Obituary: James Rainy Brown, 75

James Rainy Brown
James Rainy Brown
Share this article
Have your say

A former pupil who became a housemaster at one of Edinburgh’s top private schools has died, aged 75.

James Rainy Brown, or “JRB” as he was known, inspired and influenced the lives of his pupils over several generations.

Born on June 6, 1937, James was one of five brothers all educated at Merchiston Castle School.

He played for the rugby 1st XV, captained the athletics team and led the Combined Cadet Force.

After studying physics at Edinburgh University, he returned to teach at his old school in 1960. He combined teaching physics, chemistry and mathematics, while also taking up the post of house tutor in the junior house.

JRB coached the rugby team, and supported the school’s athletics and cross-country programmes, as well taking up the editor’s job with in-house publication, the Merchistonian, before setting up the school’s mountaineering club.

In 1967, James was given the task of starting up Merchiston’s Pringle House for under-13s, which ensured that the younger boys joined a caring environment in which they could rapidly make friends, settle down and gain confidence.

He had a remarkable ability to see each boy as an individual, to find out what they enjoyed, and then to share that enjoyment with them.

In that way he helped them to cope with problems in both life and school.

Pringle House thrived and expanded under JRB’s leadership, adding new buildings and more facilities, underpinning the school’s successful growth. In 1994, he handed over his housemaster responsibilities, continuing to look after Pringle outdoor pursuits in addition to his teaching and coaching work.

James had a deep love for the Western Isles and each year he would take a party of boys to the privately owned island of Ru’a Fiola where they would learn to climb, abseil and kayak.

He had an ambition to visit all of the inhabited and uninhabited Western Isles and his idea of relaxation also included being stormbound for two weeks on St Kilda with some of his braver teaching colleagues.

A keen and gifted landscape artist, James used his spare time in the school holidays to paint in the countryside and many of his friends and colleagues have been grateful recipients of that talent.

As one might expect from an artist, how Merchiston looked was very important to James. With others, he tended the campus like a shepherd over his flock and the tree-planting programme was all about preserving the site.

Friends said James will be remembered for his commitment, integrity and loyalty to his school.

He leaves behind three brothers, nieces and nephews and a host of admiring and grateful former pupils, parents and friends.