Obituary: Cameron Cochrane MBE

Educationalist and former headmaster at Fettes College
Cameron Cochrane. Picture: contributedCameron Cochrane. Picture: contributed
Cameron Cochrane. Picture: contributed

Alexander John Cameron Cochrane, educationalist.

Born: 19 July, 1933, in Edinburgh.

Died: 18 December, 2015, aged 82.

Cameron Cochrane, who has died aged 82, was a distinguished schoolmaster who rose to be warden of a leadership training centre, an assistant director of education, headmaster of two independent schools and principal of two international colleges.

His experience and involvement in education ranged from the HMC and its committees, helping set up and direct the preliminary training course for new heads and as chairman of the services and defence committee, to governing bodies of schools, the Outward Bound Trust, the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme and adult education.

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He was born in Edinburgh on 19 July, 1933, the son of Dr Alexander and Jenny Cochrane.

Educated at the Edinburgh Academy, where his Rector was the Old Fettesian Rob Watt, he then, after National Service in the Royal Artillery, went up to read English at University College, Oxford. Besides Shakespeare, sport, throughout this time, was a prominent part of his life – in cricket hecaptained the Scottish Schools XI and his college side as well as playing for the University Authentics.

In rugby, later joining Societies of Referees, he captained his college XV and played for the University Greyhounds and Oxfordshire.

His first post in 1957 was as an assistant master at St Edward’s School, Oxford, a start for which he was always grateful. After nine years, he became Warden of Brathay Hall in the Lake District, a leadership training centre for young adults, working closely with industrial training boards and involving the outdoor activities he cherished.

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It might be said that he never undervalued in education what could not be measured. A council member of the Outward Bound Trust, he was later chairman of governors of Outward Bound Ullswater, and of Loch Eil.

Always one to be fully involved, he held a Mountain Leadership Certificate, besides once being a temporary instructor. Four years later, he was appointed assistant director of education with the City of Edinburgh Education Authority where adult education, youth and community service dominated his involvement, at times also a fellow in the educational studies department of Edinburgh University and chairman of the Lothian Federation of Boys’ Clubs.

His first headmastership came in 1974 at Arnold School, Blackpool, which went independent during his time there. This was followed five years later by the headmastership of Fettes College where he succeeded Tony Chenevix-Trench.

During the nine years that he was there, he oversaw the introduction of full co-education, a move both popular and effective; he over-hauled academic policy, and secured the resources to make possible the regeneration then required, thus leaving a good basis for the progress achieved by his successors.

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He kept his nerve at a time when independent schools were not experiencing the calmest of seas, and his resilience ensured a way ahead which was clear.

At 55, he still had the energy and courage to accept another challenge, that of the first principal of Prince Willem-Alexander College in the Netherlands, a sixth form IB school. His final appointment was as principal of the British International School in Cairo, with a brief to develop the senior school, in particular IB in the Sixth Form.

He was, throughout his career, one to seek the abandonment of outdated approaches, which could masquerade as tradition. He was a member of the TA, the Royal Artillery Council for Scotland and the Admiralty Interview Board. An officer with the Combined Cadet Force and the Army Cadet Force, he served as HMC governor Frimley Park Cadet Training Centre.

A deep, personal faith underpinned his life, providing, as it did, the basis for the quiet courage and determination he had. He was a kind man, self-deprecating about his own achievements, and genuinely concerned about others.

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Ordained an elder of the Church of Scotland in 1971, he held the post of Session Clerk. Whilst in Cairo, he had been Provost’s Warden at All Saints Cathedral.

He was appointed MBE in 1986 for his work as commandant of the athletes’ village during the XIII Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

Retirement brought little cessation to his activities, both international and local; latterly, he made a valuable contribution to the Academical archive Pro Patria Mori (The Edinburgh Academy at War 1914 -1918).

He married Rosemary Ogg in 1958, who with her modesty and charm, kindness and devotion complemented Cameron throughout their marriage.

She pre-deceased him in December 2014. He is survived by their two daughters, Fiona and Sandy, and son, David.