecturers in traditional universities). Both challenges were soon mastered.

Ian quickly developed into an exceptional teacher who was very much at home teaching students on the recently-introduced course Modern Languages with Political Studies.

He was greatly appreciated by the students, in particular the few mature students, some of whom were to become close friends. It also did not take him long to adapt to students of Business Studies, who had different linguistic needs.

To understand these better, he even took on seminars in this area, regaling colleagues, for example, with information on such things as the ‘product cycle’.

His doctorate completed and published in book form, Ian, unlike many others, did not turn his back on its subject. Tucholsky remained at the centre of his scholarly interests.

When the Kurt Tucholsky Society was established in Germany in 1988, he was a founder member. His unrivalled expertise led to him finally becoming Chair, a major achievement for a non-German.

The other academic grouping which attracted him was the Association for the Study of German Politics, where his probing questions to both academic and political speakers during conferences made him stand out.

In addition to his contributions to higher education, Ian also became involved in international adult education. After attending a conference at the International House Sonnenberg in the Harz region of Germany in 1978, he became a committed supporter of the Sonnenberg movement, which seeks to promote international understanding.

He had been chair and secretary of the Sonnenberg Association of Great Britain and chair of the International Sonnenberg Association. At conferences in Britain and elsewhere, his perfect command of German made him the ideal interpreter, whilst his lectures, delivered in English or German, were always appreciated – as was his singing on social evenings.

Ian’s life during the years in Sheffield was not confined to the worlds of academia and international friendship. He did identify with the city and, at least in the area of cricket, the county of Yorkshire, even if he never read the book How I became a Yorkshireman and certainly did not aspire to following the author’s example, especially when it came to football.

He remained true to Rangers and Scotland, despite attending both Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United games quite frequently.

In the field of culture, he appreciated the Halle Orchestra concerts at the City Hall and plays at the Crucible Theatre, although he did not shy away from criticism when he felt it was deserved.

Ian’s time in Sheffield came to an end in 2000. By then, Modern Languages had fallen out of favour. The Modern Languages with Political Studies course had closed, in itself a reason to move on.

Fortunately, he soon found a niche at South Bank University in London, where he showed the same enthusiastic commitment until, there as well, Modern Languages came under the axe.

When it came to redundancies, the institution used the last-in, first-out method rather than merit. Ian’s teaching career was at an end, apart from some part-time classes in other London universities. He could look back at his career with pride at his many achievements, which, sadly, had not brought the recognition from top management he deserved in the form of a Chair.

At least there was soon a new career as a translator, which he pursued until 2020. And from as early as 1992, in parallel with his other work, he wrote articles on the UK political scene for the German newspaper Neues Deutschland, deploying satire and sarcasm to good effect.

He continued to write these articles even after being diagnosed with terminal cancer two years ago, his mind and wit as sharp as ever; his erudition undimmed. His last article, which can be translated as ‘Shaky start for Sunak’, appeared just a couple of weeks before his death.

Typical of his humour was the heading of his e-mail submitting the article: ‘Not dead yet’.