William Brash's father was Robert Brash (born in West Calder, Edinburgh about 1852) who was a vanman and later a stableman. His mother was Catherine McFarlane Rankine (born in Glasgow about 1856). He had six siblings: Thomas (born about 1876), Eliza (born about 1879), Joseph (born about 1881), Robert (born about 1884), Ellen (born about 1891) and James (born about 1894).
William was living at Dickson's Building, West Calder in 1891 and by 1901 had moved to 12 Society Place, West Calder. At the age of seven he entered West Calder Higher Grade School, spending seven years at the school. To prepare for his university studies, Brash then went to George Watson's Boys' College, Edinburgh, when he spent two years. He was able to benefit from this high quality education since he won a Bursary from George Watson's College for Boys in 1904 which provided free education under sixteen for 1904-05. In July 1905 Brash won the Medal for Mathematics from George Watson's and in October of the same year he first matriculated at the University of Edinburgh. He had been awarded the following Highers in the Leaving Certificate Examination: Mathematics (1903), Latin (1904), and English, German, Dynamics in 1905.
Not only did Brash win bursaries at George Watson's, but he also won a Edinburgh University bursary. The university announced the award as follows:-
Edinburgh University bursaries: October 1905 John Welsh Mathematical Bursary (subject of examination - mathematics, especially pure geometry) William Brash, George Watson's College.
At University, Brash studied Mathematics, Natural Philosophy and Latin in session 1905-06. The mathematics course was taught by Charles Tweedie and Brash obtained a First Class pass. In the Natural Philosophy class he obtained a Second Class pass. In session 1906-07 he studied Chemistry, Political Economy, German, and Logic and Metaphysics. He graduated with an M.A. in 1910 with Third Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. He was also awarded a B.Sc. (Pure) in 1912.
Brash returned to West Calder after studying in Edinburgh, then in 1915 he moved to Stirling when he was appointed to Stirling High School. In 1918 he moved to Aberdeen where he taught for a year at Robert Gordon's College before he went to Inverness to take up a post at the High School.
William Brash married Marjory Byres and had two sons, Robert (born in 1924) and Thomas (born in 1926).
As many Edinburgh mathematics graduates did, Brash joined the Edinburgh Mathematical Society after graduating. In Brash's case he joined in December 1912 although while his application for membership was being processed he had read a paper to the Society entitled Two general results in the differential calculus at the meeting on Friday 14 June 1912. He remained a member of the Society until around 1932.
Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson