Obituary: Dougal Greig, 90

Alexander 'Dougal' Greig's life was one of commitment to education. Picture: Complimentary
Alexander 'Dougal' Greig's life was one of commitment to education. Picture: Complimentary
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TRIBUTES have been paid to retired headmaster Dougal Greig, who has died at the age of 90.

Born in Leith and christened Alexander, Dougal was the son of veterinary surgeon John Russell Greig, a director of Moredun Institute, and his wife, Margaret.

He grew up in the family home in Liberton, attending Edinburgh Academy with his elder brother, Alastair.

A talented writer, he loved composing poetry and, to avoid bullying, produced it under a pseudonym, Dougal, which he later adopted permanently.

After leaving school, and with the Second World War under way, he joined the RAF and served in Air Sea Rescue.

As coxswain skipper, Dougal pulled downed pilots from the North Sea and from the Atlantic off the coast of Sierra Leone.

Renowned for his courage, he also braved shark-infested waters in Freetown and even went nocturnal crocodile hunting on the Sierra Leone River.

On one occasion, he leapt overboard to tackle a crocodile that was wounded. Landing up to his knees in mud, he threw a rope around the reptile’s jaws before both he and it were dragged back to the boat.

Some of the crocodile’s hide was turned into a handbag for his mother
back in Edinburgh.

After the war, he studied at Oxford University’s Lincoln College, graduating with distinction in politics, philosophy and economics, before returning home to qualify as a teacher at Moray House.

He later taught at Strathallan School and then moved to Altyre House, an annex of Gordonstoun School.

As teacher of French and history, and leader of the rugby team, his talent for bringing out the best in pupils soon came to the fore.

He bought remote Dall House on the shores of Loch Rannoch and created Rannoch School for boys, which opened in 1959.

Dougal was determined his school would be a place where young people could learn and grow and from the start its ethos was one of endeavour, adventure and community.

As well as helping to dig a swimming pool, the pupils were formed into a loch patrol, mountain rescue team and volunteer fire service.

Famous for his fortitude, he will be remembered for driving himself to hospital in a school ambulance after losing a finger – thought to be the result of having stuck it in a fire siren while testing the malfunctioning alarm. The recovered digit was later re-attached.

Tributes to Dougal have flooded in from former pupils. One wrote: “I feel privileged to have had my formative years under his tutelage and attribute much of my later success in life to my years at Rannoch.

“He will live long, and fondly, in my memory.”

Dougal never married and is survived by nieces Anne-Margaret, Fiona and Patricia.