John Bannerman studied Celtic languages at the University of Glasgow and gained a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He joined the history department at Edinburgh University in 1967 and worked there for 30 years, while also running the family farm at Balmaha, Stirlingshire. He published a number of influential works on Gaelic Scotland, including Studies in the History of Dalriada and a major contribution to Late Medieval Monumental Sculpture in the West Highlands. He retired from teaching in 1997 and took up farming full-time at Balmaha. He died in 2008.