Obituary: Ian Russell Findlay, Classics scholar, historian, author, educationist and councillor

Ian Findlay, Classics scholar, historian, author, educationist and councillor. Born: 22 October. 1934 in Edinburgh. Died: 10 November, 2017 in Perth, aged 83.

Saturday, 2nd December 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 5:18 pm
Ian Findlay has died at the age of 83
Ian Findlay has died at the age of 83

The only child of William and Elisa Findlay, Ian was Dux of the Royal High School, achieved First Class Honours in Classics at Edinburgh University, and a Masters and PhD in Education.

Ian Findlay, who instilled a love of learning for its own sake, was an educator in the true sense of the word. He taught Classics in the Central Belt before becoming a Lecturer in Education in Northern College, Aberdeen, where he touched the lives of many students with his interest and enthusiasm.

Ian served as a faithful and very active member of: Aberdeenshire Education Committee as third Church representative until he passed away; Alford Parent Teacher council; Association of Christian Teachers Scotland; the European Educators Christian Association and Scottish Joint Committee on Religious and Moral Education. He was also a member of the National Parent Forum; and Scottish Episcopal Church lay rep.

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Living in rural Aberdeenshire, he was a keen supporter of the development of education in sparsely populated areas, in Scotland and internationally. In the 1960s he met a group of Norwegian educators on holiday in the north of Scotland. They were inspired to establish Interskola, the title of an annual conference that has been held every summer since 1968 at locations across Northern Europe and Scandinavia. The first conference, instigated by Ian, was held in Aberdeen College of Education in 1968. It has spread its area of participation to include teachers, lecturers and educational administrators, from Europe and further afield.

When Ian reached the age when he could leave his lecturing post, he commented to a friend that he would not retire but planned to be “retyred” as there was a lot of drive in him yet. Indeed, the active mind continued, as he immersed himself in many organisations.

As a committed Christian, he was widely respected for his dedication to the life and work of the local and wider Church. With his interest in the organisation Christian Values in Education, Ian was keen to see the promotion of Christian values in Scottish schools. Having become a Christian through the teachings of Paul, he taught youth fellowship in St Thomas’s Corstorphine in Edinburgh. Worship continued to be important throughout his life in St Devenicks, then St Andrews Alford and eventually St Mary’s Inverurie. A lay rep he attended synod regularly and was actively involved in Scripture Union Scotland.

Although he loved being on committees, he took time over the last 10 years to write two historical novels, which involved painstaking research to ensure accuracy: Rail to the Isles, the story of the chief engineer of the West Highland Line, and the Secret Survivor of Cabool, set in 19th century Afghanistan.

Everyone who knew Ian has their own memories of him, whether as a friend, a grandfather to Leon, Ash and Hester, a dad to Judith, Mark and David or the 32 years as husband to Patricia. He enjoyed rugby and passed on his love of sport to his children. There are fond memories of family holidays in the great outdoors, especially wildlife parks or with the VW camper van. He enjoyed walking the hills, whether in the Hebrides or further afield, using Youth Hostels, Timeshares and visiting many European countries, particularly Scandinavia, making contact with his Interskola friends. His interest in music involved travel too. With his love of Choral music there were many fun times at choir camps around the UK and abroad.

He shared his love of history with his family, often by visiting castles. He also passed on his interest in politics, standing for the local government elections as a candidate for a rural area. An active mind with many interests, but central to his thinking was education, which was always important to him.

Often when asked a question by a member of the family, he would say ‘work it out for yourself’, which at the time could be infuriating but his children found that this approach often stood them in good stead for research in libraries or latterly on the Internet.

Ian and Patricia got involved with many foreign students through the university and have welcomed to their home students from many nations across the world. With admirable perseverance, in spite of increasing difficulties in walking, he kept travelling to places across Europe. He made it to Oslo in May this year for a conference. The active mind continued on his last evening when he watched the news and wanted a magnifying glass over his oxygen mask to read the Radio Times to allow him to plan what to watch later.

When a close friend phoned him a couple of weeks before he died, Ian discussed his travel plans for 2018. When asked, “Ian, is it not about time that you really retired?” His response was: “Patricia would agree wholeheartedly with you but I think I will go on until I drop”.

His sharp mind, his rich experience and his Christian love and openness to people of all nations will be greatly missed.

Ian is survived by his wife Patricia, three children: Judith, Mark and David and three grandchildren..