Real lives: Disciplinarian May had top-class teaching career

May Nicol was sought after as a teacher but chose to stay with Watson's
May Nicol was sought after as a teacher but chose to stay with Watson's
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A FORMER deputy head at George Watson’s College who was renowned for her strong influence in the school community has died aged 83.

May Nicol was born in 1929 in Dollar, Clackmannanshire, and displayed early signs of academic excellence when she was first named Dux of Dollar Academy in 1945 before graduating with a first class honours degree in modern and medieval history at St Andrews University.

She set her sights on becoming a teacher and undertook her training in Dundee before taking up her first classroom posts in Sutton Coldfield and then Leeds.

A return to Scotland beckoned and she was appointed head of history at Craigholme School in Glasgow in 1956 before joining George Watson’s Ladies’ College.

May developed a strong reputation and became the member of staff with special responsibilities for the sixth form.

Known as a firm disciplinarian, she also had a strong sense of fairness and understanding of common sense.

Following the amalgamation of the Ladies’ College and George Watson’s College in the mid-1970s, May was appointed as one of principal Roger Young’s two deputies.

Her influence and reputation soared and meant she was highly sought after, but she remained fiercely loyal to Watson’s and spurned various opportunities at other schools.

Away from work, May was a keen traveller and enjoyed trips to Scotland’s historical sites, as well as further afield to visit her sister in South Africa.

Closer to home, she was a regular face in the audiences at concerts in the Usher Hall and Queen’s Hall.

Upon her retirement, May devoted much of her time to assist the National Museum of Scotland, where she performed duties as a tour guide, delighting in showing off artefacts to thousands of visitors, as well as helping out with membership administration for the Friends of the Museum.

Those who knew her said she particularly enjoyed her work with the museum’s silver collection and with various Scottish art collections.

Charity work also took up much of May’s time, which included her working in a Cancer Research UK shop as a member of the Edinburgh Fundraising Committee and at the annual art exhibition in Adam House, Chambers Street.

But she kept up her interest in education, acting as a school governor at Lomond School, Helensburgh, and at George Watson’s College.

Friends said it would, however, be at a personal level that May would be best remembered.

They said that as a teacher, a colleague and as a friend, her advice was invaluable to those who sought it.