Tributes as 'Mr Edinburgh' Ronnie Guild dies, aged 98

Tony Blair's former housemaster and veteran campaigner

Monday, 27th January 2020, 6:00 am
Ronnie Guild was a lifelong campaigner

TRIBUTES have been paid to veteran campaigner and “Mr Edinburgh” Ronnie Guild who has died, aged 98.

Born and bred in the Capital, he taught at Fettes College for 30 years and counted former Prime Minister Tony Blair among his ex-pupils.

He stood unsuccessfully for election the council or parliament as a Liberal many times, but was never deterred from fighting for the causes he believed were important.

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He campaigned on a huge range of issues, from the need to promote the historic heritage of Cramond to calling for the conversion of a former signal box in Princes Street Gardens into a tearoom with model railway outside and stopping soldiers defacing stones at the entrance to the Castle with graffiti.

Daughter Shena said: “He never gave up and he devoted his life to Edinburgh. He was ahead of his time on conservation. He did a lot to prevent the destruction of Edinburgh as a historic city. He was key to stopping them building a motorway through the centre of it.”

The son of a prominent Edinburgh lawyer, Mr Guild went to Cargilfield School and then to Glenalmond. He joined the Black Watch and ended up in the Indian Army and served in Burma.

After a degree in philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford he taught for a short time in St Andrews and then got his job at Fettes.

Mr Guild joked that as housemaster he had given Tony Blair his first promotion. “I made him head of the dormitory. I think there were eight people in a dormitory and someone had to be head. Obviously, that put him halfway to Downing Street.”

Son Alistair said: “At Fettes he started what was called the Outside Service Group, which was an alternative to the CCF. He took the boys to housing estates and got them to help with gardening and painting. He believed very much in doing rather than talking.”

Alistair also remembered his father’s involvement in a wide variety of community issues.

“He often got calls of an evening from people in the area who thought he was the MP or councillor because he was so active. But he didn’t mind because that was his interest - helping people who needed it.”

Mr Guild was one of the first people to submit a petition to the Scottish Parliament after it was created in 1999, urging an investigation into Cramond's history. He took several more petitions to Holyrood on various issues in the following years.

Robert Philp, a former colleague at Fettes, said Mr Guild’s “sheer persistence” had to be admired.

“He went round Edinburgh with his file and he was always noticing things he thought were affecting the lives of ordinary people. If you were on the council you probably thought ‘This chap is a nuisance’ but his persistence was amazing.”

Mr Philp also recalled how a large company wanted to build its headquarters on part of the Fettes land. “It was going to pay the school a vast sum of money for it, which would have helped the school, but Ronald, because he thought it was bad thing on planning grounds, campaigned to have it rejected even though he was on the staff.”

Mr Guild had to ease off on the campaigning in his last few years, but he continued living in his own home and enjoyed reading. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer, although he never smoked, and it spread to his throat. He died while visiting his daughter near Oxford for Christmas.

His funeral will be at Whitekirk Parish Church in East Lothian on Friday February 7 at 2.30pm.