Leith Academy rector Douglas McKay was in a class of his own

DOUGLAS McKay, former rector of Leith Academy, chairman of the Scotch Malt Whisky Association and founder of the Leith Housing Association, has died, aged 90.
Dougie McKayDougie McKay
Dougie McKay

A native of Montrose who moved to Edinburgh on taking up his post at Leith Academy in 1971, Douglas integrated himself so thoroughly that he served as president of Leith Rotary and was also commended in a Pillars of Leith poll, which attempted to identify the greatest ever Leithers.

It was his love of sport – he had a spell as a goalkeeper with Dundee United and Scottish Universities – that particularly endeared this bachelor to many ex-pupils whose tributes flowed on the website of the Leith Rugby club he served as honorary president.

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Typical of the tributes were ‘Brilliant and demanding, appearing at swimming meets and hockey matches, roaring from the sidelines. First school Usher Hall concert under his leadership. Pupils with international caps, female shot putter and opera singer were ‘normal’ because he made us persevere and believe we could achieve.’

And also: ‘He was a limited edition. Firm but fair.’

One ex-pupil even recalled throwing a snowball in the playground which accidentally hit the Rector but instead of retribution the miscreant was rewarded with a trademark throaty laugh.

Douglas took early retirement, aged 55, and that was his cue to further immerse himself in Leith Franklin cricket club where he was an honorary vice president and often found sitting enjoying games alongside his close friend, former City of Edinburgh councillor Cornelius “Corny” Waugh.

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Douglas Charles McKay was educated at Montrose Academy and graduated MA with Honours in Geography from the University of Aberdeen. Teaching appointments followed in Dunfermline, Forfar, Glasgow, Tillicoultry and Alva before moving to Leith.

He never forgot his northern roots, though, and when interviewed prior to National Service, Douglas was asked which regiment he might prefer to serve in.

“The GH” boomed Douglas meaning, of course, the Gordon Highlanders.

Alas, the military were not on the same page and duly assigned him to the Green Howards where, stationed in the Middle East, Douglas managed to earn an extra two shillings a week for “volunteering” to look after regimental camels which he learned to ride.

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Arguably it wasn’t his most uncomfortable mode of transport as, ample of girth, Douglas was renowned while at Leith Academy for forcing his way into a Triumph TR7 sports car that was his pride and joy for a time.

Douglas McKay died peacefully at the city’s St Raphaels Care Home at South Oswald Road on January 10.