Skip to main content


Tom Rae, who has died aged 88, was an imaginative and forward-looking teacher who introduced new methods to the profession.

He undertook an experiment, called the Patch method of teaching history, at three Glasgow schools and at Callendar Park College of Education, near Falkirk, where he was principal. The scheme was then expanded to many parts of Scotland.

Mr Rae, who had a modest yet self-assured personality, was a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher who won the respect and trust not only of his pupils but also of his colleagues.

He was the last principal of Callendar Park College and, in his 18 years there, he broadened and expanded the syllabus and greatly enhanced its reputation. The college became part of Moray House in the early 1980s.

Thomas Hamilton Haig Rae was educated at Denny High in Falkirk and then read history at Glasgow University. He taught at Bellahouston, North Kelvinside and Hillhead schools in Glasgow before joining the staff of Jordanhill College of Education.

In 1964, he was appointed head of the department of social studies at Callendar Park, which was regarded as one of the most innovative colleges of education at the time.

Mr Rae was an ardent believer in encouraging pupils to develop a "hands- on" approach to learning. His Patch method was just that: it allowed the students to study actual documents and artefacts. Their work entailed researching an era's social, political and domestic conditions and gaining a broad, but nonetheless detailed picture of the period. This detailed information encouraged the student to study the subject further and not concentrate on pure facts, such as the dates of kings and queens. Mr Rae also adapted the method to the teaching of geography.

A long-time friend and colleague, Alistair Simpson, recalls: "Tom pioneered taking students on fieldwork trips to see for themselves and try to understand such mysteries as the Stone Age remains in Orkney or the underground prehistoric cave paintings of the Dordogne. He established curriculum studies and the joint Bachelor of Education degree with the University of Stirling."

The Patch method was used under his supervision at both Jordanhill and Callendar Park. It acted as a link between periods of history and many prominent historians have spoken warmly of its contribution to the teaching of children.

Mr Rae was an avid traveller and voyaged from Arctic Alaska to the Antarctic continent and from the heights of the Andes to the depths of the Dead Sea. He invariably returned with splendid photographs, which were then meticulously catalogued and used when he lectured to local societies.

Mr Rae never married but cared for his elderly mother for many years. He had a lifelong love of classical music and was a keen gardener and hillwalker.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you