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In Memoriam

Miss Margaret Mackenzie 1947-2008

Miss Margaret Mackenzie 1947-2008
Miss Margaret Mackenzie 1947-2008

Miss Margaret Mackenzie joined the Modern Languages department in 1990, and worked there until she retired in June 2007. She died of cancer after a short illness in September 2008.

Below is a eulogy given by Mr David Hogg (formerly Principal Teacher of Modern Languages) at Miss Mackenzie's funeral, and repeated here as a tribute:

The Mackenzie family belonged the Isle of Lewis, but Margaret was born, brought up and attended school - she was a Gillespie’s girl! - in Edinburgh. Her mother taught at the David Kilpatrick Junior Secondary, so when Margaret decided to become a teacher too, she knew exactly what she was getting into!

But first, University in Glasgow, where she completed a double honours degree in French and Russian, with study periods in Normandy and Moscow. It was in Moscow in 1966 that I first met Margaret - at summer school at the Institute of Power. She was the shy one in the Glasgow University blazer. The Institute is situated on the city’s Lefortovskii Val, just along the road from the notorious prison. And believe me, there were days when both of us would have exchanged a tutorial room in the first of these for a solitary cell in the second!

Margaret began her career at Liberton High School, teaching both languages. She even led a school trip to the Soviet Union, as Russia then was - a daring thing to do in those pre-glasnost’ Cold War days. She worked for the Lothian Region, as it then was, before it suffered a similar disaggregation. That was a hard time of falling school rolls and as the last teacher in at Liberton (and for no other reason) Margaret suddenly found herself compulsorily transferred.

She duly arrived at Newbattle in 1990. Her commitment to her new School and her new Department was immediate and total. And she brought to us real expertise in several areas. Margaret had a gift for administration: she could read a timetable the way accountants read a balance sheet; and she could spot neat solutions to tricky problems and crises. Invariably these would be introduced modestly over coffee with the words, “I’ve been looking again at that timetable and . . . .”

And then there was her financial acumen. This gift she applied marvellously and magically to our study trips to Paris, which she and I led over a number of years. (I know, I know, but someone had to do it!) I use the word “magically,” because, as costs rose and I despaired of being able to offer the same programme as in previous years, Margaret always managed to find the money somewhere.

She was, you know, a meticulous steward of resources: no-one ever had a new jotter from her until every available page and line of the last one had been filled! She couldn’t bear to throw out work-sheets; I know that one class this morning will be working right now on one of hers; and it will last the full period too!

Margaret didn’t like waste - either of people’s time or materials. Last Sunday, when she asked me if I would speak today, she found just enough strength to add that I should simply re-cycle the speech I made at her retirement! That was typically Margaret!

I can’t do that, of course, because I have to add one or two things that Margaret would have given me a row for saying. And no-one ever wanted to be on the end of one of Margaret’s rows!

So when I say she was fiercely loyal, I’m giving equal emphasis to both words! But once you were accepted into Margaret’s circle of friends, this loyalty was absolute. She was loyal to her school and to her department. Those of you who know her primarily as a member of Barclay will also know her loyalty to the congregation she served as elder, choir member; as clerk to the Board; and at school she was a loyal member of our staff prayer group.

Paris, I’ve mentioned, but Margaret was always fully involved in the wider life of our School, attending, in a strictly working capacity, discos and concerts. She worked behind the scenes, organising the fine detail of our Awards Ceremonies; but she did appear centre stage on two occasions, backing Elton John and Freddie Mercury of all people in the Staff Stars in your Eyes charity show!

It’s within Departments, however, that we as teachers operate. And I want to recognise here Margaret’s professional skills in the teaching of French. She came with the rigour and discipline of a good degree from a good university but she adapted to the ever-changing demands of an ever-changing curriculum and exam system. Results are not everything, of course, but Margaret’s results were always good . . . .

Margaret never lost her shyness and reserve: at social occasions she was often content to listen, but she did always speak up proudly to keep us up to date with Carrie’s progress and achievements. For Margaret, being a godmother was something to be taken seriously, and it was not done from mere duty but always from love. And she will be missed most sorely by Jim and Mary and the family whose friendship she valued so much over the years. I know Carrie always felt she could go to her Auntie Margaret for advice and that’s something all of us have done at one time or another. And Margaret always offered wise words, delivered with an honesty that is all too rare these days. She was generous with her time too: a giver rather than a receiver, she always seemed content with what she had: not for her exotic foreign holidays or luxurious self-indulgences.

