Alistair Fulton

24th May 2013 at 01:00
A man of great intellect and a devotee of Classics who loved a bit of drama

Alistair Fulton, who has died at the age of 69 after a short illness, was larger than life. A former president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, he had a considerable intellect, a provocative wit and a big voice. He spent a contented life giving impressive expression to all three.

A dux of English at Kilmarnock Academy, runner-up in the Brain of Britain radio series, an enthusiastic practitioner in musical theatre and drama (a talent evident from around the age of 11, his sister Isobel recalls), a devotee of the Classics that he taught at Jordanhill and Hillhead High schools, an active member of the General Teaching Council for Scotland and a chorister at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow - there were indeed "many Alistairs", as his packed funeral service at the cathedral last week gave testimony.

His minister, the Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth, made it clear that Alistair "wasn't really grumpy but he spent a lifetime doing his best to hide it". Indeed, his many friends speak frequently of his great kindness, disguised for those who did not know him by his quirky and often acerbic takes on life. These were regularly on display in the opinion (opinionated, in his case) columns which he penned for TESS in the 1990s.

Few were spared. "The bonnie earls o' Moray Place" he once dubbed his union rivals in the EIS (referring to their Edinburgh headquarters). And he was adept at bringing together his passions and his bugbears. Referring to one of his favourite activities, rehearsing the school show, he imagined Elizabeth Maginnis, then the local authorities' controversial chief negotiator on teachers' salaries, entering stage left to launch into a rendition from Oklahoma! of "I'm Just a Girl Who Cain't Say Yes".

Alistair decided to take very early retirement, at the age of 50 - "an awkward age," he reflected, "when milestones can become millstones". But he had little trouble filling his time, which included remaining a regular fixture at SSTA annual conferences, at which he was a breath of fresh if unpredictable air.

It would not be fair to say he wore his learning lightly, particularly when it came to Classics. Just after he retired, he wrote about meeting up with a friend and "we did the 'quantum mutatus ab illo Hectore' bit". And that was that - not for him the tiresome business of providing a translation for the uninitiated reader.

He ruefully reflected on one occasion: "The world can be divided into two classes: those who are lucky, and me ... as for my quest for easeful early retirement, it looks as though I shall have to contract a disease of some sort. With my luck, it will be curable before the package is agreed." Alas, his luck did finally run out.

Alistair is survived by his sister, brother-in-law, nieces and great nieces.

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