Obituary: Matthew Bilsland, former teacher, 88

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Matthew Bilsland, a former deputy head teacher at Preston Lodge High School, has died, aged 88.

Mr Bilsland, who was a popular and respected member of the Prestonpans community, died recently in Astley House nursing home in North Berwick.

Educated at Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen, where he was head boy and rugby captain, he went on, after a spell in the RAF, to study at Edinburgh University and Moray House College before settling in East Lothian.

Several generations of young people came to know him well in his roles as a teacher of Mathematics and later as Depute Head Teacher at Preston Lodge High School, where he spent the whole of his long teaching career until his retirement in 1988.

His large frame, his easy manner and his sense of humour meant there was little misbehaviour in his classroom and seldom any need to exert discipline.

Mr Bilsland played a full part in the life of the school, and for a number of years he took groups of pupils youth hostelling in Norway, a country he loved.

Even after the death of his wife Chris, who accompanied him on these trips, he continued to enjoy travelling from Newcastle to Bergen – but always by ship.

Two “prangs” while training Canadian air force pilots made him vow never to fly again, and despite his many travels, he never did.

Mr Bilsland was a keen sportsman and became an active member of Preston Lodge Rugby Club.

He enjoyed his golf at Longniddry well into retirement, and for many years was the stalwart pipe-smoking goalie of the PL staff hockey team which annually entered into battle with the girls’ 1st XI.

The Scout movement provided an opportunity for him to make a valuable contribution to the lives of young people, first as Scout Leader along with Alex Livingstone in Prestonpans, then as Assistant County Commissioner for Scouts in East Lothian. His skill as a teacher was recognised by Scottish Scout Headquarters and he became a Wood Badge trainer of leaders at Fordell Firs national centre.

Big Bill, as he was often known, especially by those he had taught, was an amiable, gentle giant, always calm and unfazed, never flustered or knocked off his measured pace.

He will be remembered with affection and respect by those who were privileged to have known him.

His well-attended funeral took place at Seafield Crematorium on Tuesday, January 31.