It’s only a month ago that she was due to join us for a departmental dinner. We were shocked to learn that she had been admitted to hospital, but the cancer she had fought so bravely and without fuss a few years earlier had returned aggressively and implacably.

We all saw her often in that last month and we were all moved by that honesty, by her sense of calm, by her bravery, her dignity; and by the strength of her Christian faith.

Miss Mackenzie is remembered with a tree in our garden of remembrance. A Rowan tree was chosen for Ms McKenzie. The Rowan is held in especial esteem in the Scottish Highlands and Margaret’s family come originally from the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides. The Rowan’s constant presence reassures a household and Margaret’s was always a reassuring presence here.

Mr Robert (Bob) Clark 1942-2009

Mr Clark is presented with the Musselburgh Citizen of the Year Award in 2009
Mr Clark is presented with the
Musselburgh Citizen of the Year Award in 2009

Mr Clark worked as Principal Teacher of Chemistry at Newbattle from 1973 until he retired in June 2008. He sadly died after a short illness on the 26th October 2009.

As well as being a dedicated Chemistry teacher at Newbattle, and giving up a lot of his own time to run trips for S1 pupils, Mr Clark was an active and respected member of the Musselburgh community. Obituaries for Mr Clark were printed in the Edinburgh Evening News, and a tribute site exists here.

We have reproduced below the text of the Edinburgh Evening News obituary as a tribute to Mr Clark:

Musselburgh Citizen of the Year Robert Clark has died, aged 67.

Mr Clark, a former chemistry teacher, church elder and founder of the St Ninian's Junior Concert Party, was presented with the award by businessman Tom Farmer in April for his dedicated work with children.

He was also awarded The Evening News Youth Initiative Award in 2008.

Mr Clark was born in Musselburgh on 18 April, 1942, the eldest son of Robert and Bunty Clark. His siblings Jean, the late Alan, and Nancy followed after.

His family moved to a new-build estate in east Musselburgh in 1953, into a house that would become his home for the rest of his life. St Ninian's church was built in 1956 and became the focus of Robert's life, a devotion that earned him the position of church elder while still in his 20s. Following a successful charity concert in the church's founding year, Mr Clark and his friends decided to make it an annual occasion and the St Ninian's Junior Concert Party was born in November 1959.

He attended Musselburgh Grammar School before going on to study chemistry at Edinburgh University, gaining a degree followed by a teacher training certificate from Moray House College of Education. In 1966, Mr Clark returned to Musselburgh Grammar as a chemistry teacher, and was promoted to Principal Teacher of chemistry at Newbattle High School in 1973.

Colin Taylor, headmaster of Newbattle High, said: "He had an infectious passion for his subject, and inspired many of his pupils to go on to careers in science at the highest level. Robert successfully ran many extra-curricular activities; cricket, theatre visits and a wide range of outings, sustaining this involvement throughout his career."

Mr Clark loved travelling and from his first tentative steps to London to visit his Aunt Maisie and sample the West End shows, he went on to bag many a Munro, hike the frozen wastes of the Arctic, sail up the Amazon and tour Australia and New Zealand.

He never married or had any children of his own. But the Concert Party children accompanied him on many adventures. He took them on various trips and holidays to Morocco, Tunisia, Romania, Euro Disney and France.

Musselburgh East councillor Andy Forrest said: "I have worked with Robert for many years and his enthusiasm for what he did never waned. His input into the community will be sadly missed."

Irene Tait, former member of the Concert Party and current chair of Musselburgh and Inveresk Community Council, said: "Robert never looked for plaudits and was comfortable to stay in the background regardless of the fact that his creative talents lit up Musselburgh."

Mr Clark spent his final days preparing for the Concert Party's Golden Anniversary Reunion, up until his death on 26 October. His last words were: "Please see that the reunion goes ahead and try to keep the Concert Party going."

Mr Clark is remembered with a tree in our garden of remembrance. An Acer was chosen for Mr Clark. The word Acer in Latin means ‘fierce’. We of course know he was the gentlest of gentlemen, but he was always fierce in his passion for science and chemistry; and for education in its broadest sense.

Mrs Pearl O'Connor

Sadly Mrs Pearl O’Connor, who worked in Admin/Reprographics at Newbattle until 2006, passed away on Friday 5th November 2010.  Pearl’s husband Dave also worked in Newbattle as a music instructor and our sympathies go to Dave and their family at this time